If you’ve ever had a small hatchback and thought “this is great, but I can’t fit all my stuff in the boot”, then keep reading.
Renault clearly thinks lots of people enjoy the benefits of a compact car but bemoan the lack of luggage space.
It will also have spotted its arch-rival Peugeot offering an estate version of the 207, so hot on its heels comes the Clio Sport Tourer, which is expected to make up 40% of all Clio fleet sales.
It would be very easy to say that it’s essentially a Clio with a big boot. So I will. It’s essentially a Clio with a big boot.
Renault isn’t ashamed of this – for them, it means a niche market can be targeted with a (relatively) small investment in engineering.
All it has to do is bolt on a boot to an existing design and smooth over the joins.
From the front to the end of the rear doors, the Sport Tourer is exactly the same as the hatchback that’s been on our roads for the past couple of years.
But keep heading towards the back and it’s space city – there is twice as much room for dogs, suitcases or shopping than in the hatch.
With the back seats up and parcel shelf in place, there is 367 litres of space, which compares very favourably to the Peugeot 207 SW, which has 325 litres.
Fold the seats down and take out the removable floor and you can cram in 1,277 litres-worth, compared to 1,258 in the Peugeot.
Looks-wise, Renault has thankfully avoided the potential pitfall that comes with grafting a new bit on to an existing car.
The designers have clearly worked hard to make sure the Clio hatch’s lines are continued into the boot, and the result isn’t bad at all.
However, I can’t help wondering that with the point of these compact estates being practicality, wouldn’t a less steeply-raked rear screen mean even more boot space?
The rest of the car is familiar Clio territory – sector-average build quality and some nice little French design touches.
Power-wise, two 1.5-litre dCi diesel engines have been confirmed for the UK – one with 86bhp and one with 106bhp.
There will also be two petrol engines – a turbocharged 1.2-litre with 100bhp, and a 110bhp 1.6-litre with an automatic gearbox.
Renault has plans for a manual 1.6 that will run on E85 bioethanol, but no decision has been made on whether it will reach UK shores.
For the eco-minded, all the diesel engines also run on B30 biodiesel.
Prices for the Sport Tourer, which goes on sale in April, have yet to be confirmed, but Renault sources say it will be similar to the Peugeot 207 SW’s premium over the hatchback – around £750.
This means an educated guess of just north of £10,000 probably won’t be too far wide of the mark.
Behind the wheel
The main selling point of the Sport Tourer, the boot, is certainly a good size. The car drives in a very similar way to the hatchback – only now you can travel with twice as many suitcases.
The driving experience of the Clio is not something that particularly sticks in the mind. Competent is the best way to describe it, as it does nothing badly but feels rather uninspired.
Only the most powerful diesel engine, the 1.5 dCi with 106bhp, was available to drive on the launch, and there’s not much wrong with it.
It’s not exciting and won’t be rushed, but it’s smooth and never feels like it’s being strained.
The chassis is pretty good and certainly won’t be tested by the engine housed within it, and inside everything is standard Clio – comfortable enough and not too bad to look at.
Only the gearbox elicits any kind of emotional response, as it feels like it could be tightened up a bit.
The throw is a fraction long and the whole gear-changing experience is, for want of a better expression, waggly.
I’ve actually found it rather hard to sum up the driving experience, as it’s almost completely unremarkable. But for many drivers, that will be exactly what they’re looking for.
The Clio Sport Tourer manages to keep the small car feel that so many people like, but adds practicality with the extra boot space.
It’s difficult to find any kind of character or excitement in the way it looks or drives, but it does nothing badly and most things in a more than competent fashion.
|Model||1.5 dCi 86||1.5 dCi 106||1.2 TCE||1.6 auto|
|Max power (bhp/rpm):||86/3,750||106/4,000||100/5,500||110/6,000|
|Max torque (lb-ft/rpm):||147/1,900||177/2,000||107/3,000||111/4,250|
|Max speed (mph):||109||119||115||116|
|Fuel consumption (mpg):||64.2||61.4||48.7||37.7|
|CO2 emissions (g/km):||117||123||137||179|
|Prices (est): from £10,000|