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Parkers overall rating: 4.1 out of 5 4.1
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Performance

4.3 out of 5 4.3
  • Economy-focused petrols and diesels
  • Mid-range TCe 90 is a decent all-rounder
  • Renaultsport models hampered by gearbox

There are two distinct themes when it comes to the engines for the Renault Clio: either you pick one that majors on efficiency or performance – there’s very little middle ground.

Brace of cost-effective petrol engines

All except the entry-level 1.2 16V 75 petrol engine are turbocharged, and it’s the only one referred to by its capacity in litres. Except it’s not: while Renault calls it a 1.2, it’s actually a 1.1.

As the name suggests it develops 75hp, which is enough for a top speed of 103mph. Torque isn’t especially high at 107Nm, and compounding the issue is that you have to work the motor hard. It doesn’t peak until 4,250rpm, resulting in a pedestrian 0-62mph time of 14.5 seconds.

A five-speed manual transmission is the only gearbox here.

It’s not a very flexible engine and feels overwhelmed by the Clio’s size, so unless you really must have the least expensive choice, avoid it.

First of the turbo engines is the Energy TCe 90 in standard and Eco guises, although both versions of the three-cylinder 0.9-litre unit have stop-start technology to save fuel.

That 90hp output yields a 112mph top speed, while the 135Nm of torque from 2,500rpm makes the standard model reasonably flexible, requiring fewer gearchanges on the five-speed manual when overtaking; 0-62mph takes 12.2 seconds.

Although the Eco version is slightly torquier at 140Nm, the fuel-saving measures hamper acceleration with the 0-62mph time being 0.9 seconds slower.

There’s more gusto with the Energy TCe 120 – this is a four-cylinder unit, but still small at 1.2-litres (a genuine 1.2 this time, too).

Whether you stick with the standard six-speed manual or the optional EDC dual-clutch automatic with the same number of ratios, the 120hp output means a 124mph top speed.

A useful hike in peak torque to 205Nm at 2,000rpm makes this unit even more flexible and makes sense if you drive more frequently out of cities but don’t cover the high miles to necessitate a diesel. The manual completes the 0-62mph sprint in 9.0 seconds, the EDC in 9.2.

Fuel-miserly diesel options

Whichever diesel Clio you choose, it will have a four-cylinder, 1.5-litre engine with a turbocharger and start-stop technology.

First up is the Energy dCi 90 available in standard and Eco formats. A five-speed manual is the default transmission, with a six-speed EDC auto available on the non-Eco model.

Power, unsurprisingly, is 90hp, enough for a 112mph top speed on the manual versions, 109mph for the EDC.

All versions produce a welcome 220Nm slew of torque from a low 1,750rpm, but the gearing means it’s skewed towards efficiency rather than out-and-out acceleration. Again the manual models share a 12.0-second 0-62mph time, the EDC taking longer at 12.9 seconds.

Only a six-speed manual is available for the Energy dCi 110, which as well as a 20hp increase also enjoys a 40Nm boost in torque to 260Nm over its lower-powered stablemate. The top speed’s elevated to 121mph with the 0-62mph sprint taking 11.1 seconds.

You really notice the extra punch on offer compared with the 90hp version, with an eager yet smooth power delivery. It's quite refined as well, and the sixth gear ensures it remains relaxed at motorway speeds.

You will need to make decent use of the gearbox though. The car's eco focus means it likes to sit in higher gears to reduce fuel consumption, but if you demand a sudden burst of power, you'll need to change down a gear or two.

Clio Renaultsport performance flagship

Whether you opt for the Renaultsport 200 or the harder-core Renaultsport 220 Trophy, power is generated from a turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol engine.

Enthusiasts’ gripe isn’t with the lusty engines, but with the six-speed EDC dual-clutch automatic gearbox – there’s no manual alternative, despite Renault teasing one in concept form. At least the Trophy’s transmission is more responsive with quicker changes.

With maximum pulling power of 240Nm for the 200 – and up to 280Nm in fourth and fifth gears for the 220 Trophy – from 2,000rpm, it’s a flexible and refined unit. Don’t let the pops and burbles on downshifts fool you, it’s not as visceral as its predecessor.

