First launched over 17 years ago at the Paris Motor Show, Clio (being the Muse of History) is now a particularly apt name for Renault’s small and economical city car. It’s lauded as the car that saved Renault after a dismal decade beforehand, and has written a chapter in Renault’s success that has seen the Clio as one of the top selling cars in Europe since 1992.
Despite winning the European Motoring Journalists’ Car of the Year in 2006 this third-generation Clio doesn’t shout about its success. In fact, it’s quite possibly the quietest car I’ve driven. The 1.6-litre engine isn’t stressed producing the 82kW and 151Nm of torque, and that equates to fairly frugal motoring but lethargic performance (0-100 takes 12.2 seconds).
It also has a more mature and understated presence than its 1.4-litre predecessor. A low window line gives a sense of spaciousness inside. The slightly protruding rump is in keeping with the rest of the Renault range.
I had to revert to the instruction manual to find out how to turn on the cruise control and speed limiter. Once it’s activated, Renault’s system of letting you see the actual speed you’ve set as opposed to guessing by the position of the needle is a useful and practical solution to keeping at or under the speed you want.
Audio controls for volume are on a stubby wand on the steering column, augmented by a wheel control for frequency and buttons to choose the source. The FM stereo/CD player takes one disc and has a reasonable sound quality through its 6 x 15W speakers. The display is positioned at the top of the console on the dashboard and it also shows the outside temperature and time.
Positioned prominently in the console are the very simple controls for the air conditioning. Sometimes I yearn for a back-to-basics approach in this area, often finding that with today’s more complex climate control systems it takes too much effort just to get it to blow cold or hot. No such problem in the Renault with a clearly marked temperature dial consisting of blue lines and red lines. Retro!
For a small car, it has impressive safety features. A five-star Euro NCAP safety rating comes courtesy of a barrage of airbags and injury-minimising technology. Six airbags (including lateral and side curtain airbags the length of the cabin), and seatbelt pretensioners do their job should the ABS, electronic brake force distribution (EBD) and emergency brake assist (EBA) not keep you out of trouble. Fuel is automatically cut in the event of an impact.
The Renault is slightly more expensive than other cars of this size because of the multitude of little things you get, like an air-chilled glove box, air recycling and particle filter, leather steering wheel and gear lever boot, fully telescopic steering wheel adjustment, trip computer and tinted glass.
Seventeen years of history has bred a car that is safe and handles well. Here’s hoping that there’s a hot hatch version on the way like the Clio 182.
Price: from $28,990
What we like
- The little things
What we don’t like
- Renault recommends premium fuel
Words and photos by Darren Cottingham