What are you driving?
This is the Clio V, Renault's fifth generation of one of the most spacious supermini hatchbacks in the sector. It was revealed last year for the first time and has been on sale in Ireland since the end of 2019. Despite the relatively evolutionary styling, this Clio is based on a totally different platform than its predecessor, which will sire the first ever hybrid Clio by the way. For now, there are petrol and diesel options in the range.
Prices start at €17,195 at the time of writing, though that's for the sole Expression model, which is not expected to be a big seller. It's powered by the entry-level 'SCe 75' petrol engine, a non-turbocharged three-cylinder 1.0-litre unit. That's offered in the more tempting Dynamique and Iconic trim levels as well, though the turbocharged equivalent (called 'TCe 100') is far preferable - it's available in those grades, as well as the sporty looking Clio RS Line, and it can be mated with a CVT automatic transmission. Those that want more power can opt for the four-cylinder TCe 130 (a 1.3-litre unit), though it always comes with a dual-clutch automatic gearbox. A sole diesel option is offered across most of the range, the Blue dCi 85, a 1.5-litre engine.
Here, we're testing what we reckon is the best engine of the range, the TCe 100, with a manual gearbox and the Iconic trim level, which has everything you need and a little bit more.
Name its best bits
I realise that, at a glance, you might not know you're looking at a new Clio, but actually, spend some time with it and you begin to appreciate the body sculpting and design; this is a very attractive looking small car. The interior is arguably more successful again, as it has been redesigned and the quality levels lifted. As before, thankfully, the Clio is one of the most spacious cars in the segment, front and rear.
In moving to a new platform, Renault has trimmed a significant amount of weight out of the Clio, and it shows on the road, where this 100hp version has plenty of go and the chassis is a real gem. Even in this mid-range specification, the Clio is highly satisfying to drive, dealing as well with the motorway and urban lumps and bumps as it does being driven enthusiastically down an interesting piece of road in the countryside. It manages to be all things to all people, from a driving experience point of view, while avoiding anonymity. Owners will really enjoy it, even if they're not keen drivers as such.
Finally, the Clio is generously well-equipped (for the most part - see below). Even the base Expression version gets LED daytime running lights, powered and heated door mirrors, cruise control with speed limiter, air conditioning, one-touch electric front windows, split-fold rear seat, DAB radio, Bluetooth, a USB port and lots of safety equipment.
Anything that bugs you?
It's such a shame that the most impressive touchscreen, a swanky 9.3-inch display, is only standard on the range-topping Clio RS Line. It really adds to the interior and could sway a buyer the Clio's way if it was offered throughout the line-up.
And why have you given it this rating?
The Clio has been a stalwart of the B-segment for some 30 years now and the new one is, naturally, the most polished yet. That it's better than before is of no surprise, but the fact that the Clio deserves consideration alongside the class-leaders like never before might be to some. This is a thoroughly well-executed small car that behaves like a bigger one.
What do the rest of the team think?
I quite like this Clio. It doesn't have the lovely simplicity of the first-generation model (then again, what does these days?), but it looks smart, is decent to drive and good value. Not bad at all, really.
Neil Briscoe - Editor-at-large