Spotlight: Renault Clio
Despite evolutionary styling, Renault’s fifth-generation Clio is an all-new car with some innovative fleet-focused technology up its sleeve, as Alex Grant explains.
Sales of the outgoing Clio increased every year since launch. It’s Europe’s second best-selling car and the segment’s most popular model with fleets – albeit more in the south of the region than the UK. So, while the incoming Clio is entirely new, Renault hasn’t radically altered the styling customers rated as a major selling point. It’s a little lower and slightly shorter end to end but, like successive generations of the Golf, it’s an evolution not a revolution.
The big changes are inside. Renault has made better use of the available space, while addressing customer criticisms of low-grade cabin materials in the old car. The dashboard is lower, angled towards the driver and features digital instruments, while abundant soft-touch materials and silver accents on the switchgear all add a feeling of upmarket quality. Seat and door card shapes have been optimised to maximise passenger space, the headrests are slimmer to improve visibility, and the centre console features two deep cupholders and an optional wireless phone charger.
Renault is debuting a new generation of infotainment with the latest Clio. All versions include a three-year high-speed 4G data connection for over-the-air software and map updates, and plans are underway to allow this to share data with fleet management software. From launch, drivers will be able to access and upload information and lock or unlock the car via a smartphone app.
This system will be offered with 7.0-inch landscape or 9.3-inch portrait screens, with an customisable, tablet-like interface designed to make it easier to access the most important functions. Drivers can use Google-powered searching to find addresses and receive live TomTom traffic data, while Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard across the range – both feature mapping apps for occasional users. Regularly-used functions, such as climate control and self-parking features, are still operated by physical controls to minimise distraction while driving.
The Clio’s new platform saves around 50kg compared to its predecessor, while the bodywork is aerodynamically-optimised for high-speed driving. Both help maximise economy for the new engine line-up, which still includes a pair of 1.5-litre diesels despite declining demand in this segment. These produce 85bhp and 115bhp and feature NOx-reducing AdBlue injection, but do not meet the full Euro 6d standard, which means they will attract the four percentage-point company car tax surcharge in the UK.
So Renault believes petrol options will be more popular. These comprise three 1.0-litre three-cylinder engines at 65bhp and 75bhp, a turbocharged 99bhp which emits 100g/km CO2 (NEDC Correlated), and a 128bhp 1.3-litre four-cylinder shared with the Kadjar. The 99bhp unit is also available with a Nissan-sourced continuously-variable transmission, albeit with six stepped ‘gears’ to feel more like a conventional automatic, while a 130bhp petrol hybrid will follow in 2020.
The outgoing Clio ushered Renault’s new brand identity in 2013, and its replacement shows that renewal process has reached maturity. This new car is as much a generational leap forward as its predecessor, methodically addressing its predecessor’s weaker points and adding new technology, but also not leaving it looking outdated visually. Early adoption of hybrid technology in a segment that’s well suited to it should also pay dividends.