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What Car? says

4 out of 5 stars

For Chic supermini offers low running costs on non-performance models

Against It has a poorer drive and a smaller cabin than some rivals, as well as an uncomfortable driving position

Verdict Stylish looks and low running costs give the Clio real appeal

Go for… 1.2 16v Expression

Avoid… Early 1.9 diesels

Renault Clio Hatchback
  • 1. The car's weakest areas are its suspension, brakes and electrics. The automatic gearboxes aren’t strong, either
  • 2. Go for a revised model, introduced in 2001, with improved engines, interior and equipment
  • 3. Some owners report excessive noise and rattling from the sunroof
  • 4. Tall drivers may find the driving position uncomfortable
  • 5. The cabin and boot are rather cramped
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Renault Clio Hatchback full review with expert trade views

Like its fellow French supermini, the Peugeot 206, the Clio lives or dies by its looks. It’s far from the most talented car in its class, but if you love its appearance, you’ll forgive it almost anything.

In many ways, its strength is its weakness. The same cute lines and diminutive shape that make it so easy to thread through tight city streets also mean the cabin and boot are rather cramped. To make matters worse, the height-only adjustment on the steering wheel, plus the soft seats, give an uncomfortable driving position, especially for tall drivers.

With the exception of the Renaultsport 172, which is a credible hot hatch, the Clio’s drive puts the emphasis on comfort. The smooth ride absorbs lumps and bumps well, although one consequence of the springy suspension is obvious body roll in bends, while the steering gives too little feedback to satisfy a keen driver.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Dynamique models are the brightest for retail, 172 and 182 particularly good

James Ruppert
Used car guru

In April 2001, a revised Clio was introduced, and this is the best version to buy. It has a range of more modern engines, including our favourite, the 1.2 16v. This has a delightfully perky nature that makes the best of the chassis without overtaxing it.

At the same time, the dCi diesels appeared for the first time, and they are markedly better than the unrefined 1.9-litre units they replaced.

Interior quality, too, was improved at this point, as was the standard equipment. Four airbags, remote central locking and ABS became standard, while air-con, alloy wheels and a CD player were fitted on a significant number of models.

The pick of the many trims is Expression, one step up from the basic Authentique and introduced with the 2001 revisions. This has a sunroof, CD player and height adjustment on the driver’s seat. Stepping up to Dynamique adds alloys, while Privilege has air-con, and top-spec Initiale has four electric windows and a powered sunroof.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Excellent reliability and low repair bills

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct

You can expect good fuel economy from any Clio, apart from the hot versions, especially on the post-2001 face-lift models. The 1.2s and 1.4s should return well over 40mpg, with the 1.6 only just failing to match that.

For the ultimate economy choose a 1.5 dCi diesel, which arrived in April 2001. Its official combined fuel economy is an impressive 65.7mpg, almost 20mpg better than the pre-face-lift 1.9s.

Insurance costs, too, won’t be excessive, as long as you stay away from the hot versions. Although there are no Clios in the very lowest insurance group, most mainstream models sit in groups 2 or 3.

However, figures from Warranty Direct show that, although the Clio has better than average reliability, when things do go wrong, they can be expensive to fix, especially by the standards of rivals, such as the Fiesta and 206. At least Renault dealers have some of the lowest rates.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Dynamique models are the brightest for retail, 172 and 182 particularly good

James Ruppert
Used car guru

The Clio is not the hardiest of superminis, but in recent years it has emerged as the best Renault in reliability surveys.

This is backed up by the JD Power survey, where the Clio's quality and reliability were rated as average. It would have performed rather better had it not been for a high number of reported engine problems.

According to Warranty Direct, the weakest areas of the car are its suspension, brakes and electrics. The automatic gearboxes aren't particularly strong, either.

During its life, the Clio was subject to a few recalls, some concerning the brakes. The largest recall affected models built in 1998 and 1999, because these had a possible fault with the accelerator cable.

There are also reports of a fault with the bonnet release catch. Although no recall has been issued, Renault has written to every registered owner of the car offering a free safety check of the part as it can fail if poorly maintained.

Customers' views on the Clio are mixed. There's no shortage of happy owners, but reported problems include excessive noise and rattling from the sunroof, and poor service from Renault dealers.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Excellent reliability and low repair bills

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct
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