Here is my very first car review, written some time ago about one of my former cars – apologies for the lack of photos.
The Renault Clio has been around since the early 90s and they are still selling very well today so obviously Renault are doing something right; the model I have been driving is the Dynamique TomTom which comes with a fair bit as standard and features the 1.2 16V engine that produces 75BHP.
Styling and Design
On first glance the styling is rather reserved and grown up, not really to my liking. By no means is it an ugly car you just think if it were human you couldn’t imagine it having much fun. Mind you the gunmetal grey alloys certainly look the part of the car and help give it a sportier edge. The front end styling is not hideous but it just lacks something for a car of this nature. I didn’t want to use this quote so early on in the review but it lacks ‘va va voom’……right that’s that cliché out the way. Granted it does look better side on or from the back but I must if you’re looking for a beautiful car or one that evokes your visual senses go elsewhere. I think the main bug bear for me is the little ‘mouth’ that sits underneath the Renault badge on the bonnet, which for me gives it a sort of gormless gawping look. It’s like it’s seen something surprising it that has confused it; I’m sure it’s there for a reason but as I said it does somewhat ruin the front end styling. However they say beauty is in the eye of the beholder but that said it’s not ugly, I just don’t think it’s how a clio should look like.
The inside is a nice place to be though, especially with the synthetic leather and the piano black gloss inserts on the dashboard and door trim. The Dynamique TomTom comes with the soft tough dashboard which does give a premium feel and the the whole interior does feel well made apart from the glovebox which even closed there is a panel gap in one of the corners. There’s plenty of space to; I remember the very first Clio that my stepmum had and you couldn’t swing your own fist in there let, alone a cat. Having said that the size difference is apparent if you get both cars side by side; there is no doubt that the Clio has grown up and got bigger. As nice as the interior is though again I can’t help thinking that Renault have played safe with, it feels too conservative and reserved.
Equipment and Toys
So what do you get inside? Well as standard you get air conditioning, cruise control, electric front windows, TomTom satnav, MP3/iPod connectivity, Bluetooth connectivity for your phone so it’s fair to say that it comes with a quite a bit of kit. The model I have also have an added option of parking sensors (around £500-£600) which definitely helps when parking in tight spots in town. Many have criticised the Clio for having a fiddly stereo system and I can see where they come from but when you get used to it, it does become easy to use. On the topic of the stereo I have to say it is brilliant, great sound and great bass and to connect phones and MP3 players to it is very easy indeed. Moving onto the TomTom and to be honest I could actually take or leave it. Primarily because it’s not touch screen so you have to rely on a remote control which verges on being agonisingly to use as it seems to take forever to put a location in.
I would also recommend taking out the TomTom live service which you get for 3 months free if you buy the car from new. What this service does is re route past traffic and any other incidents which is a gift from the heavens when you are driving around towns which are popular commuter routes. However I find the satnav to be a bit slow and quite often when I’m driving it won’t keep up with you and it has a tendency to tell you to take a turning when it’s too late which is very annoying when you are running late or in unfamiliar areas. On the whole if the satnav was an optional extra I wouldn’t have bothered with it….
Practicality and Everyday Use
The steering wheel can only be adjusted for rake but not reach which I find disappointing for a car of this spec and I have found it difficult to find the perfect driving position for my 6 foot 2 frame. The driving position itself though isn’t bad and I have found the car to be comfortable enough for long distance journeys. There is more than enough room to carry tall adults in the back and the boot space is very generous plus if you fold the rear seats down you get even more space, enough to get a bicycle in the back quite comfortably. This really is a car that can virtually do anything you need it to; I’ve had it over 6 months and there has been no situation where I’ve thought ‘Ah this is going to be a problem’.
Performance and Handling
Although the styling may not shout fun, it is a nice little fun car to drive; this model comes with various engines with the TCE model being the most favourable but what I have is the 1.2 16V which is enough for going around town but on the motorway the car could certainly do with more punch. As we are on the issue of power it would be worth noting that when carrying passengers or luggage the car struggles with hills, even if they’re not that steep so often enough I will need to work the gearbox to make sure I don’t end up rolling backwards into the traffic behind me.
On the motorway the car does cause quite a racket as the engine which at 70mph is doing around 4,000RPM which can be quite loud and slightly draining but as the car is so comfortable this doesn’t ruin the experience of driving it. In terms of the handling, I was pleasantly surprised with the Clio, yes it won’t win any awards for handling anytime soon and nor is it a hot hatch back but I must say I like the way how it feels in the corners. Of course you do get a bit of the old comedy body roll but the car does feel sturdy and it grips the road well.
Fuel economy is nothing to shout about; I say I get about 35-37 MPG driving around town which is fairly average so if you’re looking for something more economical best to get the TCE or a diesel engine which would make this model more expensive to buy but if you are looking for something that will go further on a tank then it’s a no brainer.
On the whole I like the Clio despite it’s grown up styling and the small engine, I do think it’s a reasonably fun car to drive that is very versatile and practical, I’m surprised they don’t sell it with a swiss army knife! The car offers a nice comfortable drive and as I said before it is a nice car to be in and to drive. However I do think this car would be far more enjoyable with an engine that delivers a bit more performance as the 1.2 probably won’t be enough for most drivers (me included).