Renault is celebrating 30 years of its highly successful Clio with an all-new version and, like other manufacturers with an unashamed ability to exploit its motorsport connections, it is offering overtly sporty-looking versions.
The big difference, of course, is that you can see the Renault name on Formula 1 cars as well as road cars that are actually affordable, unlike Ferrari or McLaren.
So just as with Ford, which is bigger in rallying, and its ST-Line cars you get the Clio R.S. Line, which looks sporty in every way even when fitted with a 1.3 litre petrol motor. It’s also frugal, managing an average 46.7 mpg while in our care even though it had an easy-to-drive automatic gearbox that’s mostly suited to urban driving.
We say mostly because there were occasions when the throttle was sharp on take-up and that’s not always handy when manoeuvring into a tight car park space. Cold starts were definitely the worst, with the car hopping back up our sloping driveway.
There are advantages to the R.S. Line interior treatment, not least the wonderfully proportioned and leather-trimmed rim of the steering wheel, which is perfect for long trips because your hand is neither gripping tight because the rim is too slim or cold because of too much plastic. Equally impressive are the body-gripping sports seats
The car gets an F1 splitter at the front complete with a “beehive” lower grille in Renault-speak but what British buyers would probably call honeycomb. Curiously it didn’t catch on the kerb outside our house, a snag that occurs with many other cars including our own Ford Galaxy.
The interior is very focused on the driver, even down to a lit-up strip separating the driver from the passenger, right next to the passenger’s knees. It was a reminder of a former colleague who used to sellotape rolled-up newspapers to his section of a communal desk to prevent any incursions into his space! More important where the Clio’s concerned is that, at night, it reflects in the top section of the nearside front door window and is very distracting.
Apart from that, there’s very little on which to fault the Clio interior. As a supermini it has less rear seat legroom than mid-size cars, as you’d expect, but it’s perfectly OK for a family with kids up to their early teenage years or couples who want the extra carrying space, most impressive with the rear seats folded over.
One thing that drivers with no technical knowledge might want explaining is the ability to show the amount of horsepower and torque the engine is producing. It makes drivers aware that horsepower is not king, rather it’s torque, the turning force of the engine and ultimately the pulling power it produces. That’s why diesels with lower HP but higher torque figures are so effective, plus their ability to burn fuel more efficiently.
Under the bonnet of our test car was the new TCe 130 engine coupled with the EGD auto gearbox. The 1.33 litre engine produces, as its name implies, 130 bhp at 5,000 rpm and a surge of power low down thanks to the 240 Nm of torque peaking at a mere 1,600 rpm. That’s equal or better than many diesel engines and explains why this car is both easy to drive and frugal. There’s no need to rev the life out of it to make progress although you may want to get that Formula 1 feel using the paddle shifts that come as standard. We never bother as the car knows better than any driver when to change ratio although there are still some people who like to think they are “in control”.
It is very tempting to exploit the car’s performance – a 0-62 mph time of 9.0 seconds makes it more than capable of showing a clean pair of heels to more powerful cars. But that would do a lot of harm to the fuel economy which now manages to wring from petrol consumption figures that would once only have been seen from diesel cars. And that’s the thing about this affordable Renault – it looks and can play the part but it also manages great frugality.
Car: Renault Clio R.S Line TCe 130 EDC
Does it fit your ego...
0-62 mph: 9.0 secs
Top speed: 124 mph
Bhp: 130 @ 5,000 rpm
Torque: 240 Nm @ 1,600 rpm
...and your wallet...
Combined: 49.6 mpg
CO2 emissions: 118 g/km
Best bits: superb, softly sporty, supermini