Renault Clio Review
The Renault Clio is a small hatchback with a plush-feeling cabin and a very practical boot, but it doesn’t look as eye-catching or feel as comfortable to drive as some alternatives.
- Plush interior
- Roomy boot
- Decent standard equipment
What's not so good
- Looks like the old model
- Alternatives are more comfortable…
- …And more fun to drive
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Renault Clio: what would you like to read next?
The original Renault Clio was one of the first cars to show the world that compact, city-slicking superminis could be practical as well as cool. A great deal has changed since that car went on sale, however, so does this latest French hatchback have what it takes to rule the urban roost?
Well, things get off to a slightly tricky start because this new Clio looks almost identical to the old model – despite using numerous all-new components. Sure, the hook-shaped headlights look pretty swanky and RS Line models get a few extra sporty touches, but these alone won’t be enough to steal admiring glances away from the likes of the more stylish Mini hatchback or Citroen C3.
Thankfully, things quickly improve when you step inside. The new Renault Clio’s smart, minimalist dashboard feels much posher than the old car’s confusing collection of buttons and blobby plastic trims and – besides a few scratchy plastics low down on the doors – all the materials you’ll touch regularly feel soft and well screwed together.
Another feather in the Renault Clio’s cap is its portrait infotainment system. It’s more logically laid out than in other Renault models, comes with many must-have smartphone mirroring features as standard and the graphics look much fancier than those in the Ford Fiesta or Vauxhall Corsa.
It’s not just glitzy tech that the Renault Clio does well: there’s also plenty of space for you to stretch out in the front and a decent amount of seat adjustment to help you get comfy.
Compared with some look-at-me small cars, the Renault Clio doesn’t exactly stand out. Step inside, however, and you’ll find it has a surprisingly posh interior for such a small car.
You can’t really say the same about the back seats, though. Anyone over six-foot tall will struggle for headroom and – unless you’re just carrying kids – you can forget about using all three back seats at once. Thankfully, there’ll be plenty of space for everyone’s luggage in the Renault Clio’s roomy boot because it’s even more spacious than a VW Polo’s.
Once you’re packed up and on your way, you’ll notice that the Renault Clio tends to fidget and bounce a little around town and on rough roads. That’s not to say every little imperfection will send an unpleasant jolt up your spine, but it’s certainly not as smooth as a Ford Fiesta.
The Renault Clio isn’t particularly easy to see out of either, thanks to its small side windows and super-slim rear windscreen. At least its small size, light steering and optional 360-degree surround-view camera helps take the stress out of parallel parking.
You can also get a driver assistance system to help take the edge off lengthy traffic jams that’ll accelerate, brake and steer for you – providing you keep your hands on the wheel. It even works at motorway speeds, but you can only get it on cars with Renault’s rather lethargic automatic gearbox.
That being said, even the standard manual ’box is pretty easy to use, and the Renault Clio’s range of economical petrol engines feel reasonably perky without being too noisy or costly to run.
This all makes the Renault Clio a good all-round city car, but one that doesn’t really have the wow factor to stand out in a dense crowd of more desirable, more fun and more upmarket alternatives. That being said, if you’re after a small car that’s easy to drive, has a big boot and feels impressively posh inside, then the Clio’s well worth considering.
The Renault Clio’s front seats are spacious and it has one of the biggest boots of any small hatchback, but roominess comes at the expense of back-seat space
The Renault Clio isn’t a large car, but there’s still space inside for you to get comfortable if you’re quite tall. There’s a decent amount of headroom, plenty of space for your knees and the steering wheel adjusts for height and reach to help you get an unobstructed view of the dials.
Space in the back isn’t quite as generous, however. The back doors open almost at right angles to the rest of the car but they’re very narrow, which makes getting in a little tricky. There’s space for passengers to push their feet under the seats in front, even in their lowest setting, but there isn’t a great deal of knee- or headroom so those over six-foot tall will struggle to get comfortable.
The Renault Clio’s cabin isn’t quite as wide as that in a VW Polo, so you’ll struggle to carry three adults in the back at once – a problem not helped by the narrow central seat with its raised cushion.
At least there’s just about enough space for three kids, even if some of them require a booster seat. Fitting a bulky rear-facing child seat is more difficult, however, because there isn’t much space to lift it through the rear doors and twist it into position behind the front seat. At least the Isofix anchor points are easy to access behind some plastic caps.
Despite being a fairly small car, the Renault Clio comes with plenty of space for a family’s bits and pieces. The front door bins are large enough to hold a 1.5-litre bottle, you get a pair of decent-sized cupholders in the centre console and there’s space for a few drinks cans under the raised central armrest.
