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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

2009 Renault Clio Reviewed By Autoexpress

  • Rating:
  • On the road price: £11,085 - £17,385
  • For : Comfortable, roomy cabin, refined diesels
  • Against : Steering lacks feel, poorly resolved facelift
A facelift four years after the Clio’s initial launch in 2005 has introduced a more modern appearance that takes many of its styling cues from the New Megane, At the front there’s a reprofiled nose that features larger, swept back headlamps, while the rear gets a new bumper and tailights. As before there’s a choice of three and five-door hatchbacks together with a versatile Sport Tourer estate. There are six trim levels to choose from – Extreme, Expression, Dynamique, GT, Privilege and Initiale. At the top of the range is the scorching Renaultsport 200, identified by its muscular flared wheelarches, black grille surround and bodykit.

The cabin has always been one of the most spacious in the supermini class, with room for five adults at a pinch. Hatchback models feature a useful 288-litre boot that can be extended to 1,038-litres with the rear seats folded flat. Go for the Sport Tourer and these figures increase to 439-litres and 1,277-litres respectively. Whatever bodystyle you plump for you’ll get the same well laid out and solidly constructed interior. Dynamique models and above get a classy soft touch dashboard finish and air-conditioning.

Driving experience
Like its predecessor the Clio serves-up a fine balance between ride and handling. Turn into a corner and the Renault displays poise, grip and balance, while the supple suspension effortlessly soaks up poor surfaces. Only the numb electrically-assisted steering spoils the dynamic. For ultimate thrills there’s the Renaultsport 200, which is made even sharper with the optional, lower and stiffer Cup chassis. This model is a true performance bargain, delivering driver involvement to match much pricier machinery.

The smooth and quiet 1.5-litre dCi diesels are the engines to go for, with both the 85bhp and 106bhp versions delivering enough punch effortlessly keep up with more powerful machines and 60mpg fuel returns. The latter unit comes with a six-speed manual gearbox for relaxed motorway cruising. The range of five petrol engines is a mixed bag. The 1.6-litre VVT comes in two states of tune (108 and 126bhp) and both feel strained, while the 73bhp 1.2-litre struggles most of the time. However, the muscular and responsive turbocharged 98bhp 1.2-litre is excellent and isn’t that far behind the diesels in terms of filling station performance. The Renaultsport's screaming 197bhp 2.0-litre unit is a masterpiece and delivers blistering performance.

Ownership costs
The Renault isn’t the cheapest supermini on the market and it also suffers from weak residuals – it’ll have retained only around 40 percent of its value after three years. However, it’s no worse than the Ford Fiesta and other mainstream rivals. The diesels have the best running costs, with a small appetite for fuel and an annual tax bill of £35. The petrol cars are thirstier, and fall into more expensive VED bands.

Renaults usually do well in crash tests, so the Clio’s five stars from EuroNCAP is no surprise. All models have at least six airbags as standard (Dynamique, Privilege and Initiale trims have eight), Isofix and ABS. Buyers swayed by low CO2 emissions should look to the diesels which produce between 115-123g/km depending on the model.

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