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Driven: Renault Clio V. Image by Renault UK.

Driven: Renault Clio V
Europe’s best-selling supermini is updated for its fifth generation. Here’s the likely most popular model in the UK sampled.

   



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Renault Clio 100 TCe Iconic

4 4 4 4 4

Good points: smart looks, tidy cabin improved over Clio IV, smooth ride, impressive refinement

Not so good: not the most sensational interior ever, so-so handling, is it different enough from the Clio IV?

Key Facts

Model tested: Renault Clio 100 TCe Iconic
Price: Clio range from £14,695; 100 TCe Iconic from £16,295, car as tested £18,105
Engine: 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol
Transmission: five-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Body style: five-door supermini hatchback
CO2 emissions: 99g/km (VED Band 91-100: £130 in year one, then £145 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 54.3mpg
Top speed: 116mph
0-62mph: 11.8 seconds
Power: 100hp at 5,000-5,500rpm
Torque: 160Nm at 2,750-3,500rpm
Boot space: 391-1,069 litres

Our view:

The Renault Clio has always felt like it was there or thereabouts in the supermini sector, which is to say it has always been talented but it felt as if it was making up the segment numbers somewhat. It's been a good car across its four previous generations and one that's found plenty of consumer favour since it first appeared in 1990; in fact, throw the sales numbers out into the wider European area and it is the top-selling supermini of the lot. The loyalty to the Ford Fiesta is a peculiar foible of the UK populace alone, because it's actually the Renault runaround that Europeans favour more than any other. In fact, it became the continent's top-selling car of any shape or size at the start of this year, outstripping the showroom juggernaut that is the Volkswagen Golf because the bigger German hatch has only just morphed into its Mk8 format.

Despite all this resulting cash rolling into Renault, which will no doubt please the French company far more than any glowing car review might, critical appraisal has never really followed the Clio about. It always comes across as if it is playing third, fourth or maybe even some other ordinal-number fiddle to the leading lights in its sector. The Fiesta. The Volkswagen Polo. The SEAT Ibiza. And so on.

Thus, Renault wants this fifth-generation Clio to change all of that. And, despite the fact it doesn't look that much different to the fourth-generation Clio, the early signs are promising. The Clio V, to give it Renault's preferred nomenclature, has kicked off its life winning some notable awards - some from large automotive organisations, others from distinguished media outlets - and picking up enough goodwill to be shortlisted for a number of others. It is clearly something of a technical step on from the good but not stellar Clio IV.

So, we thought a week with what will likely be the UK's favoured specification - a mid-ranking Iconic trim with the 100hp iteration of the three-cylinder turbo engine - was in order, to see if the Clio has enough to upset the evaluative apple cart and take the top spot in the supermini class, or whether it's just more of the same worthy aptitude from the French.

The good news with the Clio is that there is much to like. Evolutionary rather than revolutionary its exterior looks may be, but the Renault has always been a handsome car and the V is no exception - especially in the lovely Valencia Orange paint. Bear in mind that the Iconic sits on 16-inch alloys and has no sporty body addenda, so it's a clean and attractive piece of design without the need for automotive jewellery and fripperies to get it looking its best.

The interior is harder to judge; this is one of the areas that is winning the most praise from fellow critics and there is no argument from these quarters that the cabin of the Clio V is markedly superior to that of the Clio IV. There are more squishy plastics to prod at, there's more of a feeling of solidity to the build quality and the infotainment has been improved, but while the switchgear is lovely, it's not that much different to the stuff you'd find in a Dacia Duster. There's no digital dash and an abundance of sombre greys/blacks. Seriously, all of the Ibiza, Fiesta and Polo have better cabins, and that's saying nothing of the clear class-leader in this department, the Peugeot 208 (see 'The Rivals', below). The Clio's spacious, though. There's good room in the back for adults to get comfy and then, at the back, there's a goliath 391-litre boot (diesel models lose 25 litres, for an AdBlue tank), which puts its competitors firmly in the shade. So while we're not blown away by the passenger compartment of the Renault, we will at the least concede it's very good overall.

