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Motoring: Renault Clio 1.2 Extreme

Renault Clio 1.2 Extreme

Starting Price: £11,040
Tax Bracket: C – J
Insurance group: 3 – 7

Design

The biggest difference on the new Clio is the face lift. There is a more streamlined grill with swept back headlights. The new fog lights almost give a hamster-like-appearance as it seems to have filled out cheeks. Finally it has a new rear bumper and new tail lights to complete the 2010 package.

There are six levels of trim; Extreme, Expression, Dynamique, GT, Privilege and Initiale. All in all the facelift has  pushed the Clio towards refinement and subtlety rather than the unique styling featured on its main rival, the Ford Fiesta. As a result the Fiesta is certainly a more eye catching package.

Renault Clio 1.2 Extreme Interior

Interior

As soon as you get in the Clio feels like a very big, small car. The driving position is very high, much more so than some of the Clio’s competitors, such as the mini. As a result there is instant comfort rather than the sportier style of the pre-2005 Clio.

The Cabin feels very spacious, however, if there is a driver over 6ft then space in the back may leave something to be desired in the three door version. The boot is of a reasonable size for a hatch of its size at 288 litres with potential for 1,038 litres with the rear seats folded.

The equipment in the basic 1.2 extreme was good. Air conditioning was standard, along with a decent stereo which lowers and raises volume depending on your speed. Therefore if you are on a motorway with plenty of tyre roar the stereo compensates. Finally the quality of all the plastics is top class and solidly put together with the exception perhaps of the stereo controls.

Engine Performance

The 1.2 petrol engine leaves a lot to be desired. It has to be really worked to get it to give you rewarding performance on anything more than tight city roads. There is a short ratio in first gear and with a rev limit of only 5,800rpm it leads you running out of grunt as soon as you get it.

This said, the power delivery is very smooth and composed with no drama to be found. The performance suffers significantly on motorways. In fifth gear there is very little pull making overtaking a very forward thinking procedure – no putting your foot down for a quick getaway here.

Drive

This has always been the Clio’s strong point, and it is good to say that it is business as usual. It has balance between comfort and nimble handling. The best thing by far is the level of grip. Although the test car lacked the power to push to any kind of limit, the grip it had in faster corners was excellent.

There was only a hint of understeer at the upper limits – just to warn you. The brakes were very good with a decent amount of feel and fairly stiff suspension means there is no huge dive under braking.

The disappointment came in the steering. The Clio has electrically assisted power steering. As a result the steering is very light at a standstill and low speeds and is then supposed to get a bit heavier as you build up speed. This makes for a very good town car, but a driver’s car? I don’t think so. It just separates the driver from the road a little too much.

Summary

The latest Renault Clio is without a doubt a very good little city car. Light steering and light clutch lend themselves perfectly to tight, stop start roads. Whilst the 1.2 engine version was sporting it really does struggle to do much more.

Pushing 4000rpm on a motorway drive and with revs only up to 5,800 it lacks decent power. The ride is comfortable and quite nimble and good brakes give you confidence to push the car a little bit. The steering does however lack the feel of one of its main rivals, the Ford Fiesta. Although the tax band for the Fiesta is a bit lower, the Clio enjoys better fuel economy, and lower starting costs.

Whilst not recommending the Renault Clio over the Ford Fiesta, it is certainly a good viable alternative. If you decide on a Clio, however, opt for at least the 1.2 turbo. This will give you a good balance between city car and motorway cruiser.

About James A Walker

James A. Walker is a student at Bournemouth University studying Multimedia Journalism. He lives near London in the tiny town of Farnborough, known exclusively for the Airshow it hosts once every two years!

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