Renault Clio IV


Debut: 2012
Maker: Renault
Predecessor: Clio III



 Published on 31 Oct 2012
All rights reserved. 


Laguna is set to be axed. Scenic is riding on a downward trend. Megane is struggling to fend off Volkswagen Golf. Twingo makes no progress on the war against Fiat and Korean. Under such background, Renault is increasingly reliant on the new Clio IV to maintain its business. It hopes the new car is capable of regaining the glory of R5, Clio I and Clio II, which were the best sellers of supermini class in their hey days. However, this task would not be easy. It has to beat intense competition like Ford Fiesta (the best driver's car in the class), Volkswagen Polo (most solidly built), Opel Corsa (roomy and stylish), Honda Jazz / Fit (roomy and versatile), Peugeot 208 (tasteful and efficient) and some Korean bargains, let alone the economic downturn currently overshadowing Europe. Fortunately, most of these rivals, with the exception of Peugeot, has been on the market for some years. Benefited by newer technologies and fresher design, plus the French company's know-how of building great superminis, Clio IV has a good chance of coming back to the top.

Leading this task is Renault's new design boss, Dutchman Laurens van den Acker. This is the first fresh product designed fully under his guidance since he succeeded Patrick Le Quement 3 years ago. His strong pursuit for new styling direction is obvious, especially on the new signature grille which integrates with the Renault logo and the jewel-effect headlights stylishly. The nose really gives the Clio a distinctive appeal. The body shape is very dynamic. There are pronounced fenders and a decorative arc running at the lower part of the doors to emphasize a Coke-bottle shape, hence a sportier taste than most other superminis. The rear doors with "hidden" handles – copied from Alfa Romeo 147 and Giulietta – have similar contributions to the sporty flavor. They save the need to produce 3-door version. Yes, the Clio IV is available only in the body style of 5-door and wagon. Even the RS model is 5-door.



Built on an updated version of the old car's B-platform rather than a brand new platform, the Clio IV is marginally larger than Clio III, which was already a giant by supermini standard. Body length and width have grown by 35 and 25 mm respectively, although the roof has been lowered by 45 mm to deliver a sportier profile. In fact, its 2589 mm wheelbase is long to the extent that eclipses a Golf Mk6 (2578 mm), rivaling cars from the C-segment. Nevertheless, the French car does not use space very efficiently. Perhaps because of the Coke-bottle shape and the need to fit up to 18-inch wheels, its cabin space is no better than its more compact rivals. Rear seat room is typical to superminis, i.e. adequate for sub-six-footers only. If you need more space, you had better to turn to Honda Jazz.

However, one thing is brilliant: weight reduction. Despite of the size, Renault said it managed to cut an average 100 kilograms from the old car, thanks to the use of more high-strength steel, hollow anti-roll bars, lighter exhaust, drive shafts, engine mounts, wheels, brakes, dashboard cross member, insulation materials and a 10-liter smaller fuel tank (allowed by vastly improved fuel consumption). And this figure is not overstated. Compare a Clio IV 0.9 TCe with a similarly powerful Clio III 1.4 launched in 2005, we found the new car loses as much as 136 kg. Its kerb weight of 1009 kg is a very good figure, only a shade heavier than the 975 kg Peugeot 208 1.2VTi.

Weight reduction did not stop it from improving interior quality. Well, in terms of materials the Clio IV is nothing special. Limited by production costs, it uses soft-touch plastics only on the dash top, so you will find hollow-sounding hard plastics at the lower dash, glovebox and door panels. It does not feel as expensive and solid as VW Polo as a result. Nevertheless, the French car's interior is still quite attractive to look, especially if you personalize it with color-coded dashboard and decors in various places. Renault has finally joined the ranks of Smart, Mini, Fiat and Citroen to drive profits from personalize options.


Most important of which is the R-link infotainment system associated with the 7-inch touch screen and lacquered center console. It provides functions like Bluetooth connectivity, voice commands, web surfing, emails, Facebook, TomTom satellite navigation and, best of all, it allows download of new Apps! So you can install games or even artificial engine noise profiles to the car! These days cars are getting so crazy. I thought they are supposed to take people from one place to another.

Anyway, what matters to us is how good the car drives. Let's look under the clamshell bonnet first. The new Clio offers a couple of Energy series small turbocharged petrol motors developed jointly with Nissan. The smaller one is an 898 c.c. three-cylinder unit with alloy construction and variable valve timing. It produces a respectable 90 horsepower and 100 pound-foot of torque at 2500 rpm. Save some vibration and lag at the bottom end, once up to rev it is as refined as Peugeot's 1.2-liter 3-cylinder engine. The mid-range punch is pretty gusty, thus for normal city driving it feels perfectly brisk. However, its top-end delivery is no match with Ford's 1.0 Ecoboost, which gets direct injection and higher output as a result. The 0.9 TCe struggles for overtaking on highway. You need to downshift a gear or two to up its effort. This hampers fuel economy and quietness, of course.

