Last month, I took Diesel Car’s Clio to a classic Lotus Festival meeting at the Brands Hatch racing circuit in Kent and it didn’t feel out of place. Renault has been associated with Lotus for almost half a century, starting with the mid-engined Europa sports car, and still supplies engines for the current Formula One team. It’s interesting to note how power units have evolved in fifty years. The Europa’s petrol powerplant that like our Clio is also 1.5-litres, develops 78bhp and 76lb ft of torque, while the 2014 Clio musters 89bhp and 162lb ft. How would the Europa perform with this engine, I wonder? Our mid-range Clio is not a performance car by any standards, yet I reckon that, thanks to its gutsy mid-range punch and excellent handling, in real world driving it would embarrass a lot of old sports cars, including the classic Elan and Europa.
But Clio diesel motoring is chiefly about pragmatism and practicality and it does both with capital ‘P’s. As we remarked last month, the current body is quite big for a supermini and it shows in the interior space provided. Luggage capacity is hardly lacking either and so far, over 3,000 miles, it has carried anything from jump bikes to parts for an old Mitsubishi Shogun I’m currently playing with. And it’s just as accommodating doing the Saturday shopping of course. The rear hatch opens high, intrusion from the light clusters and wheel arches is minimal and I really appreciate having two hatch pull down handles; why do so many rivals only supply one and think everybody is right-handed (I’m not).
At the other end, another great idea is locating the dipstick in the oil filler cap, so there’s no fumbling around finding it. And the filler neck design is also excellent, meaning lubricant can’t glug everywhere other than in the engine. Mind you, with the engine so new, I’ve not had to top up the oil just yet.
The Clio is such an easy car to like and so far, apart from a trip computer resolutely signifying that I can only wring out 29.9 miles from a gallon of Derv when the car easily achieves almost double this, nothing has broken or failed to work, although I must take issue with Renault’s key card system, even though it has been around for more than a decade. I’ll be honest from the outset and say I have never liked ‘keyless’ set ups (do they really help reduce car theft as suggested?) as I see nothing wrong with a good old traditional key. On the Clio, I find the card reluctant to operate (especially first thing in the morning) and start the car, unless it’s placed in the centre console slot provided, whereas on my son’s 62-plate diesel Focus, it works instantly with the fob still in my pocket. And yet on the other hand, the transmitter seems too sensitive when I’m outside of the car and all too eager to lock up – even when I am by the filler flap filling it with fuel. Can it be adjusted I wonder? Hardly major problems you’ll agree. And the fact that I’ve gone into length nit-picking them is testament to how little there is wrong elsewhere with the Clio.
I like the logical location of the dipstick in the oil filler cap, making it a cinch to find, plus filling is mess free.
I’m not overly enamoured by the keycard system, which is over eager to lock the car, even when filling up with fuel.
|Date arrived:||29th July 2014|
|Mileage to date:||3,162 miles|
|Fuel consumption:||83.1mpg (official combined)
57.9mpg (on test)