Superminis are no longer the preserve of the budget-minded motorist. Modern superminis have to offer all the quality, technology and refinement available in larger cars to even have a shot at selling well.
The Volkswagen Polo and Renault Clio are both trying to knock the Ford Fiesta off its unassailable supermini throne. Which is best, and which should you put on your driveway? carwow’s here to find out…
The Clio gets itself off to a good start. The modern, dynamic lines really catch the eye, and there are some exciting personalisation options to make yours even more unique. It has a distinct front end and some bulbous headlamps, but stops a long way from being as divisive as something like the Nissan Juke.
The Polo looks every-inch a Volkswagen. The exterior is smart, with clean lines and a reassuringly familiar feel, but it’s nowhere near as sporty or dynamic-looking as its French rival.
If you’re primary aim is to let all your neighbours know you’ve bought a VW, the Polo is a fine choice. However, if you want to stand out from the crowd, you need look no further than the Clio.
Volkswagen has built a solid reputation for designing excellent interiors. Build quality is matched only by the quality of the materials and, while it isn’t as contemporary or funky as some of its rivals, it’s hard to say a bad word against it.
Renault’s reputation in this regard isn’t so positive but the marque has worked hard to reverse this. The interior feels more modern than the Polo’s and gets a tablet-like control screen on all but the most basic of models.
The Clio’s engine range starts with a 75hp 1.2-litre petrol, but a better choice would be the 0.9-litre turbo that embraces the trend for downsizing and forced induction. This unit develops 90hp and returns impressive fuel economy approaching 63mpg.
If you want ultimate fuel economy, the dCi 90 and dCi ECO diesels are the ones for you. In fact, the dCi ECO will stop you getting to know the staff at your local fuel station thanks to its claimed economy figure of a staggering 88mpg.
The Polo’s 1.0 and 1.2-litre units develop modest power ratings of 59 and 89bhp respectively. Both engines return a claimed 60.1mpg, but the 1.0-litre unit feels underpowered so it’s only really suitable for town and city driving. The latter is also available with VW’s smooth DSG automatic gearbox. Depending on trim level, you can also choose 1.4 and 1.8-litre TSI petrol engines.
If you want a diesel, the new 1.4-litre three-cylinder in the Polo claims to return 83mpg. It is heavier than the petrols, however, so is slightly slower and less responsive.
The Polo actually feels like a bigger car than it is on the road. Its stability, balance and refinement wouldn’t feel out of place on an executive saloon. Its driving experience isn’t as fun as what you’ll get from some of its rivals, but it’s a capable, refined and composed car that’s easy to drive and hard to dislike.
At times, the Clio can feel quick and accurate to drive but, on larger wheels, the ride can be far too bouncy and body roll is noticeable. It’s quiet and comfortable as a motorway or A-road cruiser, but you certainly wouldn’t describe it as an engaging drive. It steers accurately but the gearchange feels disappointingly vague.
Value for money
There’s little to choose between the two as far as price is concerned – the Polo costs from £11,300 and the Clio from £11,145. The Renault comes with more goodies and technology as standard, but the Polo isn’t sparsely appointed.
Where there will be a clear winner though, is in years to come when you decide to trade-in. Like all VWs, the Polo will hold its value well but we’re not so sure the Clio will command the same sturdy resale prices.
Either of these cars would make a fantastic supermini and an ideal companion when winding through city streets. The one most suited to you is actually a question of whether you prefer French quirkiness and style or reassuring Germanic quality and ease of use.
It’s the same when you come to trying to decide which is the better-looking car. For some, the bulbous wide-eyed look of the Clio is a major selling point but, for others, the sturdier, more-bluff Polo has a feeling of quality.
Pop either the VW Polo or the Renault Clio in our car configurator to see how much carwow could help you save. For more options, check out our deals page or, if you’re still struggling to pick your ideal car, head over to our car chooser.