2019 Renault Clio review: price, specs and release date
It may look familiar on the outside, but the Renault Clio has undergone quite a transformation inside and under the skin...
Priced from £14,500 (est) | On sale October
Since its introduction a barely believable 29 years ago, we’ve got used to the Renault Clio going through more looks than an ageing pop star. Whether it’s just a nose job or a complete transformation, you know that the Britney of small cars will be almost unrecognisable every time it comes back into the limelight.
So, imagine our surprise when we first saw pictures of this new Clio. Yes, we are using them; it’s just that for once Renault's designers have opted for evolution rather than revolution.
It's only really when you see the new car alongside its predecessor that you notice the larger front grille and new C-shaped daytime running lights, bringing it into line with the rest of the Renault range, while if you whip out a tape measure, you’ll find the new car is a little shorter, a touch lower and quite a bit wider to give it a more athletic shape.
But despite it losing a few inches, and indeed kilos, the Clio is actually more spacious than before. And the interior has shifted upmarket, with a much greater focus on fit and finish.
To round things off, the sole diesel has been heavily updated, while all three petrol engines are new to the Clio. Kicking off the range is a 1.0-litre three-cylinder unit that comes sans turbo and produces 74bhp, while at the top is a 1.3-litre four-cylinder turbo with 128bhp that's offered exclusively with an automatic gearbox. However, we drove what should be the happy medium: the turbocharged 1.0-litre petrol TCe 100, with 99bhp.
2019 Renault Clio TCe 100 on the road
Rather than attempt to outhandle the Ford Fiesta or beat the Volkswagen Polo for comfort, the Clio is intended to sit somewhere between these key rivals. But although it proves partially successful, it’s not without its faults.
Let’s start with the good. Pitch it into a corner briskly and you’ll find there’s not much in the way of lean, so it never feels like the Clio's body is playing catch-up with the rest of the car underneath. Yet while it’s technically capable up to a point, there’s little sense of fun in driving the Clio down a winding country road.
The steering is largely to blame, because it never gives you a great sense of connection to the front wheels, and the car feels unwilling to turn initially, even though the steering is quicker overall than before.
More of concern, though, is the way potholes and ridges thud through the car’s body as the suspension fails to soak up the obstacles. There’s no doubt the Polo is far more absorbent, although for the most part the Clio is still acceptably comfortable by the standards of the class.
But surely with a little more power than our recommended Polo 1.0 TSI 95, the Clio feels more muscular on the road? Sadly not, because it has less torque and delivers it higher up the rev range, making it less eager from low revs. If you’re prepared to spin the engine to around 5000rpm, there’s enough pace for an A-road overtake, but you don’t get the sub-2000rpm flexibility that makes the Polo and Seat Ibiza so easy and relaxing to drive.
If you try to get it to pull from low revs, you’ll feel a fair few vibrations through the steering wheel, pedals and gearlever. The gearshift itself is hampered by an overly large gearknob and a fifth gear that requires a deliberate hand to engage. At least the Clio is pretty quiet at a cruise, with little wind and road noise and a subdued engine.
It’s safe, too. In addition to getting a five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating, all models feature automatic emergency braking, traffic sign recognition and lane-keeping assistance.
2019 Renault Clio TCe 100 interior
Inside, you’ll see where much of Renault’s efforts have gone on the new Clio. Even compared with the Polo or premium small cars such as the Audi A1, the abundant soft-touch plastics, colourful trims and leatherette not only look great but also help to make the Clio feel more expensive than it is. It's worth us pointing out that our test car was European specification; UK cars will be subtly different, although we’ll have to wait until August to know exactly how.
The interior is easy to live with, too, with more oddment storage than ever before and the availability of wireless charging for compatible devices. If, instead, you plug your phone into a USB port, you’ll find all models have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard. That’s whether you get the basic 7.0in touchscreen or the upgraded 9.3in system of our test car.
The latter is certainly a step on from the old system, with much sharper graphics and more logically laid out menus. We also like the fact that it's mounted high up on the dash, meaning you don't have to take your eyes too far from the road to operate it. Our only real complaint is that it can sometimes prove laggy, especially if you're exploring the sat-nav maps. Let’s hope that’s sorted before first deliveries commence.
A 7.0 digital screen replaces the majority of the instruments, and although it isn’t as configurable as Audi and Volkswagen’s similar systems, you’ll be able to find a display that provides all the information you need. If you want more configurability, a 10.0in version will be available shortly after launch.
Thanks in part to the Clio’s additional girth, front space is generous to say the least, with plenty of head and leg room for drivers well over six feet tall. However, try to cram another similarly tall adult behind and you’ll find rear head and leg room are tighter than in the Polo, Seat Ibiza and Skoda Fabia.
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