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Renault Clio 4 review (2013 onwards)
What: Renault Clio 4 (2012 onwards)
Where: Florence, Italy
Date: October 2012
Price: £10,595 - £16,095
Available: On sale October 2012, in showrooms February 2013
Renault's fourth generation Clio is here, with decent dynamics, strong efficiency and a striking new face. It's re-found its lost 'va va voom'.
We like: Chassis dynamics, styling, interior design
We don't like: Some materials feel cheap, rear visibility not as good as some superminis
Renault's recent range cull - leading to a rationalised line-up of models in the French company's eyes - and stagnating sales in the hatchback marketplace means the latest Clio has to be good. And by first impressions, walking up to it in the metal, it's an attractive vehicle. Nicole and her papa would be proud.
There's simply more of the new Clio. Available in five-door guise only, it's longer and wider than its predecessor - bucking the trend of shrinking superminis - with a lower, more sweeping roofline giving it a coupe-like profile.
Despite this, the Clio 4 is sporting an average weight saving of 100kg across the range. Impressive given it's safer, faster, more agile and more efficient than any Renault supermini before it, according to the firm.
With prices starting at £10,595 and rising to £16,095, and standard equipment including Bluetooth and USB connection, electric windows, cruise control and keyless entry and go, the Clio 4 offers decent kit for your money.
Although the numbers might stack up, the question is do the all-round on-paper improvements the new Clio is boasting translate into a fun hatchback?
The advantages of that average 100kg weight saving is immediately apparent once you get behind the wheel.
Renault is launching two new engines in the Clio - a 0.9-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol and a 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel, both producing 90hp. And both are good.
The diesel yields ample torque - 162lb ft from 1,750rpm - and pulls strongly, with 0-62mph taking 11.9 seconds. Importantly, you can rev the motor out without any real vibration passing into the cabin. It's noisy if you do, but what small diesel engine isn't? The new 1.5 dCi motor is refined and feels fluid on the move.
The result is 0-62mph in 11.8 seconds
The little three-pot petrol unsurprisingly doesn't initially deliver the same hit as the diesel, instead it requires you work it a bit more. But that's ok, as just like it's oil-burning counterpart, it's smooth, willing and torquey - it produces 100lb ft at 2,500rpm.
The result is 0-62mph in 11.8 seconds; quicker than the smallest engined 1.25-litre Ford Fiesta, as well as the 1.2-litre Vauxhall Corsa and larger 1.4-litre VW Polo.
Although the thrummy three-cylinder needs to be revved to get the best from it, it's still a tractable engine and cruising on the motorway doesn't need you to work the gearbox to pull out into a faster stream of traffic safely.
The five-speed manual unit is nice to use though - the change action is good and it feels mechanical. The diesel would arguably benefit from another ratio, but it's a minor gripe with what are otherwise two impressive new powertrains.
Ride and handling
The new car's chassis is well judged and the setup gives the driver a great blend of comfort and agility. On the Italian autoroutes and over some heavy expansion joints the car felt composed and comfortable, and when off the motorway was lithe and eager.
The key to this new found vim in the Clio is its steering. The system is now more direct thanks to a reduction in the gearing over the third generation car, meaning it's easy to place it on the road.
Good levels of feedback relayed to the driver
Coupled to a setup that generates decent levels of grip for a front-wheel drive supermini on eco tyres, it makes for an involving drive, with good levels of feedback relayed to the driver.
It might be just shy of the Ford Fiesta's dynamic abilities when pushed to the absolute limit, but how many small hatchback drivers will actually get near their car's upper boundaries?
Whether you're stuck in traffic or on an open road, the Clio 4's chassis feels well-judged. There's a hot Renaultsport version arriving in the UK next summer too, and despite some criticism levelled at the new RS Clio, the standard car's chassis bodes well.
It's no longer good enough to offer a bog standard interior in a supermini - that hasn't been the case for a while, but Renault has arguably been lacking in quality and visual stimulus inside the cabin. Not so in the new Clio.
We sampled the well-equipped Dynamique MediaNav trim level complete with Renault's new infotainment system. It's good. The menus are all easy to navigate, even if the screen requires a good prod to wake it up.
The way it's integrated is nice too. Far from being plonked on the face of the dashboard, the ventilation, heating controls and the display all sit nicely and look pretty swish cloaked in piano black gloss plastic and wrapped with chrome edging.
Although it's funky and importantly an ergonomic design, some of the materials do lack quality. Plastics are soft touch in the areas immediately around you, but stray a bit further to the base of the windscreen or down in the foot wells and things get a bit hard and scratchy.
The seats are comfortable and the driving position good, however - on the whole, it's a great effort, although that swoopy silhouette means rear visibility is lacking a little.
Economy and safety
The new Clio fares well on both fronts here. The two new units return decent efficiency - in even more frugal Eco guise the three-pot petrol will yield 65.7mpg combined with 99g/km CO2 emissions, while the new 1.5-litre turbodiesel motor will travel 88.3 miles to every gallon of juice, emitting 83g/km CO2 in the process.
The Renault Clio has always been a pioneer of safety in the supermini sector - it was the first model in its class ever to score five stars for adult protection in the Euro NCAP crash tests. Even with the more rigorous testing process today, the Clio 4 gets a full five-star rating.
The MSN Cars verdict
The new Renault Clio is an extremely capable car. Complete with its new design direction, it blows the arguable mish-mash of lines that is the Ford Fiesta into the weeds and trumps the plain-Jane Vauxhall Corsa and VW Polo for visual drama as well.
Dynamically the Clio is strong, too. Decent comfort and good grip should attract buyers looking for a supermarket run-around, as well as those after a little more enjoyment from driving. The new interior is looks smart and works well, even if material quality is questionable in areas.
Overall though, the new Clio a fun little supermini that offers a diverse mix of talents and injects a decent dollop of style into the stale-looking supermini sector.
Need to know
Engines, petrol: 0.9, 1.2
Engines, diesel: 1.5
Power: 75 - 90hp
Torque: 79 - 162lb ft
0-62: 11.9 - 14.5 secs
Top speed: 104 - 115mph
MPG: 51.4 - 88.3mpg combined
CO2: 83 - 127g/km
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