The Clio’s one of the more enjoyable small cars to drive, and its turbocharged TCe petrol engines are nippy and frugal – but it can feel a bit bumpy on rough roads
It may be tempting to fit the Clio with the cheapest petrol engine – the 1.2-litre 75hp model – but it’s best not to. It’s slow and not particularly frugal. Models with this engine are also not as keenly priced as first appears because they’re the only models to come in Expression trim, which doesn’t even have air conditioning.
The 0.9-litre TCe petrol models, however, get air-con as standard and are both more powerful and better on fuel than the 1.2-litre model, thanks to having a turbocharger. The 90hp TCe petrol is perfect for town driving – it has instant acceleration at city speeds and doesn’t feel out its depth on the motorway. It’ll return official fuel economy of 60.1mpg compared to the 50.4mpg the 1.2-litre model will manage.
The TCe 120 petrol model is a better choice if you often use the motorway. It gets from 0-62mph in nine seconds dead – three seconds quicker than the 90hp model – and you’ll not notice a huge difference in fuel economy between the two.
The turbo petrol is a peach in town while the diesel has the oomph to deal with the motorway
For the best fuel economy, of course, you want a diesel. The dCi 90hp model returns galactic fuel economy of 91.1mpg, but make sure you’re going to drive enough miles to offset the fact that it costs £1,000 more than an equivalent petrol.
That price differential stretches to £1,200 when you compare the top-of-the-range 110hp dCi diesel to the comparable 120hp petrol and, because it returns official fuel economy of 80.4mpg, it’ll take longer to make your money back at the pumps. That said, of all the engines it feels the most effortless on the motorway thanks to its extra pulling power.
The Clio is a car that will always feel at its best in the city, no matter which engine you choose.
The Renault’s light controls mean it’s easy to drive a low speeds and its tight turning circle gives great manoeuvrability. There is a fairly big blind spot to contend with around the rear windscreen, but that’s a problem on most modern small cars, and mid-range Clios come with rear parking sensors that make it less of an issue. The most annoying thing is the car’s suspension, which can jiggle you around a bit and never truly seems to settle. A Ford Fiesta does a much better job of absorbing bumps.
The Clio can still hold its own on a country road, though – only the Fiesta is more enjoyable to drive. The Renault’s pointy steering gives you the confidence to turn into corners without having to make any last minute adjustments and there’s not much body lean to worry about, although the Clio’s tall body does accentuate what lean there is. The Fiesta edges in front, though, because it has the Renault’s positives and adds suspension that’s much more settled on bumpy country roads.
The 90hp diesel and 120hp petrol Clios are available with an automatic gearbox but it dents acceleration in town and adds £1,000 to the asking price. Needless to say, you should only choose it if your licence dictates it.
Auto or not, on the motorway the Clio starts to feel out of its comfort zone, especially if you choose the 75hp petrol engine which runs out of puff at the national limit. The 120hp petrol engine is quieter at a cruise and has power to spare, but the expensive 110hp diesel is even more hushed at speed and feels punchier.
Safety also looks pretty strong thanks to a five-star rating from Euro NCAP. However a lack of automatic emergency braking, and the fact the Clio was evaluated back in 2012 means that newer rivals such as the SEAT Ibiza are even safer.