But neither the looks nor the cabin are our favourite bits of the Clio. Rather, it's the Renault's mechanical refinement. This French motor feels like a far bigger and grander car than it actually is, the little triple being a particular delight and mated to a sweet-as-pie five-speed manual transmission. There's just enough pep and just enough muscle to the 1.0-litre engine to ensure it's the perfect companion for the 1,178kg hatchback. It zips around fantastically without you needing to give it much thought, while the suppression of noise is spot on; the engine is muted but you can always tell it's a three-cylinder, as it has a fine little soundtrack. All this merely tees you up for the ride quality, however, which is the star facet here; the Clio V is superbly comfortable, as good as anything in this class right now and probably a bit better than some larger five-door machines as well.

We're not even about to spoil it with talk of pricing. The Clio starts at a competitive £14,695 and the 100 TCe Iconic is a mere £1,600 price walk from there. Even with some options fitted (a spare wheel for £200, the ID metallic orange paint at £660, and the Comfort, Convenience and Parking Packs for £350, £300 and £300 again respectively), it's only a shade beyond 18 grand and those bundles bring in electric rear windows, a storage compartment in the armrest, an interior vanity mirror with lighting, auto lights and wipers, climate control, an LED front reading light, front parking sensors (to go with standard-fit rears) and also a reversing camera. On top of a factory specification that includes cruise control, keyless entry and go, the Easy Link multimedia system and a whole host of driver-assist safety systems, among more, you get a generously equipped car and plenty of change from £20,000. We also saw an overall 40.8mpg from it across 192 miles of driving, none of which was on a motorway; so our best figure of around 52mpg on a two-lane A-road run means that the 100 TCe's quoted 54.3mpg combined economy only looks to be inaccurate by dint of the fact it appears to be grossly pessimistic. This a three-cylinder petrol that's very good on fuel.

This is a glowing report card so far, right? Well, yes; it is. And yet, we never once felt like we were sampling a vehicle which had moved the yardstick on within its market sector. The Clio V is an extremely pleasant supermini, but then you can say the same about the Fiesta, Ibiza, Polo and 208. All of which, on top of their general geniality, have one absolutely ineffable 'strong suit' with which to recommend them: the Ford and SEAT are the best to drive; the Volkswagen still has the interior ergonomics and rock-solid residuals to rule them all; and the 208, a vastly improved car in its second-generation outing, easily looks the best and has the most show-stopping cabin.

The Renault can't beat any of these four in these disciplines, and it doesn't do enough elsewhere to draw itself back level. It's another one of those cars that you cannot fail to like, but you'll struggle to love. The Clio V is a competent, polished, noble supermini and something you should definitely give due consideration to if you're after a B-segment machine. But the best in class? Showing the others the way? The first thing you should be looking at if this is your ideal size of car? Nope. We reckon it's the other French hatchback, the one with a Lion on its prow, which takes that honour. Or maybe the Fiesta. Or the Ibiza. But it's definitely not the Clio. For us, it's not even occupying one of the podium places, as good a car though it undoubtedly is.

Alternatives:

Ford Fiesta: the Fiesta is a top-seller in the UK for good reason beyond simple loyalty, because it's excellent in all regards. We still don't think the improved Clio has the tools to dethrone it from supermini supremacy.

Peugeot 208: if you want a French hatchback with a really show-stopping cabin, the 208 Mk2 is it. Looks more interesting than the Renault outside and in, and drives just as well. The Pug is pricey, though.

Volkswagen Polo: if you want one of the VW Group's superminis, the SEAT Ibiza is the better bet. But as the Clio seems to be more directly targeting the Polo with its maturity, then the Volkswagen is what we've chosen here. We'd have the Clio... just.


Matt Robinson - 9 Jan 2020



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2020 Renault Clio 100 TCe Iconic UK test. Image by Renault UK.2020 Renault Clio 100 TCe Iconic UK test. Image by Renault UK.2020 Renault Clio 100 TCe Iconic UK test. Image by Renault UK.2020 Renault Clio 100 TCe Iconic UK test. Image by Renault UK.2020 Renault Clio 100 TCe Iconic UK test. Image by Renault UK.

2020 Renault Clio 100 TCe Iconic UK test. Image by Renault UK.2020 Renault Clio 100 TCe Iconic UK test. Image by Renault UK.2020 Renault Clio 100 TCe Iconic UK test. Image by Renault UK.2020 Renault Clio 100 TCe Iconic UK test. Image by Renault UK.2020 Renault Clio 100 TCe Iconic UK test. Image by Renault UK.








 

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