The Sunday Times Driving Placeholder
Five-star looks but three-star space and ride comfort
Pros
Smooth and comfy
Muscular coupé-in-a-hatch looks
Quick, accurate steering
Cons
Terrible rear quarter blind spot
Bouncy, unsettled ride over urban roads
Surprisingly cramped in rear seats

Renault Clio Mk 4 review (2013-on)

The latest Clio has gained a lot more swagger. Launched in 2013 and only available with five doors, it has bolder styling, better engines and a host of personalisation options.

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What is the Renault Clio Mk 4?

Save for some outrageously capable hot-hatch versions such as the Williams and the V6, the Renault Clio has always been a cute but uninspiring supermini that has benefited from memorable advertising. But now, with this fourth-generation version launched in 2013 and available only in five-door form, it’s gained a lot more swagger in the shape of bolder styling, larger dimensions, a host of personalisation options and a punchy new 900cc, three-cylinder petrol engine. There are five trim levels ‒ Expressions, Expression+, Dynamique MediaNav, Dynamique S MediaNav and GT-Line ‒ and four engines: a choice of 900cc three-cylinder, and 1.1-litre or 1.2-litre four-cylinder petrols, and a 1.5-litre diesel.  The cheapest 900cc version, the Expression+ TCe 90 Stop & Start, costs £12,995 ‒ £1,000 more than the same specification, though less powerful and less frugal, Expression+ 1.2 16v. However, the former develops 90bhp and returns a claimed 62.7mpg compared with the latter’s 75bhp and 51.4mpg, so higher mileage drivers may consider the premium worth paying.


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A new addition to the line-up, the Clio GT-Line, brings with it a turbocharged, 1.2-litre engine promising 0-62mph in 9.9sec but a young-driver friendly group 14E insurance, and pocket friendly consumption of 54.32mpg on the combined cycle. Its sporty styling packs 17in alloys, a rear spoiler and GT kickplates but the car’s most notable feature is a quick-changing, six-speed, dual-clutch transmission complete with steering wheel paddles.  The car is decently quick but not so much that it overwhelms the standard suspension set-up, which remains fidgety and unsettled over all but the smoothest surfaces. The supermini market is fiercely fought over and the Clio faces strong competition, most notably from the class-leading Ford Fiesta and the classy VW Polo. The Clio’s muscular, coupé-like styling, at least, must count for something.

The drive

The Clio’s lower profile and new, longer wheelbase should contribute to a settled and composed ride. True, progress is largely smooth and unruffled but it doesn’t take much of a pothole or an undulation to unsettle it. Soft springs combined with firm damping seem to be the root cause. Fortunately, despite the suspension activity going on below, the Clio is a quiet riding car. NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) is well suppressed which might explain why wind noise seems such a problem, too. It’s most noticeable at higher speeds from around the windscreen pillars. Incidentally, there’s a terrible blind spot in the deep, rear quarter pillars.   The anti-lock brakes, supported by electronic brake assist, are powerful enough but could do with more bite. Renault says it paid special attention to the Clio’s steering and it shows; you don’t have to turn the wheel much to tighten the cornering line, which the Clio tracks securely and entertainingly. Our test car’s 900cc three-cylinder engine has a soft-boost turbo, there to give the car a helping hand rather than break speed records. It’s a bit “laggy” around town but it will whip the car from 30-50mph quickly enough and hold a comfortable high-speed cruise.  The 1.5-litre diesel engine we tried previously is strong and smooth, offering a bit more oomph, especially from low revs.

The interior

Glance in shop windows and you’ll be surprised how long the Clio is, surprised because inside it feels cramped. The front cabin and the boot are roomy enough; it’s the rear that’s the problem. It’s not the easiest space to get in and out of either thanks to a narrow door aperture and an obtrusive rear wheelarch. The fascia is dominated by the large, upright multi-media “tablet” on MediaNav models  (lesser versions get the tablet, too, but without the 7in touchscreen). It’s a Marmite moment. We’re used to fascias being integrated and well organised; the tablet breaks with that tradition, but that’s Gallic flair for you.  Still, at least it works well and falls comfortably within sight.

Our upper-mid-spec Dynamique test car wanted for little (standard features include manual air conditioning, black gloss inserts inside and out, and electric mirrors) but despite this, the rear windows were manual. Renault is keen to encourage people to personalise their Clios with expensive options. That very indulgence had taken our test car from £13,995 to £15,755 – and still it lacked powered glass, all-round.

The one to buy

Renault Clio Expression+ TCe 90 Stop & Start

Factfile

Price
£13,195 (correct at first publication)
Engine
898cc, 3 cylinders, turbo, petrol
Power
90bhp @ 5000rpm
Torque
99 lb ft @ 2500rpm
Transmission
5-speed manual
Acceleration
0-62mph in 12.2sec
Top speed
113mph
CO2
104g/km
Road tax band
B
Dimensions
L 4062mm, W 1731mm, H 1448mm
 

Renault Clio rivals

See prices of VW Polo
See prices of Ford Fiesta
See prices of Mini