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Renault’s French physique


LET ME just start off by saying that I didn’t want to enjoy the new Clio 4.

I am more a believer in the evolution of a vehicle (Volkswagen’s Golf and Porsche’s 911) than the Viva la revolución which seems to occur with every generation of Renault’s most popular hatch.

Being an owner of a Clio 3, I couldn’t help but approach the new car critically. As I drove the new Clio around, I couldn’t believe that it was related to my beloved rattle-laden Frenchie. The whole car just feels so different, beautifully put together, bigger and vastly improved everywhere. Needless to say, the new model certainly charmed its way into my heart.

Driving it around, I noticed that it gets the same amount of attention as a hot hatch. At traffic lights, on the highway or even in shopping-mall parking lots, people stop, stare and a few even compliment it. It is something completely different from its competitors and for that it has to be commended. It is after all a bigger, lower and more aggressive-looking package and therefore demands a fair bit more attention.

The design is one of the most important features of the vehicle. It looks fantastic, completely removed from its predecessor, but in a good way. It strikes a coupé-like silhouette with a steeply raked windscreen, as well as integrated door handles at the rear. These, I suspect, were utilised to keep fans of the three-door happy, as the car is only available as a five-door. The LED daytime running lights complement the truly massive Renault badge at the front, while the rear is another unique and quite beautiful rump that Renault is famous for.

The ‘Turbo’ badge at the back of the car certainly gives it some street cred. It doesn’t matter that it reads ‘Control Efficiency’ under the badge. Yes, this is what the Clio’s - and in fact most turbochargers - will be used for from now on: not for the sake of performance, but rather to aid fuel saving and reducing emissions. This is the future.

Speaking of the engine, it is difficult to fathom that our test unit was a 900cc three-cylinder turbo. It feels far more spritely. Renault claims that the engine performs like a 1.4-litre unit, but I believe that, here at altitude, it feels stronger than most 1.4s on the open road. It must be said that there is some turbo lag under 3 000rpm when driving around town.

The engine can also sound a bit laboured at times and needs to be driven with gusto to perform. Renault claims a fuel consumption of 4.5 litres/100km, but I could only manage a shade under 6.0 litres/100km, although I’m sure when in Eco mode, the claimed figure will be entirely achievable. The claimed Co2 rating of 105g/km means you won’t have to fork out for emissions taxes.

The interior is really a fantastic place to be. Everything looks well thought out and thoroughly modern. Our test unit was the mid-range Turbo Expression and came equipped with a host of standard features, such as steering-wheel functionality, a full infotainment system with sat nav and Bluetooth, a digital speedometer and classy piano-black trim throughout. The only problem is the Bass Reflex sound system. It sounds fantastic in theory, but fails to deliver a good audio experience in the cabin.

Dynamically, the new Clio is a joy to throw through the bends. The lightweight motor up front means that there is nothing pushing you wide when cornering with verve. Its handling is beautifully neutral and the steering, which feels very light around town, suddenly provides decent feel when pushing on a bit.

We believe that the Mercedes-Benz A-Class and Golf 7 are competitors for next year’s Car of the Year crown; I think the Clio should be thrown in to the mix. At the moment it is certainly leading its segment.

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