Richard Berry road tests and reviews the 2016 Renault Clio GT Premium with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
How is it that the Renault Clio is France's most popular car but is barely known in Australia? You can't say it's just a French nationalistic thing like eating frog legs or being overly whimsical either because the Clio was the third best-selling car in Europe in 2015 and has been crowned Car of The Year there twice.
You can't even say it hasn't been in Australia long enough to grow on us because it's been here since 2001, well, on and off.
The Clio is now in its fourth-generation and went on sale in 2013. There's five grades of Clio: the range kicks off with the base spec Authentique, step up to the Expression, then the Dynamique, the GT and at the top of the range is the car we have tested here – the GT Premium.
There's a high performance Clio range above the GT Premium, too and kicks off with the Clio RS Sport.
So why isn't France's favourite on all Australian light car shopping lists and which Clio lurking in the line-up is even better than the GT Premium?
Is there anything interesting about its design? 7/10
Here's some trivia to amaze your friends or help you pick-up in a bar – Laurens van der Acker is the bloke who designed the current Mazda2 but then he left Mazda for Renault where he designed this current Clio from the ground up. So that's two rivals, one selling eight times as many as the other, but both drawn by the same guy. So can I buy you a drink?
The Clio is much sexier and angrier looking than the Mazda and the GT Premium spec is even more so than the ones under it in the range with its tough body kit, LED running lights, chrome exhaust and 17-inch alloy wheels.
It's stylish, quirky and sometimes confusing, with a fairly high quality feel.
At 4063mm end to end the Clio GT Premium is 133mm longer than a Toyota Yaris, and the Renault also has a 79mm longer wheel base at 2589. The GT Premium is 1945mm across (including wing mirrors) the Yaris is a skinnier 1685mm. From tarmac to roof top the Clio stands 1448mm while the Yaris is taller at 1510mm.
The overall look for the Clio is low, wide and with a planted stance.
The cabin is super French in that it's stylish, quirky and sometimes confusing, with a fairly high quality feel.
It depends what you mean by practicality, if you want good rear legroom for your six foot sons then you'll need to move up to a small car, this is a light car and at 191cm when the driver's seat is in my position I can't sit behind it no matter how small I scrunch myself up.
The boot size is 300 litres, the Holden Barina's is 290 litres, Toyota measures the Yaris' boot volume in 'block shaped' VDA litres which can't be compared to Renault or Holden's 'liquid litres' (if you must know it's 286 litres VDA). Perhaps this might help – the load length of the boot in the Clio is 649mm, while in the Yaris it's 710mm – that 60-odd mm could be the difference between fitting a pram in or not.
There's a three-position cupholder in the front with space for cups at a time, but no cupholders in the back. Each door has a small bottle holder, so you won't go thirsty.
The Honda Jazz is hard to beat for practicality in this segment with its clever use of space and adjustable seating, but if you want to look as good as the Clio you need to sacrifice some functionality.
While we're discussing functionality the Clio's multimedia unit can be frustrating, although the digital speedo is excellent.
Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with? 5/10
The Renault Clio GT Premium costs $28,990 - that's $3990 more than the GT below it and $10,990 more than the entry-level Authentique.
Standard features on the GT Premium include a 7-inch touch screen with sat nav and reversing camera, parking sensors, proximity unlocking and ignition button, plus there's RS Drive with a Sport mode.
The GT also comes standard with a sport tuned chassis with stiffer springs and dampers for better handling.
The sport seats are great and hold you like an egg in an egg carton.
Comparing prices with its top-spec rivals the Yaris ZR is $21,490, The Jazz VT-L is $22,490, the Mazda2 Genki is $22,690 and the Hyundai Accent SR is $18,990.
So the GT Premium is up to $10,000 more expensive than its rivals and it's no surprise that the best-selling car in this segment last year was the cheapest of that list above.
And here's a curve ball for you – the more powerful, faster and better handling Clio RS Sport is $30,000.
What are the key stats for the engine and transmission? 6/10
The Clio GT Premium has an 88kW/190Nm 1.2-litre turbo petrol four cylinder engine, it's a step up from the 1.0-litre four cylinder in the Authentique and Expression, but at with a 0-100km/h time of 9.4 seconds it's not particularly fast. The Clio RS Sport can do it in 6.7 seconds.
Renault says that you can expect an average combined fuel consumption of 5.2L/100km, my style of driving requires more fuel and I saw 11.1L/100km on the readout, but that was mainly city driving which will make a car thirsty.
What's it like to drive? 6/10
There's so many things that are right. The sport seats are great and hold you like an egg in an egg carton, the steering wheel feels great in your hands, so too the pedals under your feet – all of the 'touch points' are spot on. The ride is excellent – soft enough to be comfy but firm enough to give great handling.
The Clio was perfectly suited to city duties.
The dual clutch auto isn't smooth in slow moving traffic and there's a noticeable lag in power until the turbo spools up. If only we also got the six speed manual they do in France.
The Clio was perfectly suited to city duties although those pillars either side of the windscreen get in the way a bit, too.
Thing is, the car feels all ready to race but lacked the grunt to do it and that just made me pine for the Clio RS Sport with its 67 per cent more power and 25 per cent more torque.
Warranty & Safety Rating
5 years / unlimited km
ANCAP Safety Rating
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating? 6/10
The outside rear seats are fitted with ISOFIX mounts and there's three top tether anchor points across the row too.
What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered? 8/10
The Clio GT Premium is covered by Renault's five-year unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is required every 12 months or 15,000km and is capped at $299 each year for the first three years.
I reckon you know what I think. The Clio is beautiful, it looks tough and it feels great to sit in, but the GT Premium doesn't have the grunt to go with its athletic looks. If it was my money I'd spend a grand more and take home the cracking Clio RS Sport instead.
Is the GT Premium the Clio you'd pick, or would you prefer a different variant? Tell us what you think in the comments below.