What's the used Renault Clio hatchback like?
If you're looking for a sensible used small car, you'll be expecting us to recommend something German and probably named after a certain round sweet. However, the Renault Clio has long been a safe choice not just for its crashworthiness, but because it's a fairly classy alternative to key rivals that is, usefully, a fair bit cheaper to buy.
Engine options begin with an underpowered 73bhp 1.0 SCe petrol, followed by two turbocharged versions of the same engine in 89bhp TCe and 99bhp TCe forms. Above these are a 128bhp 1.3 TCe engine that comes exclusively with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, or a 138bhp 1.6 E-TECH hybrid that was added to the range in late 2020.
You're best bet is to avoid the 1.0 SCe and go for the 1.0 TCe instead because even the more muscular 99bhp version requires a fair bit of stoking to make progress. The 1.3 TCe on the other hand is far more urgent and is paired remarkably well with its auto 'box.
While the latter engine is more than a match for what's available in a Ford Fiesta or Volkswagen Polo, the Clio can't topple its rivals to drive. The steering is pleasant enough but too vague and not quick enough to best the Fiesta for engagement, nor can the suspension cushion you from the sharp shocks of potholes or ridges in the road like a Polo can, and the Clio tends to feel choppy and fidgety at speed in comparison. The Clio also isn't as well isolated from wind noise as its latter rival, either.
Still, at least the Clio (apart from the basic Play model) is quite plush inside thanks to an abundance of soft touch materials. The driving position has plenty of adjustment and S Edition and above get more supportive, heavily bolstered sports seats. Rear seat leg and head room isn't as generous as the Polo, but it is far better than in a Fiesta. Also, the boot in the Clio is noticeably bigger than that of either rival, even if the high lip makes loading items awkward.
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