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Car of the Year Awards 2024: Small Car of the Year

Despite the fashion for SUVs, the traditional small car remains one of the most popular types on the road, with the best brilliant all-rounders that offer excellent value for money...

WINNER: Small Car of the Year

Renault Clio 1.0 TCe 90 Techno

COTY 2024 logo with Motoreasy

Did you ever grow disinterested in a holiday destination, only to return a few years later and find it transformed enough to make it your new go-to place? Well, that’s pretty much what has happened with the Renault Clio. It was always a decent small car choice, but the update visited upon it in 2023 has turned it into a class leader, leapfrogging the Honda Jazz and Skoda Fabia en route.

To be honest, just like decorating your house is easier if it isn’t a complete ruin, the Clio didn’t have any serious flaws to make its makeover a major challenge. The latest generation was launched in 2019, and not only was it an attractive machine, but it was also an impressively practical, economical, well-equipped and safe one, with a very smart and well-made interior.

Renault Clio interior

It’s here that the updated Clio takes its first blood when head to head with the Skoda Fabia. Its tweaked dashboard looks more modern, with a 7.0in digital display where the Fabia gives you old-fashioned analogue dials. Your attention will probably go first, though, to the Clio’s portrait-orientated infotainment screen (again, 7.0in with our favourite Techno trim level, 9.0in on pricier trims), which responds promptly to prods, has crisper graphics than the Fabia’s, and always displays a selection of shortcuts for accessing frequently used functions.

Of the pair, the Fabia is better suited to carrying adults in the back, but while six-footers will find their heads close to the Clio’s ceiling and their knees touching the front seats if they’re sitting behind someone equally tall up front, the latter car has a more conveniently shaped boot. The Clio’s 391-litre capacity edges the Fabia’s by 11 litres, and its rear wheel arches intrude less – something that helps when you want to load bulky items.

Renault Clio rear

The Clio is more fun to drive, too. Okay, the Fabia is quicker by some margin (10.7sec versus 12.3sec to get from 0-60mph in our test), but the Clio’s more responsive steering makes it feel more eager to dive into corners, and tighter body control means it stays more upright. There’s a Sport driving mode, too, which adds steering weight to heighten the sense of involvement.

There isn’t much to split them in terms of ride comfort; the Clio’s firmer set-up can be choppy at low speeds, but the Fabia’s soft springs lead to you bobbing up and down on undulating roads. Remarkably, even with all of its great qualities, the Clio undercuts most of its rivals on price – particularly the Honda Jazz, our previous class favourite, which remains a fine car but is hindered by the fact that it’s now very expensive to buy by class standards.

True, the Dacia Sandero is even cheaper than the Clio, but the latter is far more well rounded.

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