Fiesta vs Clio: 1.0-litre hatch battle
Hammond loved his 3cyl Ford, but can it beat the tiny-engined Renault on British roads?
Posted: 17 Feb 2014
Which is why, by way of the longest pre-match justification in TopGear history, I'm barrelling down a chilly B-road in wildest Hertfordshire - where muntjac, sheep and the permatanned wives of city bankers roam - in an 898cc, three-cylinder Clio, being hotly pursued by a Fiesta with precisely 101 extra cubic centilitres but similarly few cylinders. Not as an apologetic sop to global warming or affordable insurance groups (as some scientists will probably tell you, there's no solid evidence for the existence of either), but as proof that true fastness doesn't come from dozens of cylinders and hundreds of horsepowers.
Fastness is eking every last horsepower from a car, from nailing each gearshift to the millisecond to maintain every valuable yard of pace. And, by that definition, the new Clio is fast. When we say ‘new' Clio, we really mean it: this is a clean-sheet design. With Renault struggling in Europe (hell, everyone's struggling in Europe, but Renault's feeling it worse than most), there's a lot riding on the MkIV Clio. Which could explain why Renault's thrown the full car-design coursebook at it. Usually when a manufacturer claims a production car was inspired by one of its previous concepts, it means ‘well, they've both got four wheels', but the Clio does draw on the extravagance of 2010's extravagant DeZir concept, with bulging flanks and bulging eyes and even a bulging badge up front. Maybe it's not the most elegant supermini ever created - albeit better resolved and less nosey in the metal than in photos - but it's interesting and different, for which we must all applaud Renault.