FOMO is an acronym conceived and propagated by the micro blogging/social media fraternity. It represents a “fear of missing out” and the sensation is associated with a smartphone user’s compulsion to check his or her status updates, instant messages and perpetual information feeds at every given opportunity. When the second generation Renault Clio arrived on local shores at the end of the last century, it introduced South Africans to the concept of an authentic B-segment product – a subcompact hatchback with generous safety and convenience features that was attractive to, um, boot. Whereas Clio II was so compelling that it engendered FOMO in an era when cellphones were comparatively stupid, Renault’s fourth iteration looks to reintroduce elements of emotional appeal and stylish funkiness to a now-congested segment contested by good-but-anodyne products, including the newcomer’s predecessor.
There’s no doubt the new Clio is a looker. Longer, lower and wider than its predecessor, the Flame Red Renault drew unanimous praise from the test team. This model is Renault design chief Laurens van den Acker’s first stand-alone project and there’s no wont for attention to detail.
The exterior treatment begins with an oversized diamond logo surrounded by a black oval and swept-back headlamps with LED running lights. The flanks show off overt black side boards, integrated rear door handles and faux three-quarter lights. What’s more, the rear looks pinched by virtue of the smaller screen, side diffusers, an integrated high-mounted spoiler and subtle wave patterns in the rear valance.
The tasteful application of black- and chrome look trim adds a sense of glamour to the Clio, so much so that it’s arguably the prettiest car in the B segment. In spite of the three-door coupé appearance, the newcomer looks substantial in the metal. The head- and taillamps sit above strips of black plastic, which help to broaden the nose and shoulders of the car; while chrome streaks in the grille, side boards and the leading edge of the hatch offset the black and silver 17-inch alloys. The handsome alloys do come at the cost of a spare wheel, however; a peek under the boot board reveals the provision of a puncture repair kit only.
The Clio’s interior does not quite live up to the exterior’s fanfare, but every member of the test team praised the Renault’s engaging driving position, the good balance of comfort and support afforded by the hatchback’s front seats and the ornate triple-cylinder instrument panel (pictured left). The new Clio 4’s facia is shaped like a computer tablet replete with a touch-screen interface and a chrome-look surround. There’s no CD-deck specified, just an auxiliary input and USB jack, but the standard sat-nav works well and is a nice-to-have standard item at this model’s price. Audiophiles will appreciate that the audio has extra impetus courtesy of a standard Bass Reflex speaker system.
The cabin is a rather sombre space by virtue of the dark plastics and upholstery, combined with the piano black inserts and just a smattering of chrome-look bits. While the dashboard is of the soft-touch variety, the ledges of the inner door linings are not, unfortunately. The ventilation louvres on the outer reaches of the dashboard and those in the facia feel a bit insubstantial and look rather plain. Still, with Bluetooth phone connectivity from the MP3-compatible infotainment system, cruise control, keyless entry and start, auto lights and wipers and hill start assist in conjunction with the stability control system, there’s little amiss from the luxury package, apart from the fact that the air-conditioning is manually operated – as opposed to the automatic version in the Clio’s highly rated Kia Rio 1,4 TEC rival.
Even though Renault claims there’s a bit more rear legroom and luggage space (courtesy of no spare wheel) than in the previous Clio, some of CAR’s testers felt squeezed on the test unit’s rear bench when performing the sit-behind-your-own-driving-position test and that the 60:40 split seatback is somewhat upright.
As a driver’s car, however, the Clio has returned to form from a handling point of view. The steering system is quicker, sharper and more communicative and the five-speed ‘box is slick and precise. As a payoff for the dynamic handling, the Renault’s ride is on the compliant side of firm, but the turbocharged 0,9-litre three cylinder motor, which has been adopted to exact similar performance to a 1,4-litre motor but with lower emissions and better fuel efficiency, split opinion right down the middle.
The three-pot motor sounds just as thrummy as we expected and the manufacturer claims the peak torque of 135 N.m is achieved at 2 500 r/min with 90 per cent of the maximum twist available between 1 650 and 5 000 r/min. During testing, however, CAR’s most experienced road tester could not coax the 66 kW Turbo to achieve a zero to 100 km/h sprint time of anything near the manufacturer’s claimed mark of 12,2 seconds despite numerous attempts (see test results) and the in-gear acceleration figures trail those of its rivals in this test’s match-up panel. Once one becomes accustomed to keeping the motor in its boost band, the 0,9-litre powerplant is ever willing, but on CAR’s standard-route fuel consumption test, the Clio returned a figure of 6,3 litres/100 km. That’s comfortably better than most of its rivals, but still higher than CAR’s fuel index (5,4) and Renault’s claim (4,5), however.
So Renault’s had the “nerve” to dismiss the CD player and the analogue speedometer in one fell swoop … If La Régie needed to omit those so that it could introduce the 66 kW Turbo Dynamique at the spot-on price of R179 000, which includes a three-year/45 000 km service plan, we wholly approve. The test unit’s powerplant didn’t impress us in the same manner as Ford’s turbocharged 1,0-litre three-cylinder motor did in the case of the Fiesta, but remember the Clio’s much more affordable and better specced than the 1,0 Ecoboost Trend we tested for the March issue. Not only did this Clio stand out from the crowd and prove a joy to drive, but it duly fanned CAR road testers’ “fears of missing out” during its test tenure. Now that’s a very encouraging sign.