The facelifted Renault Clio was recently introduced in South Africa, replete with modest exterior and interior updates. But the big news is that a 5-speed manual 1.2-litre turbopetrol Clio, which will fill the gap between the regular and RS/RS Trophy derivatives, is coming soon. We drive it...
The Clio has been a popular seller for Renault in South Africa and with the arrival of the facelifted Clio, the Boulogne-Billancourt-based firm is looking to maintain its sales momentum. The changes to the Clio are subtle and best experienced further up the range. Why has Renault taken such a minimalist approach with this update in such a competitive segment? Perhaps to keep asking prices in check. Nonetheless, the facelifted Clio is still impressively stylish and the updates have lifted the overall product, which will resonate well in our market.
Our UK-based correspondent Dave Humphreys has driven the 1.2-litre turbopetrol manual derivative, which is not currently part of Renault's local line-up, but will be introduced early in 2017. Given that the now-discontinued GT Line specification of the 0.9-litre model looked the part but perhaps did not quite deliver the peppy performance to match its racy appearance, consumers are likely to appreciate the option of a manual transmission on the 88 kW. Likely to be offered with sporty accoutrements over an above Expression specification, the manual derivative is ostensibly the curtain raiser for the arrival of the facelifted Clio RS (Renault Sport) Lux hot hatch and, for the first time, the track-oriented 162 kW RS Trophy model. As for the rest of the Clio range, the 0.9-litre petrol engine will remain, as well as the current 1.2-litre turbopetrol automatic, which was added to the range last year.
Yes, you will have to look quite closely to spot the changes, most of which focus on the front and rear bumpers. A sportier, more aggressively styled front bumper is the most noticeable feature... new C-shaped LED daytime running lights and chrome trim along the bottom of the grille bring the compact hatchback's look more in line with the new Megane and Talisman (not sold in right-hand drive markets). The top-spec Dynamique derivative sports LED "Pure Vision" headlights, which are complemented by taillights that echo the C-shape LED design.
The facelifted Renault Clio features minor styling updates, most notably it employs higher quality interior materials.
The major improvements to the Clio's interior comprise trim upgrades. The redesigned, leather-clad steering wheel (Dynamique and Expression only) no longer features the glossy black inserts, giving it a more practical look/feel in keeping with the rest of cabin, in which the chrome components are subtler and the cabin's interior colours appear more sophisticated.
Now in a single housing, the armrests – with new controls – feature a new grained finish, the central air vents sport a new look, while the interior lighting looks more upmarket.
The gear lever and door panels have been redesigned to look more durable, while the updated seat fabrics are of a higher quality (Dynamique and Expression derivatives feature more enveloping front seats that offer increased lateral support). The hard plastic surfaces on the dashboard and doors remain, however; the Clio is bang on class average on that score.
How does it drive?
This new 1.2-litre turobpetrol engine is now the most powerful that you can get in a Clio before upgrading to the fiery Clio Renault Sport Lux derivative. As the name would suggest, this turbocharged 4-cylinder engine produces peak outputs of 88 kW (at 5 500 rpm) and 205 Nm of torque (at 2 000 rpm). The power delivery is quite smooth, although the engine doesn't encourage you to chase the redline before every gear change. The positively shifting 6-speed manual transmission does a decent job of sending power to the front wheels.
You can expect decent performance from the 1.2-litre turbopetrol manual Dynamique derivative when it arrives early in 2017.
According to Renault's official figures, the 1.2-litre turbopetrol Clio returns a fuel consumption figure of 4.4 L/100 km on the combined cycle, which, for a petrol engine, isn't all that bad.
On town and country roads, the Clio handles big bumps quite well and keeps you on course, but the damping results in what can only be described as a busy ride at average speeds. Through corners, there is a bit too much body roll, thus discouraging you from trying to push on too hard. A shame, as there is the impression that the Clio could be a fun little car to drive.
Renault employs an electrically assisted power steering system in the Clio that's been sharpened up to enhance maneuverability but gives the driver greater levels of feedback at higher speeds. The results are good with steering that feels positive. On a less positive note, wind noise is evident as you approach the legal highway speed limit...
Renault Clio – Price in South Africa
66 kW (0.9-litre) Turbo Authentique R206 900
66 kW (0.9-litre) Turbo Expression R226 900
66 kW (0.9-litre) Turbo Dynamique R244 900
88 kW (1.2-litre) Turbo EDC (auto) Expression R264 900
The Renault Clio is sold with a 5-year/150 000 km mechanical warranty, 3-year/45 000 km service plan and a 6-year anti-corrosion warranty. Services are set at 15 000 km.
With some modest styling revisions, the Renault Clio retains its highly fashionable look. However, inside it does lack some the finish that some of its European and Korean rivals (such as the upcoming Kia Rio) now possess. The 1.2-litre turbopetrol manual derivative is not a warm hatchback per se, but does offer part-time driving enthusiasts a bit more brio should they need to access more performance than what the 0.9-litre version, which is in its element as an urban runabout, can offer. As ever, the Clio remains a good small hatchback.