Renault: 2014 Clio Expression TCe 120 quick drive

Renault: 2014 Clio Expression TCe 120 quick drive

DSC_0231When a lovely lady named Gail rang me from the Auckland Renault dealership to book a press drive of the new Clio hatch, she asked me what body colour I would like?

DSC_0212The answer was Yellow, of course, because in my opinion, if you are going to drive a funky little French supermini, why have a boring and sober colour such as black, white, grey or red, which are also available in the Clio range.

There is also a very funky solid French Blue or a striking metallic Ardent Brown available in the Clio colour palette for New Zealand customers, but my preference is the solid Inca Yellow as pictured here on our test Clio Expression TCe 120.

I think the fact that the colour matched my iPhone 5C was also a consideration too. Incidentally, Gail is also the voice of Renault Eurodrive, and if you ever want to do a few months touring DSC_0215Europe, I thoroughly recommend you give her a call to book a Renault lease car at a competitive rate.

Colour choice can add or subtract from the stance and design of a vehicle, and I think that yellow really complements the sculpted body panels of the Clio and works well with the protective black plastic lower door panels and the lower front grille air intake garnish and rear bumper valance which are also black.

From the side on view, the five-door Clio looks almost like a three-door given the clever concealment of the rear door handle in the upper door pillar.

I also like the design treatment of the Renault diamond by design chief Dutchman Laurens van den Acker on the front of the car, which leaves you in no doubt as to the cars brand identity.

In the past Renault could have been accused of being too conservative in its styling of its mass market models such as the Clio supermini and the Megane small hatchback, but the arrival of van den Acker (who previously worked for Audi, Ford, and Mazda) has thankfully changed this.

The large Renault diamond and radical front grille treatment first adorned the DeZir electric concept car in 2010, this was translated by van den Acker as a contribution to the new generation Clio IV, and will also be seen on the Captur compact DSC_0228SUV which will possibly land in New Zealand late this year.

Underneath that shapely Clio bonnet is a brand new 1.2-ltre four-cylinder direct-injection turbocharged petrol engine which is mated to a six-speed dual clutch automatic transmission which is sourced by Renault from Getrag.

The engine pumps out 88 kilowatts of power, and 190 Newton metres of torque, which is pretty impressive for such a small unit, but its the addition of the the six-speed automated dual-clutch transmission that really makes this car such an impressive drive.

DSC_0239Fuel consumption is quoted at 5.2L/100km and this is easily achievable.

While the gearbox response is quite nimble in the city, changing up and down without fuss, it is when you get out onto the open road and give it a bit of Welly, that the Clio Expression changes its personality from mild child to wild child.

It will absolutely blow your socks off with its responsiveness and ability to get from point to point quickly and without fuss, all the while maintaining a comfortable ride for the occupants, and being great fun to drive.

You can’t say that about many small bog-standard Japanese or European superminis, albeit the Clio Expression is closely followed in the ability stakes by the very capable Suzuki Swift.

It also begs the question as to how good the hot-hatch Clio RS models will be once they land on our shores.

What has also been translated into the new Clio, is a high level of specification for the standard car with a high degree of fit and finish that would be expected of a premium European car, let alone a mass market model.

I was very impressed by the execution of the dashboard and the centrally mounted touch screen which drives the standard satellite navigation system, the Bluetooth telephone system with audio streaming, and the Arkamys audio system.

Special mention needs to the Renault bass reflex system speakers which provide amazing sound quality given their diminutive size.

The air-conditioning is manually controlled, as are the seats, and the steering wheel adjustment but the $2000 convenience pack adds a host of useful features such as the foldable exterior mirrors, automatic headlights, rain sensing wipers, rear electric windows, front fogs lamps, leather wrapped steering wheel and gear knob, and 16-inch Passion alloy wheels.

Indeed, passion is a word that sums up the new Clio Expression beautifully.

I could rabbit on for another few paragraphs about the five-star safety, and the Formula 1 inspired engine technology, the environmentally friendly aspects of the car, the capped servicing prices, and the best-in-class warranty but to be honest, its the passion of the product and the people behind it that will make this car a winner.

And kudos to the silver haired gentleman who I spotted driving a bright Inca Yellow Clio Expression just like this one through Auckland city recently, good on you mister, I’m so glad I’m not the only bloke who likes this shade!

Price as tested: $28,990
Pros:

  • Nimble and fun to drive
  • Easy to park
  • Great looking design
  • Well priced and specified

Cons:

  • Many Kiwis don’t understand French cars sadly
  • No reversing sensors
  • Small dealer network

Words and pictures:

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