Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
The Clio comes with a choice of five main engines (plus the sporty RS models), but we’d advise against the basic 1.2 petrol. The best options are the 0.9-litre three-cylinder petrol motor and the 1.5-litre four-cylinder diesel, which each produce 89bhp. The 0.9 petrol spins up smoothly and has decent shove from around 2500rpm, but you will find yourself downshifting if you encounter a steep hill. The diesel has more torque at low revs but it’s also willing to rev; it’s easily the strongest motor in the line-up.
If you need more power, there’s the option of a turbocharged 1.2-litre petrol engine with 118bhp. It’s available with an automatic or manual gearbox and makes the Clio pretty nippy, but will prove a lot more expensive to run than its 0.9-litre equivalent. In the other direction you can also have a 108bhp version of the 1.5-litre diesel. It’s frugal, has good emissions, but is only available on the top trim levels, which makes it expensive.
At the sporty end of the range are the RS 200 and 220 hot hatches. With 197bhp and 217bhp respectively, and a dual-clutch gearbox, they offer more power than rivals such as the acclaimed Ford Fiesta ST.
Suspension and ride comfort
The Clio’s suspension deals with larger road imperfections such as potholes reasonably well, but in general the car never really settles down as well as, say, a Ford Fiesta or Skoda Fabia. Even so, it’s still comfortable enough for long distances not to cause too much distress.
Paradoxically, the Renaultsport edition of the Clio has different suspension and a surprisingly supple ride for a hot hatch; if anything, it’s softer than the likes of the Ford Fiesta ST. The Trophy version is noticeably stiffer, however.
While the Clio can’t offer the kind of involving driving experience the Ford Fiesta does, no other small car does, and the Clio is probably the Fiesta’s nearest challenger in this respect. So if you’re looking for some driving pleasure, the Renault is game enough and you can easily persuade it to flow smartly through a series of bends. On motorways it feels composed and stable, while around town it’s a light and easy steer.
The RS 200, meanwhile, displays even more agility and balance through corners, which can be enhanced further if you fit the Cup Chassis option. There’s no need to spend extra on the RS 220’s suspension system, because it already comes primed with sticky tyres, an even lower ride height an extra stiff set-up to really deliver on its sporting promise.
Noise and vibration
Fire up the three-cylinder petrol engine and it lets out quite a pronounced thrum, but there’s actually very little vibration seeping through into the cabin. Once you hit a steady speed it settles down, and you’ll struggle to tell it apart from the generally smoother four-cylinder engines, which include the two 1.2-litre petrols.
The 1.5-litre diesel is one of the smoothest engines of its type, particularly when compared to the Fabia’s diesel. At speed in the Clio, both road and wind noise are noticeable, but far from distracting.
The Kia Rio is a competent supermini, but it’s pricey, and it...
The Suzuki Swift has tidy handling and a strong turbo engine...
There is a fine line between being different and being an outc...
The Skoda Fabia is a fine small car and incredible value for m...