To be perfectly Francois
Korean warranty, Japanese pricing, French elan ... That’s why we love little Clio
BOUTIQUE looks at a bargain shop price is the primary appeal of the Clio. Toss in affordable bling to personalise the car along with capped-price servicing at $299 annually for three years and the baby Renault starts looking like a smart buy.
Yeah, there are no rear curtain airbags but the lack of rear legroom means adults won’t be in there often anyway.
The range kicks off at $16,790 for the Authentique model with a turbocharged 900cc three-cylinder engine and fivespeed manual gearbox.
The better-equipped Expression adds a seven-inch touchscreen with satnav, doubles the speaker count to four and rolls on bigger, betterlooking 16-inch wheels for $1000 more.
The next step is the same-spec car powered by a 1.2-litre turbo with six-speed auto for $19,790.
The line-up is headlined by a Dynamique model with auto headlights and wipers, electric front and rear windows, electric folding mirrors and push- button engine start (bundled as a $300 option on Expression variants) along with 16-inch alloys and climate-control aircon for $23,290.
The base engine is never going to win acceleration contests but it will win economy drives. It uses just 4.5 litres of fuel over 100km and with a 45-litre fuel tank can theoretically travel from Sydney to Brisbane without needing a top-up.
The manual gearbox will cop a work out up hills but in general city traffic it is more than capable of going with the traffic flow.
Most Clio buyers are expected to opt for the auto and bigger engine. That takes fuel use to 5.2L/100km but there’s a commensurate boost to performance. The auto is a dual-clutch job so there’s a momentary lag in off-the-line response but shifts up and down the cogs are crisp at anything less than full throttle. Drive hard and the engine can come off the boil between shifts ... that’s the flip side of focusing on economy.
It is hard to go past the Clio’s looks in the light-car class. This hatch has charisma and the accessories list rivals anything found in the Mini and Audi catalogues— at much reduced prices. The rear seats are compromised in terms of space, as is the case with virtually all light cars.
Things look and feel far better up front. The dash layout is simple and easy to use, though the polished chrome rings around the instrument binnacle can reflect glare from the sun and the icons at the base of the dial controlling the flow of air can’t be read fromthe driver’s seat.
Fit and finish are first-rate and, thanks to the high-gloss surfaces and touchscreen, the overall impression is of sitting in a more expensive car.
The three-cylinder versions of the Clio earn a five-star ANCAP rating (the fourcylinder variants haven’t been tested). Oneof the anomalies of the ever-tougher ANCAP tests means the Renault Captur SUV, which is based on the Clio, won’t earn a five-star mark when it arrives next year.
Like the Clio, it lacks rear head-protecting airbags and the ANCAP road map states cars will be required to have them from2014 to earn the top score.
It takes only a quick trip to discover the Clio is more than a mobile style platform. It is one of the few cars in this class that has the assurance to tackle anything from potholed city streets to corrugated country corners.
There’s a Clio RS here next month— theway for those who demand more pace— but the basic poise of the Clio’s ride and handling can’t be faulted. The steering is light around town then weights up well as the speed climbs. The suspension, while following the European approach of being firmer than Asia-Pacific built cars, doesn’t crash or jar over speed humps and train tracks.
The five-speed manual is precise and it is only on steep climbs that the engine can struggle to wind its way back to the 2500 rpm sweet spot. The six-speed twin-clutch auto tested elsewhere is among the best of the type.
The Clio is a classy light car that deserves consideration.
The three-cylinder engine is a good balance of frugality and performance… but the arrival of Ford’s 1.0-litre EcoBoost Fiesta next month could reset the field.