French flyer a Clio winner
Small Renault a small joy, writesGRAHAMSMITH
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.
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.