New one bids to be a technical knockout
The new Renault Clio will distinguish itself from rivals by being one of the most technologically advanced models in its class when it arrives next year.
The move is part of a bid by the French car maker to keep its supermini at the forefront of the sector, especially in the face of increasing competition from compact SUVS, to which traditional small cars are starting to lose out.
Now in the final stages of prototype testing, the fifth-generation Clio is set to marry a honed exterior look with a dramatic new interior dominated by a Tesla-style infotainment screen. It will also be capable of semiautonomous driving.
The exterior styling will be evolutionary, keeping elements such as rear door handles hidden in the door frames, albeit with a more grown-up look in line with its larger sibling, the Mégane. It’s also expected to take design cues from the Symbioz concept car, shown last year.
The interior will echo the Mégane, taking a leap away from traditional hardware to a large digital dashboard and ipad-esque infotainment screen. This will set it apart from rivals such as the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo, which have smaller, more traditional screens.
The new Clio is built on the CMF-B platform, an updated version of that used on the existing model and shared with the Nissan Micra.
It will use 1.0-litre and 1.3-litre petrol units, the latter developed with Mercedes, as well as a 1.5-litre dci diesel with up to 115bhp. A 48V mildhybrid 1.5 dci, badged Eco2, is planned but not from launch. A plug-in model is understood to be due in 2020.
Last year, Renault boss Carlos Ghosn announced the French car maker would launch eight electric vehicles in the next five years. However, a purely electric variant of the Clio is not expected to be one of them. That’s because Renault executives are worried it would steal sales from its existing Zoe electric supermini. The Zoe was the bestselling electric car in Europe in 2017.
There will be a new Clio RS, though. The hot range-topper will be unveiled in 2020. The current model is on run-out, with Renault recently releasing the limited-edition RS18 as its swansong before the next generation arrives.
The next Clio RS could carry over the 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine of the current car, but it is understood to be more likely to adopt the 1.8-litre turbo petrol engine from the new Mégane RS, but with less power. Volkswagen followed a similar strategy by using a detuned Golf GTI engine in the recently launched Polo GTI.
The other key advancement is autonomous technology, not often found in this segment. The Clio is due to feature level one and level two autonomy,
It will have a dramatic new interior and be capable of semi-autonomous driving
shared with vehicles from partner brand Nissan.
Level one means it will have the latest safety systems such as adaptive cruise control and lane assist, increasingly popular in larger cars, but level two is the biggest step change: the Clio will have hands-off capability (although using it remains illegal), being able to park and keep in lane by itself.
Although UK consumers continue to buy far more Fiestas than Clios, the Clio is easily the bestselling supermini in Europe, despite being six years old. According to figures from analyst firm Jato, it sold 327,395 units last year compared with the 272,061 units of the secondplaced Polo. Globally, the Clio is in fourth place, beaten by the Polo, Fiesta and Suzuki Swift, owing principally to more modest sales outside Europe. That can be partially explained by the popularity in developing markets such as Latin America and India of its cheaper sibling, the Dacia Sandero, which is fifth globally.
Although Clio sales have held strong and the broader supermini market is still growing, its biggest threat comes from compact SUVS. With the arrival to the segment of VW Group brands such as Seat, Skoda and VW, as well as Hyundai and Kia, there will be increasingly more small SUV sales, which, in turn, will stall those of superminis.
The new Clio is due to be revealed at the Paris motor show in October and go on sale next year. Prices are expected to rise over the current model, which kicks off at £12,450, but remain cheaper than the Fiesta, which starts at £13,715.
New Clio: debut in October and on sale next year
Exterior design of the new Clio will draw on the Symbioz concept IMAGE