Another new petrol engine is 1.2 TCe, the four-cylinder version of 0.9 TCe but converted to direct injection. With an output of 120 hp and 140 lbft, it is going to be the most powerful engine on Clio before the arrival of RS. It will mate with the company's first dual-clutch gearbox. However, this engine is not available until next year. At the moment, if you want better performance than the 3-pot, you can only opt for the 1.5dCi turbo diesel. Renault offered a 106 hp version on the Clio III, but at this moment the new Clio gets only the more civilized 90 hp version. Despite of the power defeat, it is impressively refined and its 162 lbft of torque makes it feel faster than its 0-60 mph time of 11 seconds suggested. Moreover, it returns a stunning 83 mpg and 90 grams of CO2 per kilometer, or the best figures in the class.


The new Clio is fun to drive on mountain roads. Its suspension setting is similar to the old car, i.e. slightly biased towards the soft side compare with Ford and Peugeot. This means it copes well with large bumps, broken pavements and cobblestones in town. On the negative side, this softness leads to more bounces than desired when running over ridges and speed bumps on highway, which hurts its high-speed stability. However, the wider tracks aid its cornering stability, and the weight reduction makes it feels more nimble in the twisty. The electric power steering is a vast improvement from the old, thanks a quicker ratio – now it needs 2.7 turns from lock to lock – and recalibrated assistance. It feels much more direct and meaty, and it loads up beautifully in corners. It makes the Clio fun to drive again. The chassis is generally safe, but if you push it in corner and lift off throttle, the nose will tuck in to correct the driving line. Do this in a more aggressive way, the rear wheels will step out a little bit to induce oversteer. Ford Fiesta is still a sharper and more composed driving tool on a variety of conditions, but the new Clio is no less fun to drive, at least for the lighter 0.9 TCe.

Therefore, after 4 years at the top our champion Ford Fiesta has to step down – not because of driving dynamics, but because the Clio has a prettier face, more modern interior and more efficient engines. Nevertheless, it does not set new standards for the class, so expect to see stiffer fights for the crown in the near future.
Verdict: 
 Published on 21 Mar 2013 All rights reserved. 
Clio RS


Recently our classic car archive looked back to the fast Clios, from the first Clio Williams to the last Clio III RS. It reminded us how great the series appealed to keen drivers in the past 20 years. However, contrary to believe, its reputation in enthusiast circles did not result in booming sales. In the last 6 and a half years, worldwide sales of Clio III RS totaled only 30,000 units, or 4600 units per year in average. The earlier Clio II was better, with 52,000 units sold in total or 8700 units per year, but even that failed to match Volkswagen Golf GTI, which averaged 55,000 cars annually during the past 35 years! Ridiculously, the best selling hot hatches in the market are not the sharpest or the most thrilling, but the softer and easier living ones. Having learned this, it is not difficult to understand why Renaultsport has gone soft on the new Clio IV RS.

The compromise with practicality can be seen in 3 things: downsized turbocharged engine, dual-clutch gearbox and 5-door body. Yes, the new Clio RS not only offers 5-door body shell for the first time, but it is no longer available in 3-door form, ridiculously. Renault thought its "hidden" rear door handles were able to give a false impression of 3-door, but that is only self-deceiving. Anyone with proper eyes can easily see it is a 5-door by the length of front doors and the position of B-pillars, let alone the shut lines of rear doors. However, the styling problem does not rest on the doors alone. It simply differs too little from the regular Clio IV. Good looking the latter though, buyers should expect more striking features to distinguish from lesser models. They might also question whether the MPV-style bonnet is suitable to a performance model, just like what they said to the last Honda Civic Type R. In short, the new car doesn't look as special as its predecessors.



The call for reducing emission and improving everyday drivability led to the abandoning of high-revving naturally aspirated motor for a 1.6-liter direct-injected turbo. It is derived from the MR16DDT engine that serves Nissan Juke, so it is no longer a Renaultsport special. There seems to be dual-continuous variable cam phasing, sodium-filled exhaust valves and friction reducing diamond-like coating (DLC) on cam followers. It pumps out 200 horsepower at 6000 rpm, 18 hp more than the new Ford Fiesta ST with similar spec. engine. Maximum torque is lower though at 177 lbft, but it is available across a wide band stretching from 1750 to 5600 rpm. Compare with the 2-liter engine of its predecessor, peak power remains the same, but max torque is up by 18 lbft and released at 3650 rpm lower down the rev. Its character is therefore vastly different, being far more flexible but also much lazier to rev. Performance inches up to 143 mph and 0-60 mph taking 6.4 seconds, which is about the top of the class. The engine sounds pretty good for a turbocharged motor, thanks to a pipe that connects the intake to the cabin, although never as thrilling as the old engine revving beyond 7000 rpm. Its combined fuel economy is significantly improved from 34.5 to 44.8 mpg. Admittedly, part of this improvement is down to the lazy default mode of the dual-clutch gearbox.

