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Renault Clio ST Car Review | December 21, 2007

Driven December 2007

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Intriguing specimen, the supermini estate. Cut it one way, and you've got a car that's all things to all people - a dinky urban runabout with space for your Labrador and yoga mats - but cut it the other way, and it becomes something of a self-defeating proposition, a city car that won't fit into city parking spaces.

Such philosophical uncertainties haven't prevented a recent glut of small cars with big boots: in the last few months we've seen the Peugeot 207 SW, Skoda Fabia Combi and the Mini Clubman - all of which, mysteriously, steer clear of that dread word 'estate' - and now it's Renault's turn, with the Clio Sport Tourer.

It is, despite the name, a genuine estate, mercifully free of killer back-to-front doors and identical to its hatchback brother as far back as the rear seats, but with an extra 21cm of rear overhang.

The angled rear hatch hides the extra length well, though, and opens to reveal a decent-sized, practical boot with a wide lower sill and some 50 per cent more loading space than in the hatch under the parcel shelf. That shelf can now be stowed under the folding floor, a revelation that excites me more than it probably should.

There's the choice of two small petrol engines - including the impressive 1.2-litre turbo from the Grand Modus - or Renault's 1.5-litre turbodiesel in three states of tune. The most powerful, which develops 105bhp and 177lb ft of torque,pulls well from low revs and provides impressive economy figures, but despite near-identical performance figures to the hatch, it just doesn't feel as effervescent as it should.

Though the boot adds just 20kg to the Clio's weight, Renault's engineers had to stiffen up the rear suspension to cope with the extra load of the rear luggage, sedating the normally eager handling and making it a touch less pleasing through the bends.

All of which adds up to a fairly competent estate that feels somewhat soulless and proves, I suppose, that you can never quite have your supermini cake and eat it. Until Top Gear convinces Renault to bring out a 197 Cup version of the Sport Tourer, that is. Watch this bootspace.

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