What is the Renault Clio?
Ever since the Renault Clio burst onto the scene in 1990, promoted through the iconic Nicole and Papa advertisements, this French supermini has captured the imaginations of those wanting a youthful supermini with some style. Unfortunately for those people buying the first two generations, an unhealthy dose of unreliability and poor build quality were also on the menu. But when Renault released its third take on the Clio formula in 2005, it proved that it had started to get to grips with quality. The Clio was just as agile, parsimonious and comfy as before, but now it didn’t fall apart within weeks of leaving the showroom.
Launched in August 2005, the Clio Mk 3 initially came in three-door hatchback form but a five-door option was soon added. Then from May 2008 there was also an estate (dubbed Sport Tourer by Renault). Later on we’d get a raft of special editions, eco models and extra engines or trim levels – the choice is bewildering. With some great diesel engines on offer, an oil-burning Clio makes a lot of sense, but the petrol engines also tend to be willing and durable too – especially the turbocharged 1.2TCe unit.
For many, there’s only one Clio model worth buying and that’s one of the Renaultsport variants. First came the 197 in 2006 (in regular, Cup, Lux and F1 Team R27 forms), then in 2009 we got the even fruitier Clio 200, in standard, Cup or special edition Raider guises. All of these sporty Clios are well worth a look as they’re all great fun and strong value but abused examples are common, so buy with care.
If you go for a more common-or-garden Clio, it’s worth homing in on a post-August 2008 car, as most of these came with more standard equipment. Within six months Renault had tweaked the Clio more extensively, with an overhauled exterior design plus the option of an affordable TomTom sat nav option. It’s one of these facelifted cars you should go for, as the quality and design are better – and it’s not as though you’ll have to break the bank to buy one.
Talented though the Clio is, it’s up against some pretty stiff competition, not least of all the perennially popular Ford Fiesta. Dynamically brilliant, smartly styled, plentiful and cheap, the Fiesta is also reliable and practical; could you want more from a small car? If you want a less common image, the Volkswagen Polo might suit you better, but you’ll be paying more for a car that’s not necessarily any better. The Mazda 2 is also worth a look, but a less obvious rival at the newer end of the spectrum is the Citroen DS3 – great value, stylish and practical, plus more fun than a Mini. And, dare we say it, the Clio.
What to look out for when buying a used Renault Clio
Renault doesn’t have the best reputation for reliability but the Clio Mk 3 is built to a much higher standard than its predecessors. You still need to check that the electrics all work though, that the air conditioning hasn’t packed in and that the exterior bulbs all work properly – replacing them can be a real pain. Three recalls for the hatch isn’t a disaster; so far, some examples of the Clio Mk 3 have suffered potential issues with their automatic gearboxes playing up, the brake lights failing and engines failing, although the latter affected only cars with the 1.2-litre petrol unit. The Sport Tourer has also been recalled (in very small numbers) for a potential front suspension failure.
The one to buy
Renault Clio Renaultsport 200
- 1998cc, 4 cylinders
- 200bhp @ 7100rpm
- 158 lb ft @ 5400rpm
- 6-speed manual
- 0-62mph in 6.9sec
- Top speed:
- 34.4mpg (combined)
- Road tax band:
- L 4020mm, W 1770mm, H 1485mm
Renault Clio rivals
Citroen DS3 (click here for used prices on driving.co.uk)
Ford Fiesta (click here for used prices on driving.co.uk)
Volkswagen Polo (click here for used prices on driving.co.uk)