Wait worth it? New Renault Clio suits-up for battle

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As with its predecessor, the Clio remains a stunner, especially in Flame Red Metallic

Describing the arrival of the fifth generation Renault Clio as “long overdue” would rate as an understatement.

Showcased back in 2019, the evolution of the smash-hit fourth generation Clio has faced a series of delays since its introduction, with its South African arrival postponed from to 2020, to this year as a result of issues ranging from price to the ongoing global semi-conductor saga.

The latter’s impact on local market supply stretches further as only 125 units a month are expected to be imported until the around July when matters are forecasted to ease.

It is predicament La Riege is well aware off as the eventual decision to launch the Clio last week in Cape Town still radiated under a cloud of “should we or should we not”.

Rear facia sports the same evolutionary look as the front.

Ultimately, a further delay was deemed “not viable” and with its predecessor, while still popular, falling behind segment staples such as the new Peugeot 208 and Hyundai i20, the Suzuki Baleno and Toyota Starlet twins, Kia Rio and the recently launched updated Volkswagen Polo, the demand and expectations placed on the new Clio couldn’t have been higher.

In fact, the pressure goes further. Of the 76 700 Clios sold in South Africa since the arrival of the second generation in 2000, the fourth generation, generally regarded as the model that helped re-launch Renault in 2013, accounted for 34 800 of those of sales.

With total global sales of 15-million units since replacing the 5 thirty-two years ago, the Clio needs to be good and from the get-go, it is off to a good start.

Still incorporating elements from the DeZir concept, the fifth generation Clio represents a clear evolution from the fourth instead of being the radical overhaul the fourth was from the third.

Penned by Pierre Sabas under the auspices of Renault’s Head of Design, Laurens van den Acker, the Clio retains the same silhouette, but with a more prominent shoulder line, new LED headlights that cut into the bumper, a DeZir inspired thin grille embossed with the Renault diamond logo, and C-shaped fog lamps.

At the rear, the metamorphosis is less extreme, but still noticeable in the design of the taillight clusters, a wraparound bootlid spoiler and a slightly bigger rear window with the bootlid release moving from the base of the of the lid to above the numberplate.

Aside from keeping the concealed rear door handles, the Clio continues to ride on the CMF-B platform also used by Captur and Nissan Micra, which has been revised in the use of so-called elastic limit steel in order to reduce weight by 50 kg.

Despite being a touch shorter than its predecessor, Renault has increased boot space by 26-litres to 391-litres with the rear seats up. With the standard 60/40 split rear seat folded down though, capacity increases to a claimed 1 069-litres.

In a move similar to its predecessor, the Clio’s biggest revolution resides inside.

Completely new and feeling not only premium with soft-touch plastics, but also well-put together, the thoroughly modern and, in typical Renault-fashion, teach heavy cabin is highlighted by a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment, or a tablet-like 9.3-inch display on the top-spec Intens fitted with the R20 000 optional  package.

Without the mentioned option, the Intens comes as standard with a configurable seven-inch digital instrument cluster, ambient lighting, wireless smartphone charger and Renault’s Multi-Sense drive mode selector with three settings: Eco, MySense and Sport.

In a move started by the Kiger, the Clio conforms to Renault’s new trim level denominators with the Life being the entry-level model, the Zen the mid-range derivative and the mentioned Intens the flagship.

Interior has been stepped-up but the new 9.3-inch infotainment system is reserved for the Intens fitted with the option package

All are motivated by the same powerunit and during the launch route, which started in Cape Town and meandered over Franschhoek Pass, ending on the outskirts of Hermanus and then returning to the Mother City via the Sir Lowry’s Pass, the Clio’s biggest issue became apparent.

Powered by the same 1.0-litre turbocharged engine as the Micra, or TCe for Turbo Control Efficiency in Renault-speak, the three-cylinder has been retuned to produce 74 kW, hence the 100 nomenclature that detonates 100 PS, and 160 Nm.

While up eight kilowatts and 20 Nm on the previous Clio’s 898 cc unit, it is 14kW/20Nm down on the Micra and solely hooked to rather notchy five-speed manual gearbox.

For now the sole drivetrain option available, the setup endows the Clio with a somewhat muted driving experience as the power delivery is merely adequate and the ‘box in badly need of a sixth ratio at the national limit.

New seven-inch TFT instrument cluster is reserved for the Intens

A confirmed facelift in 2023 is expected to bring a more powerful engine, possibly the 96kW/240Nm Daimler co-developed 1.3-litre turbo offered in Europe, as well as an automatic gearbox in the guise of a seven-speed EDC.

However, until this arrives, buyers are limited to the mentioned combination with Renault attributing the decision to manual transmissions still accounting for the biggest uptake in the segment.

Being the only engine in the global Clio range to have a three-pedal ‘box connected to it, with the exception of the diesel units that won’t be offered locally, it was therefore the logical decision to go with it.

The lethargic powerunit, which becomes a bit more responsive in Sport – incidentally the only mode that displays the rev-counter on the Intens model – and mismatched gearbox are unfortunate detractions blighting the effort Renault has put into the Clio’s chassis.

Diamond-cut 17-inch alloy wheels a feature of the top-spec Intens fitted with the R20 000 option package.

In addition, the option pack, which adds front and rear parking sensors plus a reverse camera, swaps the standard 16-inch alloys for sporty diamond-cut 17-inch wheels. It however results in a harsh and crashy ride despite the suspension doing its best to smoothen the ride as much as possible.

The upshots of the drive is the level of refinement thanks to the additional soundproofing, the reasonable sharp electric power steering, ease of the upgraded infotainment system and in characteristic Clio fashion, the overall look bolstered by the Flame Red Metallic paint finish, one of six colours available.

Conclusion

As much as the wait for the new Renault Clio has been long, the final execution is a bit hit-and-miss. While indeed a huge step-up inside, it is let-down by a disappointing powertrain and a ride that won’t please buyers opting for the options pack.

However, while admittedly likely to hinder only a small portion of buyers, it makes up for this by being an otherwise accomplished package crammed full of features and with style its rivals simply cannot match on price.

Price

A five-year/150 000 km warranty as well as a two-year/30 000 km service plan is standard across the Clio range.

  • Clio TCe 100 Life – R309 900
  • Clio TCe 100 Zen – R324 900
  • Clio TCe 100 Intens – R349 900