First Drive: Renault Clio

Renault's Clio has previously been seen as the teenager that refused to grow up. However, with the model celebrating its 25th birthday this year and the French carmaker introducing a host of new styling and design cues, could this be the most mature Clio yet?

AOL Cars heads to Bordeaux to test out the Renault Clio dCi 110 Dynamique S Nav and find out.

What is it?

This is Renault's facelifted fourth-generation Clio. Originally launched back in 2012, the model has been upgraded both aesthetically and mechanically. The latter comes in the form of a new diesel powertrain – the 1.5-litre dCi 110 diesel, previously seen in Nissan's Qashqai – and the option of a manual transmission coupled with the pre-existing TCe 120 petrol engine.

Renault has poured a lot of resources into the styling of the new Clio, which will lead the way for the rest of its range to be updated. A new grille, re-profiled bumpers and a cleverly designed LED light signature feature on the exterior of the car, while C-shaped daytime running lights can also be specified on certain models.

While the cabin may appear disarmingly similar to pre-facelift Clios, a closer look reveals that quality has improved significantly, with new upholstery, matt chrome trim and soft-touch materials are implemented – no more scratchy plastics to be found here.

With the option of 30 different colour combinations, five roof decals, and four exterior customisation packs, it's little wonder that the model has been dubbed 'the most stylish Clio yet'.

What's under the bonnet?

The pokey dCi 110 diesel powerplant is linked to a six-speed manual gearbox, which puts 108bhp through its front wheels. Reaching 60mph from a standstill takes 11.19 seconds, while the model tops out at 121mph.

The diesel engine produces the typical grunting noise, which is particularly noticeable when the car is at idle or moving slowly, but fades to an indistinct hum to 3,000 revs. The dCi 110 returns an impressive 80.7mpg, while emitting just 90g/km CO2.

What's the spec like?

Spec on the £17,755 dCi 110 Dynamique S Nav is extensive, with an updated sound and infotainment system with Bose speakers and the new R-link connectivity system featuring as standard.

However, the new diesel engine is only available in this top-level trim, meaning that drivers looking to spend less are left with the option of one of the pre-existing powertrains.

The basic spec Clio starts from £10,495, meaning the range includes both affordable and high-end (for the B-segment) options.

Any rivals?

Unfortunately for the Clio, the B-segment isn't a sparse market. It is packed with affordable rival superminis including the DS3, Citroen C4 Cactus and Ford's Fiesta. Drivers wanting a more premium experience can opt for the Audi A1, and try as it might, Renault's updated model proves no match for this German hatch.

First Drive: Renault Clio
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First Drive: Renault Clio

What's it like to drive?

The Clio has been lengthened and widened, which alongside providing a sportier appearance and increasing cabin space, delivers better handling. New polyurethane suspension bump stops and a quicker steering rack give the car improved agility and body control, but not enough to make the drive markedly different to its predecessor.

The 108bhp engine is powerful enough to allow the small car to dart around, and a spread of torque across the revs means it can accelerate with ease in any gears.

The stop/start feature, which comes as standard on a number of the Clio grades is easy to get along with and doesn't cut out at unfortunate moments as it does in some of the Clio's B-segment competitors.

A driver-activated Ecomode, which is standard on the Dynamique Nav model and above can reportedly improve fuel economy by up to 12%.

AOL Cars verdict:

Renault claims to have developed the B-segment hatch into something much more versatile and mature than its predecessor. However, with the new diesel powertrain only available in the top-spec model, we can't help but feel that the carmaker is shoehorning itself into the more upmarket end of the B-segment.

This facelift does well to refresh the product and keep it relevant amongst constantly improving competitors.

But with 13 million units sold worldwide since it was launched in 1991, and12,589 sold in the UK alone between January and June this year, we very much doubt the Clio will be going out of fashion any time soon.

Facts at a glance:

Model: Renault Clio dCi 110 Dynamique S Nav
Price: £17,755
Engine: Four cylinder, 1.5 dCi 110
Power: 108bhp
0-60mph: 11.19secs
Max speed: 121mph
Economy: 80.7mpg
Emissions: 90g/km
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