When the fifth generation of Renault Clio rolled out of the factory, it instantly made the previous versions quiver in angst because not only was it better, but it was also entirely modern, cool and good to drive every day. With this being one of the most popular superminis in Europe, it would come as no surprise to learn that this one has gone on to be an overnight success.
It’s fair to say the Renault Clio did quite a bit of growing up with the fourth-generation model. So much so that the current Mk5 car looks very similar indeed. Hey, if it works, there’s no need to change it.
Put a Renault Clio next to most cars of the same vintage and they’ll look pretty staid by comparison. Audi A1? Cool, but lacks the je ne sais quoi. Ford Fiesta? Close. SEAT Ibiza? Nearly. Volkswagen Polo? Been there, done that.
The Clio really does pull off that neat trick of appealing to a wide range of potential buyers.
The Mk4 Clio was revised in 2016, but it was so mild that you’d be hard-pressed to notice. The changes mainly comprised upgraded interior materials and a more powerful 1.5-litre diesel engine.
The Renault Clio did quite a bit of growing up with the fourth-generation model.
What’s it like to drive?
Mighty fine indeed. There’s an engine to suit most needs and budgets, ranging from the peachy 0.9-litre three-cylinder motor with 90bhp, up to the rarer 197bhp turbocharged 1.6-litre unit in the hot Renaultsport model.
Our choices are the 0.9-litre TCe engine, especially if you spend the bulk of your motoring life in traffic-clogged city streets, and the 1.5 dCi diesel if you regularly have to go from here to a long way over there via the motorway network.
As the Clio has grown up over the years, it’s put on a bit of weight with its safety and luxury kit. This doesn’t impact driving too much though. The suspension is firm but supple, which means tight body control and comfort, and it steers and changes direction like a Strictly finalist. There’s only one car that has the beating of the Clio down a twisty road, and that’s the sublime Ford Fiesta.
It’s put on a bit of weight with its safety and luxury kit.
It all looks pretty funky inside the Renault Clio, although that style does come slightly at the expense of practicality.
For example, try putting your smartphone in a place where it won’t rattle or slide around – you’ll struggle. The door bins aren’t massive, either, so you might struggle to get more than a 500ml bottle of water in them. Stick to your macchiato.
There are five trim levels to choose from, and even the entry-level Expression has cruise control, Bluetooth, electrically adjustable mirrors and electric windows. No air-conditioning though – that doesn’t arrive until the next trim level, Play.
Moving further up the range brings keyless entry, satellite navigation controlled through a touchscreen, ever-larger alloy wheels and rear parking sensors.
Things are even better in the Mk5 Clio, where a large touchscreen dominates the cabin, and offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The interior quality is also a noticeable step up on the latest version, to the extent that the Clio is now a match for class leaders such as the Audi A1 and the Volkswagen Polo.
You won’t struggle to get comfortable in the front of a Renault Clio, because there’s plenty of both legroom and headroom, and the seats and steering wheel offer decent adjustment levels.
Things aren’t quite as roomy behind because if you’re even an average-sized adult you’ll find your head brushing the roof lining and your knees up against the seatback. And that’s if the front-seat occupant is prepared to compromise.
Running costs and reliability
The good news is that most of the engines in the Renault Clio don’t drink up fuel too much.
Take the 1.5-litre diesel for a start. Admittedly using the older test regime, the Clio averaged more than 85mpg. In reality, that’s around 65mpg, which is not to be sniffed at.
If petrol is your fuel of choice, the 0.9-litre TCe engine can still do a reported 60mpg. If your annual mileage is low, you’ll be quids in on the lower cost of unleaded.
Insurance is a bit of a bargain, too, with entry-level cars starting off at Group 4, rising to group 15 for high-spec petrols. The diesels are around the group 13/14 mark. Of course, the hot hatch Renaultsport model is in group 28.
What we love
If you want to get something back from your car on each drive, want to enjoy a comprehensive equipment level and don’t want to spend too much while doing all that, a Clio has to be worth a look.
It also looks fantastic, which is why the new car is so similar to the previous one. Its five-star crash test rating also brings good peace of mind, particularly if you plan to lend it to less seasoned relatives.
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Let’s be honest – ultimate practicality is not often what buyers in this marketplace look for, so why not go for a bit of extra panache instead? The past two generations of Renault Clio both look pretty cutting edge on the outside and have more than a little flair inside, too. It’ll make you feel good about owning one.
This review was