Review: Renault clio

A great first car, with low running costs

12 Jun 15 Tim Barnes-Clay

Pros

  • Cheap running costs

  • Comfortable

  • Good handling

Cons

  • Cheap interior

  • Sluggish performance

  • Engines can be noisy

Our expert rating

The Renault Clio is a supermini hatchback produced in France. It was launched in 1990, and has consistently been one of Europe's best-selling cars. The Clio has been voted European Car of the Year twice, in 1991 and 2006.

Performance

Most Clios are nippy and will handle long commutes. Running costs are pretty good, too. The zippy hot-hatch Renault sport version will produce around 30 mpg, but all other models will manage 40 mpg onwards.

If economy is your biggest goal then there is a 86bhp diesel which can return over 60 mpg. But if you don’t like diesel engines, then the 1.4 petrol, will give you over 40 mpg.

Rear of car

Ride and handling

The Clio handles superbly and is refined around town and at motorway speeds. The Renault’s clampdown on road and wind noise shows how well the French car maker’s sound deadening materials work.

Indeed, when it comes to a hushed ride, the 2005 onwards Clio knocks some larger, pricier motors into a cocked hat. This helps to make long journeys relaxing and seat comfort is also good, both for front and rear passengers.

Car in motion

Interior space

Cabin quality is great on most Clios. With all but the basic-spec models from 2005 onwards produced with a soft-touch dashboard trim that give the car a sophisticated feel. For a small hatchback, the Renault is roomy, too, and will sit four-up comfortably.

The load area is spacious, with access made simple thanks to a wide tailgate and low loading lip.

Steering wheel

What to know before you buy

The Renault Clio’s reliability is average. Try and go for a version with a manual gearbox because automatic gearboxes have been known to go expensively wrong. Suspension problems can also crop up. If there is a failing suspension system, you will feel the Clio pull on your test drive – especially when you are turning.

This basically means the shocks are no longer keeping the car stable. When the shocks are worn out, you are also likely to feel the Renault lurching forward and downward nose-first when you apply the brakes firmly.

Additionally, take a look at the tyres of the Clio you’re thinking about buying. If you notice the tread is wearing down unevenly, or if you notice balding spots, this is often a symptom that the suspension isn't holding the car evenly, and therefore putting uneven amounts of pressure on the tyres.

Alternative cars

The Clio’s top rival is the permanently popular Ford Fiesta. It offers great looks and driving pleasure. Much the same can be said for the Vauxhall Corsa. It's a great all-rounder, although the Ford pips it to the post on drivability.

The Toyota Yaris is as practical and economical as the Clio but the driving experience is not as pleasurable. Finally, a used Volkswagen Polo should be a consideration – but be prepared to pay more, due to its high-quality build and image.

Clio and Ford side by side

Overall verdict

With its low running costs, good handling, comfort and ease of use, a secondhand Renault Clio makes a great first car. If you have a small family then you will find the Clio well suited to everyday use, too. It is also good-looking and the standard kit is generous.

Older cars come with three and five doors, with a switch to a five-door only model coming later down the line. Whichever variant you want, you can be assured you will find it, as the Clio is in plentiful supply on the used market.

Expert rating

Performance

Reliability

Space & comfort

Running costs

Value for money

Overall