The Renault Clio made its debut at the Paris Motor Show in June 1990 and sales in France and the rest of mainland Europe began then; sales for the right-hand drive market began a year later. The Clio was the replacement to the successful Renault 5; however this car remained in production until 1996 at a factory in Slovenia, where some versions of the Clio were later built.
The original Clio’s suspension and floorpan were largely the same as the R5, which was derived from the R9 saloon of 1981 and R11 hatchback of 1983. There has been a strong motorsport connection with the French supermini and in 1993, Renault launched the Clio Williams as a limited edition of 3,800 cars, 1,300 more than they needed for homologation purposes, with each car bearing a numbered plaque on the dash. These sold out so quickly that Renault ended up building a further 1,600!
As a result of the first series, due to the demand, Renault subsequently built the Williams 2 and 3, with more than 12,000 eventually being built and many of these new road cars were directly converted to race cars. The Williams series fo Clios were named after the then Renault-powered Formula One Team, though Williams had nothing to do with the design or engineering of this Clio.
The Clio, over a 30 year history, continues to be one of the most popular small cars throughout Ireland and with the arrival of the fifth generation model, the best selling French car ever is set for further success. Value is important with prices starting at £14,295 (N. I.) and euro prices from €16,990 in the Republic. Following the company’s simple EasyLife model strategy, it will be offered in a variety of trim levels, Play, Iconic, S Edition and the sporty R.S. Line (N. I.) and in the Republic the R.S. Line and Iconic are joined by Expression and Dynamique.
I had the opportunity to sample an Iconic and an R.S. over a variety of roads in the Cotswolds and I was taken by the level of refinement for such a small car. Clearly there is a growing trend towards petrol engines at the expense of diesels, however to satisfy our demand for diesel, Renault offers the 1.5 litre 85bhp with a six speed manual transmission. Much is expected of the TCe 100 petrol unit fitted with as standard a five speed manual transmission which I found silky smooth in operation.
The more powerful TCe 130 petrol which is found in other Renault models, moves you further up the performance league and is available exclusively with the seven speed EDC dual clutch transmission which I found delivered effortless changes. This unit powers the R.S. Line and for those who favour a touch of sportiness in their motoring, this is the one.
An entry level three cylinder naturally aspirated engine with 75bhp will be offered with a standard five speed manual transmission. Living with the new Clio, despite smaller exterior dimensions, good design has resulted in more cabin space than in previous incarnations, thanks to a slimmer seat design and with practical matters, boot space is best in class with 391 litres. One nice touch via sat nav, fuel prices pop up on the display and only show, for example, the cost of unleaded fuel if you are driving a Clio with a petrol engine and likewise if you are in control of a diesel model.
It’s no surprise really to learn that when it comes to safety the new Clio has been awarded five stars, the twenty second Renault model to do so and it comes with a comprehensive package to keep driver and passengers safe. A long list, highlights include, six airbags, emergency brake assist, camera and radar, cruise control, speed limiter,100 percent LED headlights etc.
Thankfully the distinctive lines of the Clio remain but much softer and for me the major improvement is with the interior, quality materials have been employed, a soft coating on the dashboard, door panels and central console surround.Onboard I felt I had a more spacious cabin and the new so called Smart Cockpit is very much in focus with the driver. The Clio gets the widest screens in its segment and so provides modern ergonomics for a more immersive driving experience.The 9.3 inch multimedia screen is the biggest to date on any Renault model and turned towards the driver, this impressive screen with the new Easy Link connected system comprises all the multimedia, sat nav and infotainment features as well as Multi-Sense settings and key to all of this technology, it is user friendly. Gone is the analogue display, replaced by the now very much in fashion digital screen display. Yes, we demand more and more in terms of technology from our cars and no longer is the small car left out. We like our cars to be special, individual, so again no great surprise as Renault offers a comprehensive range of customisation packs and there is the choice of interior design themes and ambient lighting again in a choice of colours.
The new Clio story will further expand with the impending arrival of a new generation hybrid power train. Using a 1.6 litre petrol engine mated to a multi mode transmission with a pair of electric motors powered by a 1.2 kWh lithium battery and a Renault claim that you will be able to drive round town at low speed in an all electric mode for 80 percent of the time. There are a number of differences between the Republic and N. I. markets; the cars I drove were in UK spec; however the all important fact is that once again Renault has produced a very good car for one of the toughest market segments and 2020 will be quite a battlefield as the new Clio comes up against the new Corsa and Peugeot 208 and you can never rule out the Fiesta.