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Renault Clio Dynamique TCe 100 3-door

Click to view picture gallery“Renault’s fun marketing themes
  of Nicole and Papa and the famous
  shaking bottom Megane have
  long gone as the French brand
  pushes its range of economical and
  ecological cars. A good time, then,
  to say Hello to the refreshed Clio,
  the latest incarnation of this popular
  range
...”

WITH TEN MILLION SOLD in the past 20 years in more than 100 countries worldwide, and over one million of them in the UK, the latest Clio range will be of interest to a lot of buyers.

The new line-up, priced from 10,485, includes a wide choice of petrol and diesel power units from 75 to 200bhp along with, depending on the body style chosen, seven trim and equipment levels. In addition, there are various extra-cost option packs including a TomTom edition. Unfortunately, the all-important Electronic Control Stability programme is a 300 extra cost option for most models — something that in this day and age should be fitted as standard.

Core features for all models include ABS, front and front-side airbags, deadlocks, Isofix child seat mounting points, remote central locking, variable-assistance power steering, multi-function trip computer, electric front windows, stereo sound system and front fog lights. The best selling mid-range Dynamique versions gain 16-inch alloys wheels, manual air conditioning, automatic headlights and wipers, curtain airbags, leather trim for the steering wheel and gear knob, 60:40 split-folding rear seats, electrically-operated and heated door mirrors, soft touch dashboard trim and black centre console with satin chrome inserts and air vent controls.

I've just spent some time with the three-door Clio with this specification and priced at 12,735. The car had the new 1.2-litre TCe turbocharged petrol engine which provides 100bhp and 107lb ft of torque from 3,000rpm. This version is based on the 75bhp 1.2-litre range-starter model but with the added turbocharger it is more fuel efficient, returning an average 48.7mpg. CO2 emissions of just 137g/km mean an annual road tax bill of 120.

This new engine matches the power of the previous 1.4-litre petrol engine but in its turbocharged form it matches the torque of the 1.6-litre VVT 111 unit. In real life motoring conditions my test car returned an impressive 43.5mpg.

Mention turbocharging for a petrol engine and the assumption is that it's a 'go-faster' unit. It is not: the turbocharger brings improved response, making the unit very flexible at low to medium speeds as well as providing a slight boost at higher speeds for overtaking slower traffic. Top speed is a very respectable 114mph but the 0-62mph acceleration time of 11 seconds is the main bonus together with the fuel economy. At no point did the engine feel stressed even though it has a relatively small capacity. In fact, the powerplant is probably the new Clio's best feature.

A great fuel-efficient and
responsive small petrol
engine, nimble handling,
comfortable, practical,
safe and cheap to run
...”
Having said that, all Clio models in the past have been praised for their agility, surefooted roadholding and comfortable ride. Despite the latest Clio growing in size — as have all 'superminis' over the past few years — the latest model, which is 41mm longer, has an overall length of 4,027mm. The roomier interior will definitely be appreciated, especially by adult rear seat passengers. The boot space is good as well: 288 litres with the rear seats in place and an impressive 1,038 litres with the rear seats folded.

Although the Clio three-door is a relatively small car it offers the ride comfort and surefooted roadholding of a car a size larger. The suspension is compliant; the ride stable; and the front-wheel drive understeer control within the 300 extra-cost Electronic Control Stability programme works very well. I was also surprised at how quiet the new Clio was, with very little noise intrusion from the engine or tyres.

Not so impressive for me is the styling of the latest Clio. Before it was chic and cheerful. Now it could be any other three- or five-door hatchback, except the new Polo and Fiesta, which have set the standard in this sector. The new Clio's styling mirrors the latest Megane in order to meet the front-end impact and pedestrian safety legislation. Rather than pretty, the new look has rendered the latest Clio pretty bland.

All Clio models also compete against stiff competition such as the top selling Ford Fiesta, the British-built Honda Jazz, the long warranty Hyundai i20, Mazda 2, Seat Ibiza, Skoda Fabia, Toyota Yaris, Vauxhall Corsa and, probably the best of them all, the new Volkswagen Polo.

Good points include a great fuel-efficient and responsive small petrol engine, nimble handling, comfortable, practical, safe and cheap to run — but buy now before the Scrappage Scheme discount ends and increased VAT charges apply.

Not quite so good: expensive unless discounts apply, bland styling and residual values which, hopefully, should improve. A chic and fun image is what the Clio really needs, just like it used to have, and whilst it is selling well, it lacks styling flair and that is a skill that Renault needs to rediscover. — David Miles

Renault Clio Dynamique TCe 100 3-door
| 12,735
Maximum speed: 114mph | 0-62mph: 11 seconds | Overall MPG: 43.5mpg
Power: 100bhp | Torque: 107lb ft | CO2 137g/km | Insurance group 4