Renault Clio V is all grown up with a sporting streak
More lively than expected, the French hatch also has top notch safety and modern infotainment
The Renault Clio, a long-standing member of the hatchback genre since 1990, has found many homes in SA over the decades. It’s now in its fifth generation and has transformed into a mature and handsome hatch.
Design wise, the latest model that’s tested here in top range Intens specification doesn’t fall far from the look of the previous generation car. Subtle re-imagination of the core shape has resulted in a car with the dramatic boomerang daytime running lights framing larger headlights for a baby-Megane look.
It’s also a 12mm shorter, 66mm wider and 8mm lower Clio than previously and the wheelbase of the new car is 5mm shorter.
The Clio V has a more upmarket interior and the cockpit ambient lighting, a 17.7-inch instrument panel and 23.6-inch touch-control display live up to that. The touch points also feel more polished while the stalks for the infotainment system tucked behind the steering wheel in Renault tradition have been redesigned for a smoother shape and texture.
Highlights of the new Clio cabin include the cloth seats and ergonomics. It’s an easy reach to any part of the fancy dash and the driver’s seat squab now hunkers suitably low while the steering wheel has both reach and lift. With a more elevated gear lever on the centre console, you have yourself one of the best postures in the segment.
Daily driving convenience features include an electronic parking brake, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration and good front and side visibility. The rear view is compromised slightly by the lower roof and stack of rear head rests, but park distance control with a reversing camera comes to your rescue if you have optioned this extra.
Power is courtesy of a new 1.0l three-cylinder turbo petrol with 74kW and 160Nm, representing an improvement of 8kW and 20Nm vs the old Clio. Strange but true, the Clio V is available only in a five-speed manual transmission locally despite rivals having automatic choices overseas. It’s an easy flowing lever and a light clutch though.
Fuel consumption is rated at 5.7l/100km and we achieved close to that at 6.2l/100km, using its Eco mode and thanks to the engine having early lashings of torque, and a refined chassis that encourages a relaxed driving style.
The Clio V is comfortable and refined by modern hatchback standards and there’s a greater sense of good build quality, noise suppression and a connection with the road. You can happily hustle the Clio in suburbia or down any national road with confidence, but eventually the need to hurry somewhere or a series of bends will appear, as will a surprising playfulness.
Though the three-cylinder thrum becomes voluminous at higher speeds, it’s nevertheless an eager little motor. The steering is sufficiently weighted and direct, and a darty driving experience is guaranteed through a front suspension that is pure and sure in aiding the pursuit of nailing apexes.
A suite of safety aids including electronic stability control and emergency brake assist are on hand to keep you safe, but understeer sets in quite late anyway. It has good front end grip and a sharp turn-in I’ve not experienced since the now discontinued Clio RS but without the fizzing engine and jolting suspension.
Considered alongside eight direct competitors, of which only the Peugeot 208 is the freshest and also boasting big car refinement and technology, the Clio Intens is the affordable range topper among all rivals by quite a margin. For the asking price you get mid-tier models from the competition.
The unavailability of an automatic transmission may not be much of a drawback as traditional Clio customers have always liked the recipe of bargain chic with a manual between the seats.
Type: Three-cylinder petrol turbo
Type: Five-speed manual
Type: Front wheel drive
Top speed: 187km/h
0-100km/h: 11.8 sec (claimed)
Fuel Consumption: 5.7l/100km (claimed), 6.2l/100km (as tested)
LED lights, Eco mode, park distance control front and rear, cruise control, USB port, multifunction steering wheel controls, rain sensor wipers, navigation capability, Bluetooth connectivity, climate control, cloth upholstery, keyless remote central locking, lane departure warning, auto on/off lights, high beam assist, ABS, brake Assist, stability control, six airbags
COST OF OWNERSHIP
Warranty: Five years/150,000km
Service plan: Two years/30,000km
Lease*: R7,529 per month
* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit
Renault Clio 1.0 Turbo Intens
WE LIKE: Looks, handling, price
WE DISLIKE: No automatic available
VERDICT: Brilliant execution
Motor News star rating
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Nissan Micra Acenta, 66kW/140Nm — R335,900
Hyundai i20 1.0T Fluid, 90kW/172Nm — R337,500
Opel Corsa 1.2T Edition, 74kW/205Nm — R339,900
Mazda2 1.5 Individual, 85kW/148Nm — R343,100
Kia Rio 1.4 Tec, 73kW/135Nm — R350,995
Citroën C3 1.2 Shine, 81kW/205Nm — R352,900
Volkswagen Polo 1.0TSI Life, 70kW/175Nm — R353,600
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