The Clio has been a firm favourite, and a huge success for Renault and with the new fifth generation models it has moved on in all key areas. A true supermini, it first burst onto the scene in 1990 and a key element has always been a firm connection with motorsport. The Clio has had its own racing series, competed in the Spa 24 Hours and even the British Touring Car Championship and I must not forget rallying where it featured in many European events. Today it has an association with the Renault F1 Team and many will recall the Clio Williams, it was so popular that Renault had to do a production re-run.
Like the Golf, the Clio is an icon of the motoring world and to get bang up to date with the latest Clio, I spent a week with an RS Line, the sporty version of this supermini. I liked the RS Line so much that I found myself venturing through a series of adventures from the lakes of Fermanagh to two days in County Meath based at Bellinter House. The rural roads of our country allowed me to explore the satisfying roadholding and performance of this sporty French number. A huge fan following has steadily grown for the Clio and it has gained many awards including twice European Car of the Year and just recently it won its category in the 2020 UK Car of the Year Awards. The fifth generation model was launched at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show featuring the new modular CMF-B platform and for maximum choice as always, a choice of power units. An e-Tech hybrid version is soon to join the range, adding further customer choice.
The Clio of 2020 is one of the most advanced superminis currently available; it has style and is right up there in the technology department. The model I had on test features most powerful engine the four cylinder 1.3 TCe GPF engine which is also available the Captur, Megane, Scenic and Kadjar. This unit delivers 130bhp and 240 Nm of torque. Allied with the sophisticated seven speed EDC dual-clutch gearbox it delivers effortless and satisfying acceleration. The automatic transmission works perfectly in harmony with this impressive engine, however you can take control with the steering wheel mounted gearshift paddles. Take it from me this is the sort of car that you simply want to get behind the wheel, it is so satisfying. The already mentioned new platform brings improved safety, efficiency, refinement and technology integration; all of which achieved thanks to the car’s strengthened body structure, side members and front body panel, plus the use of high elastic limit steel and structural adhesive to improve the fit between steel plates. The vehicle structure been redesigned to boost refinement, there are also new materials that provide for greater insulation and soundproofing, in real terms the new Clio has the refinement found in much larger cars. Further improvements have been made thanks to the use of a windscreen that has been treated with a sound insulation film to reduce wind and engine noise and new engine compartment soundproofing and a double sealing system for the doors and noise levels in the passenger compartment have been reduced by 2dB at speeds of up to 80mph. All of this places the new Clio in a very desirable position when choosing a small car.
Looks are important to most and the RS Line does look the part riding on seventeen inch diamond cut alloys, there is RS badging, a sports rear bumper and gunmetal finish rear spoiler. Not over done, rather carefully executed. The sports theme as you would expect continues to the interior with RS Line upholstery, leather finished steering wheel, a sporty aluminium pedals set and 60/40 split rear seat, yes there is a practical side to this little number. Like most modern cars there is a comprehensive safety, security and entertainment package. Full marks to the iPad style inspired large infotainment screen. However the real joy of this Clio comes when driven, it handles superbly with rest to 100kph (62mph) coming up in nine seconds and- if you can find a slot at a race circuit- the opportunity to explore its 200kph (124mph) maximum speed. Despite its sporting nature I found it was not a regular visitor to the filling station and my only regret, a week with the RS Line was just too short.