Friday, December 06, 2013

Renault Clio IV


So ... pretty much the first time I'm able to see the new car in daylight & here's a picture (suitably cropped to exclude the licence plate which has - sadly - neither an F nor a Z in it. You can't have everything).

Given I have read many reviews of this car before ordering it & since - some of which were useful & others downright misleading - here are my thoughts having driven it for two days. (I'll plagiarise the typical car mag categories). You never know someone might happen by & appreciate another opinion - while certain friends & family might be amused at me (of all people) showing an interest in cars. 


I saw this car first in the much-hyped 'Flame Red' along the road from E's piano teacher & it was undeniably eye-catching. I'd never noticed a car with the concealed rear door handle - not that I had noticed much about cars full stop. Neat (& intriguing). I also admired the overall design - the 'sculpted' claims of the brochure are not too far-fetched. Talking things over with the dealer, we reckoned that the full-on red would be a little too mid-life crisis, the yellow & blue better for the South of France, while the black looks great in the showroom but gets dirty the moment it's on the road. Therefore ... good old sober & restrained middle-age grey ("Gris Cassiopeia" sounds so much more enchanting don't you think?).

The hub cap mystery is partially solved - for some reason the factory decided to put on Paradis 15" that belong to the Clio IV Estate rather than the standard Expression options. A bit different & for no extra cost - fine by me. The chrome 'flash' is a surprise - by my reckoning this would have required a further 200 euros as a 'personalisation' choice. Someone was feeling generous over there in Flins. 

At the front you get the big diamond logo (which I like) & the thin beads of LED daylights which give a certain style in addition to security (good combination) while the back is squat & predatory with the small rear window. 

I reckon it looks bloody good. 


When I took one out on a test drive back in October, I wasn't so impressed with the glossy black door panels & trims. Again, in the catalogue being modelled by glamorous young Parisians it all looks rather chic whereas I have to think more in terms of grubby little fingers, half-eaten sweets & school bags. The sheen would disappear pretty quick. Thus, standard Expression option interior - matt grey - & I don't regret it at all. (To be honest, the higher spec Dynamique tips towards bling.) I bought some Clio mats yesterday & they give it all a lift. So save yourself 500 euros (or more) & play it simple. Less is more, etc.. The seats - also standard - are fine & more stylish & comfortable than photographs suggest. Again, the colour options look tempting but would wear badly I fear. 

I did opt for a leather steering wheel (the basic plastic one looked ugly). It was a good choice - this wheel feels good to the hands, is pleasing to the eye & the black gloss fill is just enough to liven things up. 

Knobs & things

Everything seems to work (hooray!) but I do notice a certain plasticky quality (but then what do you expect - it's not a Bentley). Electric windows require continuous push, the indicator feels a bit stiff but does have a nifty one tap for overtaking. Heating/air conditioning is pretty much standard issue - and efficient. What for some might be a fault for me is a plus: it's all very simple & minimal. 

Music (the really important stuff)

No CD player seemed a major drawback at first & then I realised that you can connect an iPod or use a USB stick. Yes, it means a bit of a hassle transferring files but it does save CD boxes jammed in the door pockets. Sound quality is very good - I don't care what some people are saying about "barely adequate". I've been playing Zappa's 'Guitar' at mid volume & there's no need to go higher. The 'bass reflex' system works for me. 

It's all housed in a central console (again - simple, minimal) & works like an iPad by touch screen. Within the options there's also the Sat Nav which is much better than some reviews suggest. The mobile phone link is fun rather than essential for me - I don't make calls much. The Bluetooth connection is reliable & seems to connect pretty quickly when you get back in. Of course, there's the upmarket option of R-Link but I can't think why I'd be e-mailing or using Apps in a car. Surely you're meant to watch what's on the road ...

The money that might have gone into the decor I put into the Europe maps for the Sat Nav (here in Belgium you just get Benelux). 


It purrs ... a really nice throaty kind of engine sound. It feels so much more car-like (for want of a better word) than the C3. The much-talked about TCe 3-cylinder petrol engine is more than adequate for what I want - it accelerates well away from the lights & on the Ring was hitting 120 km/h with ease. Again, I don't know why there are some snide comments from reviewers. I can't speak about fuel consumption yet - but I'm sure it will be superior to what I've been used to & it's about as eco-friendly as you can manage short of a hybrid or electric car. Handling, torque, under or over-steer I leave to the petrol heads. Put it this way, the Clio feels good to drive. Correction: really good. 

Yes, reversing is a bit of an issue - the price paid for the stylish design means the back window and moulding give limited visibility. The solution - aside from looking even more carefully - is the extra reversing alert. Money well-spent.

Final verdict 

I love it. Frankly I never thought I would ever own or drive such a thing. For me the combination of the design & performance are just right. Cheaper & you'd notice it. More expensive & I think I'd feel embarrassed. I don't really approve of cars (an issue going right back to my twenties) but I'll make a real exception in this case - much as I did with the Citroen C3 of ten years ago. Laurens van den Acker has done a good job in shaping these bits of metal. Of its kind, it is a sculpture. Five stars then from me. 

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