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.
Renault Clio 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.
Renault Clio handling
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.
Renault Clio refinement
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.
This 1.2-litre 74bhp engine is a carry-over from the previous Clio range, and it feels like it, with notably higher CO2 emissions than the better 0.9-litre three-cylinder motor.
0.9 TCe 90
This is the Clio’s core petrol engine, a three-cylinder turbocharged motor producing 89bhp and emitting as few as 94g/km of CO2. It’s not the quickest performer, offering solid rather than peppy pace, and under acceleration has quite a noticeable thrum. That said, it delivers decent real-world economy and is our pick of the Clio’s petrols.
1.2 TCe 120
This 1.2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine is certainly nippy, but is significantly worse for both economy and emissions than the 0.9-litre petrol. Hard to recommend then, unless you want a petrol engine with an automatic gearbox, which is an option.
Our pick 1.5 dCi 90
This diesel option emits as little as 82g/km of CO2 (although in most editions, it’s 85g/km) and it’s also the most economical of the motors in real-world use. By small diesel standards this is a particularly strong engine, with enough low-down torque to cope comfortably with the Clio’s weight, and very little clatter or vibration.
1.5 dCi 110
This high-power version of the 1.5-litre diesel offers noticeably better acceleration and flexibility with little economy and emissions penalty. It’s only available from the higher-spec Dynamique S Nav trim, making it an expensive option, though. With that in mind, we’d stick to the dCi 90.
The first of the hot Clios gets a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine producing 198bhp. It’s available only with a dual-clutch gearbox that can be operated in ‘manual’ mode by paddles behind the steering wheel. As you might expect, the 200 is pretty rapid, with 0-62mph taking just 6.7sec. Remember, it’s also going to cost you more to run.
Renault Sport 220
This is effectively the same engine as the 200, but tuned to provide even more power. Despite having an additional 20bhp, emissions are barely any worse at 135g/km. Only available with the Trophy version of the Renault Sport Clio.