Review: Renault Clio (2019)
Much improved interior and desirable looks. Wide range of engines. Larger boot than most rivals.
Best equipment will cost you more. Firm ride on larger wheels.
Renault Clio (2019): At A Glance
The Renault Clio has always been a fashionable alternative to small hatchbacks like the Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa and SEAT Ibiza. The fifth-generation remains true to form, with a much-improved interior, new engines and - from 2020 - a hybrid model.
Renault could have made its new Clio look considerably different from its predecessor, but people like how the outgoing model looks. It's the best-selling car of its size in Europe, so why risk upsetting a loyal fanbase by messing with its design too much? It's an entirely new car, though, based on a new platform with no panels carried over from the old model and slightly more compact dimensions.
While you could be forgiven for struggling to spot the differences on the outside, the interior has taken a noticeable shift upmarket.
There are lots of soft-touch materials, particularly on more expensive models, and the amount of technology on offer has taken a large step forward. There's a new 9.3-inch touchscreen media system available, as well as a 10-inch digital instrument cluster.
Although the Clio's exterior dimensions are smaller than before, Renault's engineers have been working hard to make it a more practical choice. It certainly feels roomy enough, with plenty of space for taller drivers while the boot is now a generous 391 litres. The boot access is wider, too, although there is a hefty lip for lifting heavy items over.
Engine choices include a naturally-aspirated 1.0-litre petrol with 75PS, a turbocharged version of the same engine with 100PS, or a 1.3-litre turbo with 130PS. There's also a 1.5-litre dCi diesel producing 85PS.
Unlike the Peugeot 208, there isn't an all-electric option, although a 1.6-litre hybrid will arrive in 2020. This promises fuel economy improvements of around 40 per cent, while Renault claims it can operate under electric power at low speeds around 80 per cent of the time.
The majority of buyers will opt for the mid-level TCe 100 petrol, which offers plentiful performance and can be paired with a five-speed manual or seven-speed automatic transmission.
There's also a sporty R.S. Line model - a replacement for the former GT-Line. This takes a similar approach to the Ford Fiesta ST-Line, combining Renault Sport looks with affordable running costs.
The most popular engine will be the 1.0-litre 100PS TCe engine, which offers adequate performance (if little more). This comes as standard with a five-speed manual gearbox and requires working hard out of town. No matter which engine you choose, the Clio isn't as fun to drive as a Fiesta, and the ride is quite firm.
While we don't think the new Clio is as impressive as class leaders like the Volkswagen Polo and Ford Fiesta, it's more deserving than ever of its status as a fashionable small car. Its interior is hugely improved and it's fairly practical, while it scores well on the value for money front. We just wish it was a little more refined and its suspension was more forgiving.
What does a Renault Clio (2019) cost?
Renault Clio (2019): What's It Like Inside?
The interior of the latest Clio offers a huge improvement over the old model, with high-spec models benefitting from lots of soft-touch materials and technology to rival more expensive alternatives.
Most buyers will opt for the mid-spec Iconic model which is fairly well-equipped, although we'd be tempted to splash out an extra £400 for the 9.3-inch portrait infotainment screen. This looks the part and is fairly simple to use, with navigation and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto as standard.
We like the bank of buttons situated beneath the touchscreen display as well as the rotary dials for the climate control system. They strike the right balance of looking minimalist while providing easy access to important features on the move - no need to traipse through infotainment menus to adjust the temperature, for example.
The seats are comfortable and there's plenty of room for tall drivers and front-seat passengers, although there's no electric seat adjustment.
The Clio's extra width over its predecessor means it feels like a bigger car than it is. Space in the back is a little on the tight side for fully-grown adults, but you'd be better looking at a bigger car if you regularly carry rear-seat passengers.
That said, the boot is a generous 391 litres. That's more than rivals like the Ford Fiesta and Peugeot 208, and even beats the Volkswagen Golf. There's a bit of a lip for hoisting bulky items over, but the rear seats can be easily dropped on all trim levels should you require more space.
Standard equipment (from launch):
Play models feature full LED headlamps, air conditioning, cruise control and speed limiter, DAB radio, Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) with lane departure warning, lane keep assist, autonomous emergency braking and traffic sign recognition, electric front windows, 16-inch wheels, body-coloured door handles and mirrors, driver’s seat height adjustment, 4.2-inch multimedia screen features Bluetooth, DAB and a USB connection.
Iconic adds a 7-inch multimedia screen with navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, navigation, hands-free key card access, leather steering wheel, rear parking sensors, 16-inch diamond cut alloys, LED front fog lamps, dark tinted rear windows.
S Edition features a 7-inch TFT instrument cluster and 9.3-inch Easy Link screen, electric rear windows, climate control, automatic wipers and headlights (including main beam), 17-inch alloy wheels, shark fin antenna, light grey interior treatment.
R.S. Line adds styling cues from Renault Sport models, 17-inch alloy wheels, Multi Sense driver modes, rear-view camera and front parking sensors.
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What's the Renault Clio (2019) like to drive?
Renault's expecting the big seller to be the 1.0-litre 100PS TCe engine, and the turbocharged petrol probably makes the most sense for the majority of buyers. It's fine - with enough power for day-to-day driving, although it lacks the sparkle of some alternatives such as the 100PS Ford Fiesta EcoBoost.
It struggles a bit with low-down performance, especially if you want to overtake, and a sixth gear would be useful for motorway driving. While refinement levels of acceptable on the move, we did notice a considerable amount of vibration through the pedals and gear stick when at a standstill. It should be pretty cheap to run, though, with an official WLTP fuel consumption figure of 54.3mpg.
If you're after a bit more performance, there's the 1.3 TCe 130. This is only available in R.S. Line trim - a competitor for the Fiesta ST-Line and intended as a warm hatch, combining affordable running costs with reasonable performance.
The extra umph compared to the TCe 100 is useful, but it's not the most enjoyable car to drive. We found it to be uncomfortably firm on its 17-inch alloy wheels. There's also quite a bit of road noise that makes its way into the cabin.
You could forgive it if it handled as well as a Ford Fiesta, but it doesn't. It can be hurried down a twisty road quick enough, but its steering is vague and it's definitely not as fun as a Suzuki Swift Sport.
The 1.3 engine is only available with a seven-speed automatic gearbox, too. We quite like this as it changes gears quickly and provides little cause to complain, but anyone wanting a warm hatch might prefer a manual transmission.
Renault's resisting the urge to delete a diesel from its range, with a 1.5-litre Blue dCi 85 available, while a petrol-electric hybrid is due in 2020. Unlike the Peugeot 208, there are no plans to offer the Clio as a battery-electric vehicle.
Whichever engine you choose, the Clio's easy enough to drive around town, with good visibility and parking sensors as standard on all but entry-level models. The light steering helps in urban areas, too.
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