2013 Renault Clio GT-Line review

* New warm hatch Clio driven in the UK * 1.2-litre turbo petrol produces 118bhp * Available to order now; priced from 17,395...

2013 Renault Clio GT-Line review

The Renault Clio GT-Line is a lightly fettled version of the standard supermini, which is designed to offer more dramatic looks and handling for 1600 less than the range-topping 197bhp Clio RS.

The GT-Line was developed by Renaultsport and is fitted with a sport chassis as standard, as well as shock absorbers that are 40% stiffer than those on the regular car.

RS Drive software also allows the driver to switch between Normal and Sport driving modes the latter sharpens the throttle response and quickens gearchanges.

Renault has given the car plenty of styling upgrades too, including 17-inch alloys, revised front and rear bumpers, a rear diffuser and spoiler, plus twin chrome exhaust tailpipes.

However, while the GT-Line is pitched as a 'warm' hatch only, the starting price of 17,395 makes it 400 more than the Ford Fiesta ST, which will do 0-62mph 3.0 seconds faster.

What's the 2013 Renault Clio GT-Line like to drive?
The good news is that you instantly notice Renaultsport's efforts in the firmer set-up, which is a decent middle ground between the standard car's suspension and the optional Cup chassis on the Clio 200.

Despite the stiffer springs, the GT-Line deals with rough surfaces and larger ruts well, while giving you a pleasant impression of something with a slice of the sporting ability of the Clio RS.

The bad news is that this impression soon fades once you try to drive it like its more powerful sibling. The turbocharged 1.2-litre petrol engine produces 118bhp and promises 0-62mph in 9.9 seconds, but the driving experience isn't as fun as it should be because of the hesitant semi-automatic gearbox.

The six-speed dual-clutch unit is indecisive at lower speeds, and then hangs on to ratios for too long when you're pressing on. The noise at higher revs as it shoots for the redline may sound aggressive, but it's never matched by equivalent performance.

Switching to Sport mode and coaxing the gearbox using the paddle shifters behind the steering wheel gives a moderate improvement. With a few touches on the R-Link infotainment screen, you can also replace the engine's noise with the artificial sound of a Nissan GT-R or Renault Clio V6 that's matched to your driving inputs.

However, neither the gimmicky artificial noises nor the slightly sharper Sport setting takes the driving experience to a level that could be described as exciting.

What's the 2013 Renault Clio GT-Line like inside?
Like the rest of the Clio range, the GT-Line's cabin looks appealing, but doesn't quite have the quality of materials to match expectations. It's on par with many of its competitors at this price but falls short of the classy finish in rivals such as the Volkswagen Polo R-Line.

The GT-Line specification adds stylish chrome and gloss black detailing, a leather-trimmed steering wheel and sports seats over cheaper models, but the plastics feel cheap and the seats aren't as supportive as they look.

Standard equipment is generous, though Renault's R-Link touch-screen infotainment and navigation system is standard, as is an upgraded sound system and Bluetooth. Keyless entry and start, air-conditioning and automatic headlights and wipers are also included.

Climate control costs another 410, and the only other options available are a fixed panoramic sunroof and heated front seats.

Should I buy one?
Not if you can live with a manual gearbox. Rivals such as the (manual-only) Ford Fiesta 1.0 Ecoboost 125 are much cheaper, more fun and generally better all-round ownership prospects. Wed also suggest looking at some of the less lavishly equipped and more affordable automatic petrol hatches out there, such as the Seat Ibiza 1.2 TSI DSG.

However, there are few petrol automatic rivals that can match the Renaults running costs, and many buyers will see the appeal in its blend of hot hatch looks, sprightly performance and big-car kit list. If youre one of them, then the Clio GT is worth a look, provided youre not expecting hot hatch entertainment.

What Car? says...

Ford Fiesta ST1
Volkswagen Polo R-Line

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Engine size 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol
Price from 17,395
Power 118bhp
Torque 140lb ft
0-62mph 9.9 seconds
Top speed 121mph
Fuel economy 54.3mpg
CO2 120g/km