Yes, the outgoing 6-speed manual has been replaced by a Getrag DCT. This will displease hardcore drivers who worship the old RS. Perhaps Renaultsport no longer care about them. All it wants is to widen customer portfolio by offering a more versatile, easy-using gearbox like Volkswagen DSG. Unfortunately, Getrag's dual-clutch gearbox is not as good as DSG, as we have found on Volvo S40 and Ford Focus earlier. Its gearshift is rather slow, much slower than Renaultsport would lead you believe. Even in Race mode, whose shift time is claimed to be 150ms, it feels no quicker than a Tiptronic-style auto. Moreover, the software is not matured yet. Sometimes it might pre-select a wrong gear and cause unnecessary delay. This hampers driving fun. No wonder Renault calls it EDC (Efficient Dual Clutch), with the emphasis on efficiency rather than performance.



The RS has its suspensions lowered and stiffened compared with regular Clio. Each of its front suspension employs a new damper that incorporates a secondary damper to complement bump stop. As a result, the new car rides a lot smoother than the old car, especially on bumpy surfaces. On the flip side, the driver might find it less connected to the road hence less involving to drive. Objectively speaking, it loses none of the previous car's talent. It still corners with good poised and grip. It still oversteers on lift-off throttle should you scale back the ESP. The brake is excellent. The electric power steering is still precise and reassuringly loaded. Although the turn-in feels a little less sharp, the forthcoming Cup chassis option – with 15 percent stiffer springs, 3 mm drop of ride height, quicker steering rack, 18-inch wheels and stickier tires – is likely to recover any lost ground.

To please ordinary drivers, Renault added a lot of electronic gadgets to the RS, such as launch control and a 3-mode control system that alters throttle response, gearshift speed and level of stability and traction control. They don't add to driving fun actually, just give the playstation/smartphone generation something to play with when they feel bored inside the car. Most gimmicky is the so-called R-Sound Effect, an App running in the R-link infotainment system to play artificial engine noise. You can select among 7 noises, including the legendary Alpine A110, Clio II RS, Clio III RS and even Nissan GT-R. Purists should feel disgusting.

In short, the new Clio RS is much easier to live with – more low-down torque makes it more effortless to drive; better isolated suspension makes it less tiresome to travel; the auto mode of DCT gearbox eases driving effort; the lower revving engine is less noisy; the interior is better built, more comfortable and has more electronics to play with; last but not least, friends will love sitting at the back. It is still a fast and competent hot hatch, but its character is vastly changed, no longer praising sharp response and direct communication. As a result, it is a big disappointment to us. Maybe it would be well received were it not carrying such a glorious history.
Verdict:
Specifications





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine
Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Transmission
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Tires
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
Clio 0.9 TCe
2012
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4062 / 1732 / 1448 mm
2589 mm
Inline-3
898 cc
DOHC 12 valves, VVT
Turbo
-
90 hp
100 lbft
5-speed manual
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
-
195/55R16
1009 kg
113 mph (c)
11.5 (est) / 13.4*
-
Clio 1.5dCi
2012
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4062 / 1732 / 1448 mm
2589 mm
Inline-4, diesel
1461 cc
SOHC 8 valves
Turbo
CDI
90 hp
162 lbft
5-speed manual
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
-
195/55R16
1071 kg
111 mph (c)
11.0 (est)
-
Clio GT
2013
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4077 / 1732 / 1441 mm
2589 mm
Inline-4
1197 cc
DOHC 16 valves, VVT
Turbo
DI
120 hp
140 lbft
6-speed twin-clutch
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
-
205/45VR17
1186 kg
121 mph (c)
9.3 (c)
-




Performance tested by: *Autocar





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine
Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Transmission
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Tires
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
Clio RS
2013
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4090 / 1732 / 1432 mm
2589 mm
Inline-4
1618 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT
Turbo
DI
200 hp / 6000 rpm
177 lbft / 1750-5600 rpm
6-speed twin-clutch
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
-
205/45VR17
1204 kg
143 mph (c)
6.4 (c)
-


















































Performance tested by: -





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