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Renault Clio 1.4 2006 Road Test

Sat, 13 May 2006

There is no doubt that Renault has turned the 2006 Clio into a classy little car. You almost expect to see a Jimmy Choo shopping bag on the back seat along with a bunch of other designer labels. 

It’s very good looking. Better than the 207, in my eyes. And since that’s its main competition it at first seems to have the job sewn up.

Nice colour range, too. It looks particularly good in dark metallic blue with alloys. And the solid Capsicum red that mine came in is a really rich red (always the best colour to photograph).

Of course, it is up against the much cheaper and even better looking Grande Punto as well. But for strange, snobbish, style reasons, many Brits who would be happy with a Renault or a Peugeot won’t be seen dead in a FIAT.

Inside (the Dynamique) you get a nice steering wheel with height and reach adjustment, a driver’s seat that comes back to the position you set it after someone else clambers into the back, enough head, leg and hiproom in the back for three normal sized people and curiously angled instruments, yet after a first drive you get used to them.

Ride quality is a bit clonky over suburban surface imperfections, though far better out on the open road. The ‘variable’ power steering isn’t very inspiring.

A few minor irritations are that on the 3-door the door pull is too far forward to give decent leverage for shutting the door, rear 3/4 vision is badly obscured by the door pillar so you have to trust the big, useful mirrors, the centre rear belt comes out of the roof so you have to clip it together before using it.

Rooting around trying to zero the trip I found that ‘my’ Dynamique was fitted with optional cruise control and speed limiter. This worked quite well on a horrible trip down the M4 in the rain via Gatso alley, which was fortunate because the front ‘Sport’ seat squabs lack thigh support for someone my size and shape.

As a result of bad logistical planning, I had to make almost exactly the same journey the next day. But this time I had it sussed. M4, A303, A34, M4, A419, A417. I actually got back the 120 miles or so in one hour forty minutes without exceeding any speed limits, so that says quite a lot about the car and the cruise control. Fuel economy wasn’t so brilliant. Just 32.49mpg over 310 miles, which is way short of the 42.8mpg official combined figure. However there may have been a disparity between my brim and the brim the car came with.

I found myself liking the Clio, though. It is undoubtedly the most chic small hatchback around. The 207 is much more fun to drive, but doesn’t quite have the Clio’s classy good looks. I liked the fit and finish of the trim: no cheap cost-cuttings there, and rather better than the hard plastics of the Leon I drove last week. I was trying to compare like for like against my favourite 207, the 1.4, but the obvious choice among the Clios has to be the 64mpg, 117g/km CO2, £50 a year VED 1.5 dCi 86. A little bit expensive at £11,840, but with enough ‘big car feel’ for a high mileage driver to use as an economical business car.

And you couldn’t say that about any of the previous Clios.

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