Flat out the 200 will reach 143mph, while the 220 Trophy is slightly faster at 146mph. Acceleration is also rapid: the 0-62mph sprint takes 6.7 seconds in the 200, 6.6 seconds for the Trophy.

There are also three driving modes to play with: Normal, Sport and Race. Normal is the default setting and in this mode the Clio Renaultsports are easy to drive.

Switch to the Sport mode and they become feistier. The acceleration is optimised, as are the gear shifts, while any wheel spin is controlled by the traction control.

Race mode is best used on track days: when you toggle the Renaultsport button to get this mode the traction control is disconnected while gear-shifts are entirely manually-operated, using the paddle shifters behind the steering wheel.

Handling

4.7 out of 5 4.7
  • Enjoyable handling a Clio hallmark
  • Pity the steering’s so uninvolving
  • Renaultsport Trophy feels much improved

This fourth-generation Renault Clio is longer, wider and lighter (to the tune of 100kg) compared with its predecessor, having a positive effect on handling, as well as reducing fuel consumption.

Body roll is well-controlled making the Clio an enjoyable tool for exploiting winding roads. Traction when turning into bends is impressive, so much so it challenges the hallowed Ford Fiesta for driver enjoyment.

Although direct, the steering could do with having a bit more weight and less of an artificial feeling to sate keener drivers. However, this variable weighting set-up should prove to be a winner when driving in crowded city centres and will make parking easier.

Clio Renaultsport is a sharper proposition

Changes have been made to the Renaultsport Clios to deliver more fun than their lesser siblings, but the lack of feedback through the steering remains. That’s a great shame, because you never get the same amount of confidence from the car when comparing with the hot Clio’s predecessor.

It’s a direct enough set-up, but it’s frustratingly light.

Go for the lower, stiffer Trophy version and while it doesn’t feel as raw as its third-generation Clio equivalent, it is better-honed for enthusiastic drivers.

Further modifications to the steering rack see it respond quicker and, along with Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres fitted as standard, it’s a significantly more engaging proposition. Albeit one lacking the involvement of a conventional manual gearbox.

Behind the wheel

3.7 out of 5 3.7
  • Higher quality than the previous-generation Clio
  • Personalisation options can add some vibrancy
  • Well-assembled but the cabin doesn’t feel special

Although the fourth-generation Renault Clio’s cabin is more upmarket than its predecessor’s, it still lags behind some of the higher-quality and more interesting interiors, such as the Citroen C3 and Vauxhall Corsa.

It’s more robust, has neat touches – especially the versions with the 7.0-inch touchscreen and it feels well-assembled. We’re less enthused about how lower-spec models don’t feature the same soft-touch plastics as derivatives further up the range, or that some of the controls on the centre console are orientated in such a way as to be more logical on left-hand drive cars, such as the starter button which is closer to the passenger than the driver.

Still, you can personalise the interior with red or grey appliques, something worth considering as the rest of the cabin is very dark grey in colour.

Comfort

4.4 out of 5 4.4
  • One of the most spacious supermini interiors
  • Quiet cabin although the ride can be firm
  • Renaultsport versions are surprisingly comfy

Renault Clio comfort levels are very good, and not just relative to other superminis. The ride quality can be a little on the firm side, and models with larger alloy wheels can create quite a racket at higher speeds.

Up front the seats are fairly well bolstered, although the side supports could be enhanced to improve comfort, particularly on lower-specification Clios. Move further up the range, though, and you're treated to very good seats indeed, with plenty of support and good comfort levels.

There is a decent amount of head- and legroom and you could easily squeeze two adults in the rear for relatively short journeys. However, those over six-foot may feel a bit cramped if they are hemmed in for too long.

For the sportier models, this is arguably the most comfortable Renaultsport offering so far. It doesn’t feel as hardcore as its predecessors, although it’s inevitably firmer-riding than less quick Clios. The seats have ample side support for enthusiastic cornering, too.

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