Though its not in dire trouble at this moment in time, Renault seriously needs a turnaround of some sorts. Sure, the Renaultsport models get a ton of praise from the critics, but the rest of the range seems to have slumped when it comes to sales. In fact, Renault dropped a vast array of models from the UK market altogether not so long ago, as us Brits simply werent buying enough of them to warrant RHD production.
As a result, theres a lot of pressure on this new fourth-generation Clio. Thankfully, if these stats are anything to go by, its a good chance that it might attract a few more buyers than the current one.
The new Clio is the first Renault to be launched with the new corporate face of the nationalised car company, sporting various styling cues from 2010s DeZir concept car such as the prominent badge up front and the sleek headlamps. Love it or hate it, theres no denying the new Clios looks certainly warrant the va va voom tagline!
Another big change from the previous Clio is that it will only be sold as a five-door, on the basis that a majority of supermini buyers would rather they have separate apertures for the front and rear chairs. To keep it appearing desirable and athletic even the flagship Renaultsport model will only come with a five-door bodyshell though, the Renault designers have taken a leaf out of Alfa Romeos book, and have carefully hidden the handles into the C-Pillar.
The current Clio was criticised for its build quality when compared with similarly priced rivals, so its not too surprising to hear that Renault has made big improvements in this area. Well reserve our final judgement until we get our hands on one, but the press pics suggest its of a very good quality, and certainly seems to match the fit and finish of its compatriot competitor, the Peugeot 208.
Renault are also bigging up the grown-up gadgets this new Clio can be specified with Bluetooth comes as standard, whilst optional extras include keyless go and, perhaps quite unusual for such a small car, a rear parking camera!
Of most interest, though, is the new R-link 7inch touchscreen thats available on mid to high-spec models. Co-developed with TomTom, this new interface not only does all the stuff you expect from such a bit of kit (satnav, internet browsing etc), but can also be turned into the equivalent of an in-car iPad, as youll be able to download and install apps for it from the worlds first app store for cars.
Renault has stated that the applications will be incredibly varied, hinting that theyll range from programmes thatll encourage economic driving and locate the nearest petrol station to a bit of software that allows the driver to choose between six engine sound profiles!
Under the skin
There arent many drastic changes to the underpinnings of the new Clio, but that doesnt mean there been any noteworthy upgrades. Though the chassis is mostly the same as the current cars, its a wee bit wider than the 3rd gen Clio, and Renault claims this new car , depending on which model you go for, 100kg or so lighter, which should bode well for the improved handling and fuel economy statement in the press release. Its also expected to, in true Renault fashion, to score well in the NCAP safety tests.
The powerplants have also been given a thorough revamp. Though the full engine range will be revealed closer to the cars official launch in September, we do know that an updated version of the 1.5 turbodiesel motor will be available, along with all new 1.2 and 1.6 turbocharged petrol engines and a super-efficient three cylinder unit thatll match the economy figures of the Ford Fiesta Econetic.
Renault are also keen on pointing out the fact this generation of Clio will be the first to come with a dual-clutch automatic gearbox option, depending on which engine you go for.
As expected from a modern hatchback thats intended to also be a style statement, theres a broad array of personalisation options on the new Clio. These range from changing the floormats, all the way up to bod accents, decals and even parts of the exterior and interior trim.
In a bid to boost sales a tad, as well as to combat the RRP of the aforementioned Peugeot, the new entry-level Clio will allegedly be 1,000 cheaper to buy than the current equivalent model, coming in at about 11,000 or so.
Order books will open in October, with the first customer cars being delivered to their first owners in the first quarter of 2013.
On these very first impressions, the new Renault Clio appears to be a very well sorted all-rounder. The interior build quality appears to be a huge improvement over the previous car, and were quite intrigued by the reduced sales price (for the base model, at least) and the tax-free running costs for the smaller engine options. The R-Link system is also worth an honourable mention.
However, there is a big mountain for this new car to climb. Not only has it got to improve Renaults sales figures and lay down the foundations for a premium image, but its also got to take the fight to some especially talented class-leading rivals, such as the Ford Fiesta and the Kia Rio.
That said, we have high hopes for it the on paper statistics are quite impressive, to say the least and were looking forward to reading the first reviews (and perhaps even nabbing ourselves a drive in one!) later on this year.