Plucky engines and enjoyable driving manners
Comfortable driving position; some of the materials look a bit cheap
Excellent safety provision and a Euro NCAP result to show for it
Feels robust so no obvious worries
Plenty of space for four adults and a decent boot
Plenty of features as standard including Isofix points on the front passenger seat
The Clio feels like a much more grown-up car that you might expect. It's generally very smooth, it's stable on the motorway, and it handles twisty roads very nicely, even if it's not quite as agile as a Ford Fiesta. It feels a little bit jiggly compared to the Ford Fiesta or a Volkswagen Polo but it makes lighter work of bigger bumps and potholes than a Peugeot 208. So far, we've only tried the non-Eco versions of the 0.9-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, and the 1.5-litre diesel. The petrol is spritely on the flat, but starts to struggle on inclines, where you'll need to change down a gear or two to keep it up to speed. The diesel's extra oomph suits the mature feel of the Clio much better. Both engines are fairly quiet once you get going, but all Clios let in a bit of wind noise at speed. You can also choose a 1.2 petrol with 75bhp, a sporty turbocharged 1.2 with 118bhp and 140lb ft torque (which comes only as an automatic with gearshift paddles on the steering column) and a 1.6 petrol Renaultsport hot hatch version.
The cabin design is modern and classy, even if some of the materials look a bit cheap and prone to scratch marks. It's easy to get comfortable, although over-the-shoulder visibility is restricted by its chunky rear pillars. Higher-spec cars get a central touch-screen infotaintment system reminiscent of the latest tablets on the market, and this is usefully big and simple to navigate on the move.
There is plenty of space for four adults, but you'll struggle to fit a fifth on the back seats. The boot is a decent size, too, and the rear seats split 60/40 and fold down to expand the load bay, but this leaves an awkward step in the available space. It's worth noting that the rear of the front seats are wipe-clean, so muddy footprints here aren't much trouble to remove.
All models include electric front windows and door mirrors, Bluetooth and keyless entry, but you'll need to opt for Dynamique MediaNav or higher trims for the touch-screen, which includes sat nav. You can also personalise your Clio by choosing the colour of various parts of the exterior and cabin. The sporty GT-line and Renaultsport models get stiffer suspension and suitably sporty styling.
Overall, the cabin feels built to last, though the quality is more in line with a Ford Fiesta than the premium-feel of a Volkswagen Polo. This incarnation of the Clio was too new to appear in the 2012 JD Power customer satisfaction survey but the previous version received only average marks for mechanical reliability. You can be more certain of the Clio's safety credentials: all models have six airbags (including curtain 'bags that cover the rear windows), anti-whiplash headrests and, as with most Renault models, Isofix points on the front passenger seat as well as the outer rear seats. The Clio achieved the maximum five stars in crash tests by Euro NCAP, with 88% for adult safety and 89% for children the latter being a higher score in this area than either the Ford Fiesta or VW Polo.
The Clio is a very talented and relatively spacious supermini, and it makes financial sense, too, as most models are affordable to buy and run, with low insurance rates and excellent economy (the 1.5 dCi is outstanding, with a claimed average 88.3mpg and 83g/km CO2), which means road tax is low, too. Traditionally, though, Clio's don't hold onto their value that well so don't bank on getting too much for your car when you come to sell it on.