Earlier this year, Renault announced a raft of improvements to its Clio small car range. Ian Robertson grabs the keys to the sportiest little number, the Clio GT
Diesel hot hatches are all the rage now, as buyers have finally realised that they don’t actually have to forsake good looks or strong performance if they want the Holy Grail that is low emissions and great fuel economy. Renault was the latest manufacturer to a launch a driver focussed, good looking hot hatch when it revised its Clio range earlier this year. The result – the Clio GT, designed to sit half way between the cooking models and the, full-fat Renaultsport Clio 200 performance flagship.
As well as adopting all of the improvements that grace the 2009 Clio range, the new GT models are treated to sporty graphite 16-inch alloy wheels, a body kit with side skirts, rear tailgate spoiler, privacy glass and twin chrome exhaust pipes. Continuing the racing theme inside, there are sports seats emblazoned with the GT emblem, drilled aluminium pedals, a bright white rev counter, and a sports leather steering wheel. Sporty and comfortable don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand, but the Clio manages to combine the two. The sports seats are supportive, and the driving position comfortable, while there’s plenty of adjustment for both the seats and the steering wheel. The dashboard is attractively designed, with lots of squidgy, soft-touch plastics, which lends a quality, durable feel. The silver embellishments to the dashboard and centre console also lift the cabin from what could be a sea of grey. The wide opening doors allow easy access to the rear, with space for two adults in comfort. Both headroom and legroom compare well with the Clio’s peers, and boot space is generous, too. One niggle concerns the design of the interior door pull.
Due to its positioning, we found that it often needed a couple of attempts to get sufficient leverage to close the door. Most rivals get around this by offering a second door pull, within the drivers door armrest, making things considerably easier. Unusually for a supermini, the Clio GT has a six-speed gearbox as standard, whereas most of its rivals settle for just five. Its action is positive, and well matched to the smooth 105bhp 1.5-litre turbodiesel engine. Refinement is impressive and noise levels are low, both in terms of engine and road noise. On winding roads, the Clio handles well, with a poised chassis and plenty of grip. As you would expect with a car carrying the GT moniker, the suspension is tuned for sportiness, rather than outright comfort.
Price wise, the Clio is sits at around the same levels as its main rivals, and packs plenty of standard equipment. The only car to break ranks in terms of price is the SEAT Ibiza Sport, which has a £2,500 lower asking price, despite having a similar power output from its new 1.6-litre commonrail turbodiesel engine. Our Clio GT test car came equipped with a few factory fitted options, namely climate control, keyless entry, and a TomTom satellite navigation unit. The last item is new to the Clio range and operates in exactly the same way as the company’s familiar portable units. Instead of being touch screen, though, a small remote control unit is used to navigate around the screens.
RIVALS: Ford Fiesta Zetec S 1.6 TDCi, Peugeot 207 Sport HDi 110, SEAT Ibiza Sport 1.6 TDI CR
- Engine: 1461cc, 4-cylinder, turbodiesel
- Gearbox: 6-speed manual
- Max power: 105bhp at 4,000rpm
- Max torque: 177lb ft at 2,000 to 2,500rpm
- Max towing weight: 1,200kg
- Max speed: 118mph
- 0-62mph: 11.1secs
- Combined consumption: 61.4mpg
- CO2 emissions (taxband): 123g/km (D)
- Loadbay: 288/1,038litres
- Insurance group: 5
Great looks, fun to drive, good quality, smooth and refined engine, five-star EuroNCAP safety rating
SEAT Ibiza costs £2.5k less, awkward design of the door pull, ride can be overly firm at times