My first experience of a Renault Clio some years back was not very edifying. The little car was lamentably under-powered and for the first time ever I found myself having to drop down into second gear while tackling the supposedly fast lane of a motorway!
To be fair, this high mileage hire car was packed with people and holiday luggage and the road was a veritable rollercoaster winding round the rugged coastline of mountainous Madeira.
Roll the clock forward a couple of decades and I was not exactly looking forward to the prospect of living with the latest, fourth generation, Clio or a week but within a few minutes of slipping behind the wheel I was a convert.
Gone is the cute little girlie image of old – this lady has biceps!
The looks are sharp, sporty, purposeful and the handling and performance are fully in keeping with this new image. ”Drive the change” reads the advertising slogan. I couldn’t put it better.
Born from the DeZir concept unveiled at the 2010 Paris Motor Show, the new car embodies all the style, passion and Gallic flair of the original concept with its sleek and graceful dynamic curves. It’s a coupé-like style matched to the practicality of a five-door hatchback – and my test car looked stunning in red.
‘With this car, you can be dynamic yet conscientious, sporty yet relaxed, active yet level-headed. You can be both a racing driver and an eco driver,” claims Renault project manager Patrick Vincent and truth underlies this sound bite.
There are six engine choices, with 900 cc and 1.2 litre petrol variants matched to five-speed gearboxes while the 1.5 litre models include a diesel matched to an auto box.
Features that lower emissions, fuel consumption and noise include stop-start, energy smart management, an eco driving mode that modifies the engine’s acceleration, torque, power management, heating and air-conditioning, and active air shutters that control air flow through the radiator to meet the needs of the moment, improving aerodynamics and therefore fuel consumption.
88.3 mpg is attainable in the combined cycle while a 0-62 mph acceleration time of 12 seconds and a 112 mph top speed are far from laggardly.
There’s a massive range of personalisation options available for this latest Clio while a generous helping of core features include electronic stability and traction control, cruise control, keyless entry with push button start, hill start assist and height and reach adjustable steering wheel, to which the Dynamique MediaNav dC1 90 S&S Eco test car added 18 options, bringing the showroom price up to £16,080. These extra goodies included air-con, leather steering wheel, front fogs and an integrated onboard multimedia system featuring a 7-inch touch screen and a commendably clear sat-nav system.
As the marketing speak puts it, the new Clio is truly: “Le retour de va va voom.”