Handles well, impressive looks, upmarket interior, fuel economy
Few truly standout features, hybrid has a mind of its own
What is it?
It’s the fifth-generation Renault Clio, launched in 2019 almost 30 years after the original hit our roads way back in 1990. Fast forward to the present day and the Mk5 has been refreshed, introducing more impressive looks and, um, that’s about it.
The Clio is based on the CMF-B (Common Module Family-B) platform shared with Nissan, making this a cousin of the ever-popular Juke. It’s shorter than the previous Mk4 (by an entire 12mm) and a touch wider and lower, but with more space, load capacity and general volume inside. Noticeably more space, in fact, especially up front. Although the rising windowline makes it a little less airy if you’ve been stuffed in at the back.
That’s hardly groundbreaking…
Astutely put. We were hoping for more of a leap forward with the arrival of 2023’s updates, but Renault has focused almost entirely on addressing the car’s rather plain aesthetic.
On that front at least, it has succeeded. The C-shaped daytime running lights have been done away with and replaced by the new signature lamps above; their first appearance in the Renault line-up. Meanwhile it appears to have copied Peugeot’s homework for the grille (e-208, anyone?), and the rear now sports (fake) air vents.
Altogether it’s a more arresting sight on the road.
Meanwhile the interior has more or less been left alone. Good. It’s leaps-and-bounds better than what you got in the previous-gen car and it’s still one of our favourites in this segment.
Talk to me about engines…
Right now there’s a choice of two powertrains: either the 1.0-litre turbocharged TCe 90 producing 89bhp, or a 1.6-litre hybrid E-Tech 145 capable of 143bhp. The former comes with a six-speed manual, the latter a six-speed auto. Scanning these lines for a diesel? You are many, many years too late.
As for trims, Renault has juggled things about a bit and your choices are now Evolution, Techno and Esprit Alpine. Take the base-spec car with the 1.0-litre engine and prices begin at £17,795: commendably, this is nearly a grand less than the old, pre-facelift equivalent. How Renault has managed that in these inflationary times isn’t clear. But good on ‘em.
Standard kit includes a seven-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, rear parking sensors, cruise control automatic air con and plenty else. Not bad, but heaven forbid you opt for a colour other than white. In which case, prepare to part with at least £600.
Ouch. What are my other options?
If you’re considering a Clio, the chances are you’ll also be open to a Volkswagen Polo, Vauxhall Corsa, Peugeot 208, Seat Ibiza, Mini Hatch, Mazda 2, Audi A1, Skoda Fabia, Toyota Yaris or Honda Jazz. Heck, even the cheap-as-chips Dacia Sandero sits on a lower-spec version of the same platform.
That’s a lot of competition to fend off, but here’s the thing: are there any outstanding superminis out there now the Fiesta has been laid to rest? We’d argue not. The Mini’s good to drive, but ageing; the Polo’s competent but dull; the Sandero’s USP is its cheapness… All the investment these days is going into SUVs, and small, affordable cars are being left to wither. Sad times.
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
The Renault Clio gets a lot right: the interior is good, the ride is forgiving, fuel economy is excellent and it even handles pretty keenly. And given that the base model gives you most of what you need, it’s competitively priced too. Until, that is, you remember that the Dacia Sandero is some £4k cheaper. Hmm.
But with the sheer number of superminis on sale, where exactly does the Clio really push the boat out? Interior and looks aside, there’s precious little that truly stands out. Maybe that’s why we like it, but don’t love it.
If there was an RS model to really explore the abilities of the chassis - and bluntly, it could cope with more gusto - we’d be more enamoured. That’s not happening any time soon though.