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The latest player in the light-car class is going to turn heads and market share. Renault's fourth-generation Clio lands with a pair of sweet, fuel-efficient engines and a tight body wrapped in curvaceous panels. A five-year warranty and capped price servicing at $299 annually for three years puts the Clio on a par with the best of this breed.
The Clio's pricing is almost as sharp as its looks. The Volkswagen Polo and Mazda2 were two key benchmarks for Renault. Accordingly, the Clio kicks off at $16,790 for the Authentique model with 15-inch steel rims, a 900cc turbo engine and a five-speed manual transmission.
The Expression range adds alloy wheels, an 18cm touchscreen with updated infotainment and bling for $1000, while the same model with the 1.2-litre four-cylinder and a six-speed dual-clutch transmission is $19,790. It costs $300 to add powered rear windows to the Expression models, but the price includes electric folding side mirrors, auto headlights and wipers and keyless entry.
The range maxes out at $23,290 for the Dynamique, which adds climate control aircon, 16-inch alloys and upgraded interior trim. The VW line-up extends from $16,990-$21,490; the Mazdas are $15,790-$18,580.
Ignore the engine size -- the Renaults push out more grunt than cubic capacity suggests. The triple-cylinder 900cc engine is manual-only and good for 66kW/135Nm. Those are marginally bigger numbers than the 1.4-litre Polo and performance is lineball at a tick over 12 seconds to 100km/h.
Where the Clio's wins is its official fuel consumption: 4.5 litres/100km against 6.1 litres for the VW. Step-up to the 1.2-litre four-cylinder Clio with 88kW/190Nm and the only option is automatic. The sprint time drops to 9.4 seconds and fuel use rises marginally to 5.2L/100km.
French flair is the Clio's strong suit. It relies on contrasting curves to create a taut, athletic look that works from all angles. It's a five-door car with the lines of a three-door, courtesy of concealed rear door handles and tapering roofline. The profile also defies convention with a protruding protective plastic strip that runs along the bottom of both doors.
It is practical and adds to the car's aesthetic look, with a range of colour-coded highlights. The front end bears the company's new signature styling with a large silver Renault logo set in a gloss black background. The interior plastics have a texture and feel that should be appreciated -- soft-touch where it counts and durable where needed.
EuroNCAP awarded the Clio the best supermini of 2012 accolade after the car earned top marks in three of the four categories -- adult and child protection and safety assist features. All models have dual front and side head and chest airbags, stability and traction control and hill-start assist. The ride height is 45mm lower than the outgoing Clio model and the car is 100kg lighter, both of which translate into improved roadholding.
The 900cc three-cylinder engine is essentially the four-cylinder with a piston shaved off it. So power is down around 25 per cent. That makes it a capable urban runabout but it can struggle at low revs on hilly country roads as the engine tries to get back on boost.
Brisk use of the manual gearbox helps overcome it on all but the steepest inclines. It would still be an issue on take-off in Sydney's hilly streets with four adults on board -- assuming you can find two adults to fit in the back. Like most light cars, the rear-pew legroom restricts it to occasional use for grown-ups.
The 1.2-litre engine is the best option, with the Expression model representing the best value. The dual-clutch auto occasionally hunts for a gear uphill, but it's not meant to be driven like a sports car -- that'll be the duty of the RS model.
Noise suppression in both cars is first rate over any surface and the suspension sets a nice balance between compliance and composure. Steering heft is likewise on the money and
Light car buyers will struggle to find a reason not to consider the Clio. It has the looks, the liveliness and the layout to impress in this market.
Price: from $16,790-$23,290
Capped servicing: 3 years
Service intervals: 12 months/15,000km
Engine: 0.9L turbo 3-cylinder, 66kW/135Nm; 1.2L turbo 4-cylinder, 88kW/190Nm
Transmission: 5-speed manual or 6-speed dual clutch auto, FWD
Thirst: 4.5L/100km (0.9L engine), 5.2L/100km (1.2L engine)
Dimensions: 4.06m (L), 1.73m (W), 1.45m (H)
|Authentique||0.9L, ULP, 5 SP MAN||$5,200 – 8,030||2014 Renault Clio 2014 Authentique Pricing and Specs|
|Dynamique||1.2L, ULP, 6 SP AUTOMATED MAN||$8,000 – 12,320||2014 Renault Clio 2014 Dynamique Pricing and Specs|
|Expression||1.2L, ULP, 6 SP AUTOMATED MAN||$6,800 – 10,560||2014 Renault Clio 2014 Expression Pricing and Specs|
|GT||1.2L, PULP, 6 SP AUTOMATED MAN||$8,400 – 12,980||2014 Renault Clio 2014 GT Pricing and Specs|