French flyer a Clio win­ner

Small Re­nault a small joy, writesGRAHAMSMITH

Herald Sun - Motoring - - 2002- 2004 Renault Clio -

THE Ja­panese and South Kore­ans hold sway in the small­car seg­ment and have done for years, but sev­eral Euro­pean brands, such as Re­nault, are now fight­ing for a share of the highly com­pet­i­tive mar­ket.

Re­nault re­turned to the mar­ket in its own right in 2001, but be­fore that it had a che­quered his­tory un­der the con­trol of in­de­pen­dent im­porters.

MODEL WATCH

THE Clio ar­rived in 2001 with a hand­ful of hot 2.0-litre Clio Sport three-door mod­els to help boost the brand with a sport­ing im­age.

A facelifted model ar­rived a few months later, then the full range.

This com­prised three and five­door hatches with three lev­els of equip­ment and some lim­ited-edi­tion mod­els that came with a few ex­tra fea­tures.

En­gine choices were 1.4, 1.6 or 2.0-litre, but the 1.4-litre was the only model avail­able with an au­to­matic trans­mis­sion. The en­gines were all dou­ble over­head camshaft units and will­ing lit­tle things if you were pre­pared to rev them.

The en­try model was the 1.4-litre en­gine that put out 72kW at 6000 revs and 127Nm at 3750 revs.

The 1.6-litre de­liv­ered a lit­tle more power and torque, with 79kW and 148Nm re­spec­tively, but it was the 2.0-litre that re­ally pro­vided the thrills with 124kW and 200Nm.

The 1.4-litre auto Ex­pres­sion five­door hatch opened the range in style by winning the tro­phy for the best small car in the 2002 Aus­tralia’s Best Cars award.

Against other small cars it was well equipped with stan­dard fea­tures such as air, ad­justable steer­ing wheel, power front win­dows, sixs­peaker sound sys­tem with cas­sette player, re­mote cen­tral lock­ing and an en­gine im­mo­biliser.

Step up to the five-door Priv­i­lege or three-door Dy­namique and you got the 1.6-litre en­gine and a fivespeed man­ual gear­box.

At the top of the range was the Sport three-door hatch that had the 2.0-litre en­gine. Light and pow­er­ful, the Sport de­liv­ered high per­for­mance with go-kart-style han­dling and pow­er­ful brak­ing power cour­tesy of its disc brakes on all wheels.

The lesser mod­els were bi­ased to­wards ride and quiet com­fort, but still han­dled well, if not quite as di­rect and pre­cise as the Sport.

The Clio was fine for those sit­ting in the front, who en­joyed a comfortable time in sup­port­ive seats, but those in the rear found them­selves a lit­tle cramped.

ON THE LOT

THE three-door Ex­pres­sion can be found for $9000-$13,000; the five­door Priv­i­lege $9500-$14,000, and the Sport from $12,500-$15,000.

IN THE SHOP

THE Clio is mostly re­li­able and has no ma­jor prob­lems. Those that do oc­cur tend to be fairly mi­nor, such as elec­tri­cal faults and some­times dif­fi­cult start­ing.

The en­gines have a cam tim­ing belt that re­quires chang­ing at 100,000km— and it’s im­por­tant that it is changed. A break­age can lead to aw­ful in­ter­nal dam­age to the en­gine that’s ex­pen­sive to re­pair.

It’s worth check­ing where you will get your Re­nault ser­viced, be­cause the brand has few dealers com­pared to other makes. The big cities are pretty well cov­ered, but the coun­try is not.

IN A CRASH

THE Clio is well equipped to han­dle a crash. All mod­els had dual front airbags, with the dy­namic safety of anti-skid brakes and emer­gency brake as­sist. Elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol was added to the Sport in 2003.

AT THE PUMP

PRE­MIUM is the rec­om­mended fuel for all Clios. The 1.4-litre mod­els should re­turn 6-8 litres/100km, the 1.6-litre 7-9 litres, and the 2.0-litre Sport should get 8.5-10 litres de­pend­ing on how hard it’s driven.

THE BOT­TOM LINE

SWEET-DRIV­ING hatch with French flair, but lacks room and com­pre­hen­sive dealer net­work.

Zippy: the Re­nault Clio Sport ar­rived in 2001 and a range of three and five-door mod­els fol­lowed.

Lots to play with: the Clio was welle­quipped with stan­dard fea­tures.

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