There’s a tray in front of the gear lever with space for your phone, the glovebox is big enough to hold a small handbag and there’s a storage tray for some sunglasses up by the rear-view mirror.
There aren’t as many handy storage areas in the back seats, however – you don’t even get a folding central armrest or a set of cupholders – but at least the rear door bins are wide enough to hold a one-litre bottle each.
The Renault Clio has 391 litres of bootspace – that’s more than almost any other small hatchback and plenty of room to accommodate a few large suitcases or a baby buggy and some soft bags.
You get an adjustable boot floor, under which there’s space to store the parcel shelf if you need to remove it, a few shopping hooks and some tether points to help tie-down fragile items.
Unfortunately, there’s quite a large lip that makes it rather tricky to load heavy boxes, but at least the boot’s square shape and wide opening help with carrying bulky or oddly shaped luggage.
If you need to carry some seriously large stuff, such as a bike, you can fold down the Renault Clio’s back seats in two-way 60:40 split. There’s a significant step behind the rear seats with the boot floor in its lowest position but when it’s raised you can easily slide heavy boxes right up behind the front seats.
The Renault Clio’s small size and light steering makes it dead easy to drive in town, but you’ll wish it was slightly more comfortable over rough inner-city roads
The Renault Clio is a bit of a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to driving. It’s pretty easy to drive, but alternatives are more comfortable, easier to park and more fun
You’ll be able to get the Renault Clio with one diesel and three petrol engines, paired with a selection of manual and automatic gearboxes.
The most affordable version will be the 75hp one-litre petrol engine, but this fairly sluggish three-cylinder engine is best avoided unless you drive almost exclusively in town.
The 100hp version of the same 1.0-litre petrol engine is a much better all-rounder. It has just enough poke for the odd motorway journey yet still returns around 45mpg in normal driving conditions. It doesn’t have quite enough grunt to pull you up steep hills without changing gear, however, and the standard five-speed gearbox isn’t particularly smooth.
The seven-speed automatic gearbox you get in 130hp petrol models isn’t much better – it lingers before changing down when you accelerate hard and occasionally stutters when you’re pulling out of a junction or leaving a set of traffic lights.
This is a shame, because the Renault Clio’s 130hp four-cylinder petrol engine is rather smooth and easily punchy enough to cruise along at motorway speeds without feeling overstretched. It’ll reach 60mph from rest almost two seconds faster than the 100hp car in less than nine seconds, but can’t quite match its less-powerful sibling’s fuel economy.
If you plan to do lots of long drives in your Renault Clio, you should consider the 1.5-litre 85hp diesel engine. It’s far from the fastest diesel hatchback on sale, but Renault claims it’ll return almost 80mpg – although you’ll have to ration your use of the accelerator to get close to that figure.
The Renault Clio’s small size makes it pretty easy to drive in town. The pillars beside the windscreen aren’t particularly wide so you get a good view out at junctions and the light steering means your arms won’t tire if you need to make a three-point turn.
Unfortunately, it isn’t all good news. The Renault Clio’s rather small rear windows, narrow rear windscreen and tall back-seat headrests severely limit rearward visibility. You can get a 360-degree surround-view camera system to help when parking, but squeezing into a narrow space is still more stressful than in the likes of a VW Polo or Skoda Fabia.
You’ll find the Renault Clio isn’t quite as relaxing to drive as these cars either, thanks to its slightly firm suspension. It settles down at speed – such as when you’re driving on motorways – but then you’ll notice quite a bit of wind and tyre noise.
You might think this firm suspension makes the Renault Clio feel sportier than most hatchbacks on a twisty country road and, to an extent, you’d be right. The Clio’s body barely leans in tight corners and it has plenty of grip when you’re sweeping from one bend to another, but the light steering and notchy manual gearbox means it’s never as much fun as a Ford Fiesta.
You can personalise how your Renault Clio drives (albeit subtly) by tweaking how sporty the steering feels and assigning it to a personal profile on the infotainment system. But unless you’re a particularly keen driver who happens to share their car with an equally enthusiastic petrolhead, this feature has limited appeal.
Much more interesting are the Renault Clio’s optional driver assistance systems that’ll accelerate, brake and steer for you to help keep you within your lane on motorways. This doesn’t just help take the sting out of busy commutes, it can also help prevent avoidable collisions. Even without these optional extras, the Renault Clio comes with automatic emergency braking as standard to help prevent low-speed bumps and scrapes.
The Renault Clio’s interior looks and feels just as posh as in some more expensive German alternatives but its infotainment system isn’t the easiest to use
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