Renault Clio long-term test: report 1

In January, we named the latest Clio our Small Car of the Year. But now we're seeing if it continues to impress when you live with it every day...

Jonty Renk test driving Renault Clio

The Car Renault Clio 1.0 TCe 90 Evolution Run by Jonty Renk, senior videographer

Why it’s here To prove that you don’t need to break the bank to have a fantastic small car

Needs to Offer a versatile and practical interior for camera gear storage while being small and nimble enough to drive in a busy city

Mileage 1130 List price £17,795 Target Price £16,462 Price as tested £18,695 Official economy 54.3mpg Test economy 50.5mpg  Options fitted Metallic paint (£700)

19 April 2024 – Hello again

Back when I was 17 I learned to drive in a Renault Clio. And like most of us who like cars; I’ve always had a soft spot for my first wheels.

The car I passed my test with was an early fourth-generation model which seemed to be the go-to for driving instructors at the time, and it was immediately clear why. The Clio was a soft landing for introducing new drivers like myself to the open road, mainly due to its competence and simplicity. It was great value for money, too.

Jump forward to filming a video review of the latest version of the Clio for What Car?’s YouTube channel earlier this year, and it transported me back to being 17 again.

Since getting a taste of that new car, I’ve been keen to be able to spend more time in it. Especially so when it was named Small Car of the Year at our 2024 What Car? Car of the Year Awards.

Orange Renault Clio front cornering

Thankfully, that time has arrived, and I can now relive my late-teenage years for the next few months running the new Clio as a company car.

After pouring over the three trim levels offered by Renault I decided to go for entry-level Evolution trim. It might be the cheapest version but it’s packed with kit, like a 7.0in touchscreen which runs smartphone mirroring wirelessly (and flawlessly, so far at least), cruise control and rear parking sensors.

The next trim up is Techno – our preferred choice on the Clio – which adds a reversing camera, front parking sensors and £1400 to the price. Top-spec esprit Alpine adds adaptive cruise control, blind spot warning, a bigger infotainment screen and a digital driver display. That’s all nice to have but it takes the Clio beyond £20,000 territory so, I figured, I’d stick with the cheapest trim to see if you can get a lot of car for not a lot of money (relatively speaking, at least).

Next was my choice of engine, and fortunately Renault makes this nice and easy as there are just the two choices: a 1.0-litre TCe 90 petrol with a manual gearbox or an E-Tech hybrid with an automatic. I prefer the tactile sensation of a manual gearbox, especially in smaller cars, and despite living in central London (where an automatic might make stop-start driving in traffic a little less stressful) the idea of forking out an additional £3500 for the hybrid didn’t seem necessary.

Besides, I was interested in keeping the Clio as cheap as possible – so the manual is what I've got.

Jonty Using Renault Clio Manual Gearbox

With that in mind, I was pleased to see that aside from metallic paint there weren’t any optional extras to add even if I wanted to, which not only kept the cost down but also removed a lot of the umming and ahhing from my decision-making process.

There was a choice to be made for the paint, though. You can get the Clio in solid Glacier white as standard or for £600 there’s a metallic choice of two shades of grey or black. But, come on, live a little. I decided to instead go for Valencia Orange for £700 to spice things up, and I must admit after taking delivery of the car I couldn’t be happier with choosing something that stands out so vibrantly amongst all of the grey cars on our roads.

Renault Clio driving front

My impressions of the Clio so far are nothing but positive. It weaves in and out of city traffic with all the energy of a puppy, and its small size means I can choose parking spaces which would be off limits for larger cars.

I did wonder if I’d regret the lack of a reversing camera, since virtually every test car we have in for filming at What Car? has one fitted these days, but I’ve soon forgotten about it. Besides, I’m embracing the classic Dad-spec ‘look over the shoulder’ manouvre to gauge the gap behind when parking, and the Clio’s decent view out behind helps with this.

I am looking forward to putting my Clio through its paces, packing it with my camera gear for What Car? video shoots and driving to airports and filming locations around the country. It’s a big ask, but if it can be practical, comfortable, exciting and cost-effective then it'll reinforce why this small car has been beloved by new drivers for generations – and why this latest version has added a What Car? trophy to its cabinet.

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