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£18,770 when new
A new Renault Clio review? Yes, we’ve got it here with a turbodiesel engine and in quite posh trim – it’s a range topping Dynamique S, which is actually among the best-selling Clios. Look at the massive face on it! I know. It’s all getting a bit weird, but this newly revised Clio really does appear to have a huge front-end grafted onto a car from the class below, like some sort of horrible experiment. It might have something to do with the re-profiled bumper, new grille and those extra-big headlamps, but I think it’s probably just the first time I’ve properly looked at it.
Still, it looks neat from the back, and the LED elements help neaten up the night-time signature. Those 17in wheels look nice too, but do make me fear for the ride… Anything else new? Well, this is a refresh, so there are lots of detail changes. As well as the new bumpers and grille, there are new wheel options - you can choose the colour of the inserts in the rims themselves - different lower door protectors and a few other small exterior tweaks. Inside there are better plastics, softer materials on the touch points you make contact with most often, different trims, a few different finishes (you can have matte instead of chrome accents and the like), different seat fabrics and mildly updated media/infotainment. You can now also get a manual with the previously auto-only 1.2-litre petrol turbo, and a higher-powered version of the 1.5-litre turbodiesel four-pot (that also does duty in the much bigger Nissan Qashqai), weighing in at 108bhp, up from 87bhp. Which is the one we’ve got here. Any good? It’s very… nice. The new engine is actually very useful and noticeably less clattery than most small diesels. There’s a new, quicker steering rack and different bushings in the suspension (told you this was detail stuff), and it rides neatly, even on the large-ish wheels, has nicely competent body control and surprising traction. It helps that the uprated engine isn’t too turbodiesel-boosty, so you can meter your inputs pulling out of greasy junctions, and generally there’s a lot to like about how it does everyday stuff. It’s not exactly fun, but you’ll be impressed by the latest Clio’s ability to thrum down a motorway absorbing bad roads like a much bigger car. It managed well over 50mpg on test, had some neat touches and didn’t break down or have bits fall off. A pretty mature performance. Would you buy it? Frankly, probably not. Everything in this Clio is competitive, but there’s generally not much surprise and delight. The version tested here starts at over £18,000 (19,415 as tested), and for that much money, I reckon you can do better. The Ford Fiesta for fun driving, VW Polo (even if it is getting on a bit) for feeling like a little Golf, the Skoda Fabia for saving some cash… Basically I’d have pretty much anything bar a Corsa. Nice try, no cigar.