First drive review: 2013 Renault Clio
What is it?
Facelift or not, Renault's outgoing Clio has never been a market leader. The current generation model appeared back in 2006, and six years on it's feeling just a little outclassed. This is the brand new model – designed to give the Papas and Nicoles a reason to put down a deposit once again.
Everything, almost. It's got a new look that blends in with the Megane, and an entirely redesigned interior (bar a few switches that have been carried over from the old car). Renault has been busy with the weight saving, too – cutting around 100kg against the old model – meanwhile refinement it up, thanks to clever materials and an extended wheelbase.
What's under the bonnet?
In the model we drove, a 0.9-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol outputting 90bhp and 135Nm of torque, and managing 62.8mpg on the combined cycle. It's not an engine that feels overly fast, but it rarely feels out of breath and even makes quite a nice noise. A new 1.2-litre petrol is also available, along with a 1.5-litre diesel that hits an impressive 88.3mpg combined.
What's the kit like?
Not bad at all. From 'Dynamique' upwards, all come with 'MediaNav' – a touchscreen in the middle of the dash that handles navigation, music and more. Bluetooth integration is standard across the range, as is a USB port and keyless go. Options include a reversing camera, and 'R-Link' – an upgrade for MediaNav that can download and install apps, and even send emails or Twitter updates from voice commands.
Ford's Fiesta is the obligatory rival, and still remains the best supermini to drive. From the Clio's native France we also have Citroen's C3 and Peugeot's brand new 208 – the latter of which is a nicer place to sit, but costs more. Toyota's Yaris is the closest in terms of equipment – featuring a similar touch screen, albeit without navigation as standard.
Is it any good?
While the new Clio looks smart, the interior quality is rather a let-down. The 'Piano Black' plastic feels tacky and attracts fingerprints, while the vents feel very flimsy indeed. Lack of visibility over the shoulder is a real annoyance, too – not helped by the integrated rear door handles. Ride and handling are much improved over the old car though, and refinement is up as well – with the 0.9-litre engine eerily quiet during motorway cruising.
The Autoblog verdict
The Clio has changed rather a lot in its 22-year life, and this, the fourth generation, is the most grown up of them all. It handles better than previous Clios, yet manages to remain refined. We just wish Renault had put a bit more effort into building the interior – in our minds it's a backwards step over the outgoing car.