Re­nault Clio

New one bids to be a tech­ni­cal knock­out

Autocar - - THIS WEEK - RACHEL BURGESS

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

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