Settled into a 70mph cruise, the lack of wind noise, quiet engine, supple suspension and the amount of interior space on offer made it feel like a car from the class above. The 1.5-litre turbodiesel engine under the bonnet in 106bhp guise feels grown-up too, offering effortless mid-range acceleration through a very slick six-speed manual gearbox combined with low rev smoothness.
It is a mark of buyers’ expectations that a simple tin box runaround is no longer good enough to cut the mustard in this fiercely competitive sector.
As well as quality and space, buyers also want plenty of equipment, and the Clio doesn’t disappoint here either.
In our Dynamique test car, the Clio comes with a CD player, alloys, air conditioning, electric windows, steering wheel mounted stereo controls and six airbags, the last of which helped it to score a maximum five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating.
There are also a myriad of options which bring big car features to the Clio. For instance, there are special headlamps which tilt to illuminate a corner when the indicators are used, parking sensors, tyre pressure monitors, keyless entry and ignition and satellite navigation.
It all adds up to give the Clio a mature manner and certainly makes it the most lower-medium-like of the superminis.
As does the amount of space inside. The Clio is 3cm longer, wider and taller inside than the previous generation (which continues on sale in low-spec versions for the time being), and is just 22cm shorter than its larger Megane stablemate.
There’s certainly enough room for two adults to sit comfortably in the back, and the high roofline means that six-footers can be accommodated without having to crick their necks to get in.
The only downside with the interior is the cramped driver’s footwell. Perhaps it’s because of the switch from left to right-hand drive, but you have to manoeuvre your left foot behind the clutch once you’ve used it – the well isn’t wide enough to allow your foot to rest by the side of the clutch.
But the overall amount of passenger room hasn’t been created at the expense of luggage space, as the new Clio has a deep and long boot which is on a par with its supermini rivals.
On the road the Clio is very accomplished, although this could be a downside, too. It feels refined and able on fast roads, but around town it doesn’t have the peppy turn of speed which you expect from a supermini.
Whether this is because our test car has the heavier diesel engine under the bonnet or not, but in growing up the Clio has lost some of the nippy appeal it used to have. I guess that’s the price for progress.
Renault Clio 1.5 dCi 106 Dynamique
Delivered price, standard car (P11D value): £12,497
CO2 emissions (g/km): 123
BIK % of P11D in 2005 (2006): 15% (18%)
Graduated VED rate: £115
Insurance group: 5
Combined mpg: 61.4
CAP Monitor residual value: £3,525/29%
Depreciation 14.78 pence per mile x 60,000: £8,868
Maintenance 2.04 pence per mile x 60,000: £1,224
Fuel 6.99 pence per mile x 60,000: £4,194
Wholelife cost 23.81 pence per mile x 60,000: £14,286
Typical contract hire rate: £265
Rental quote from HSBC Vehicle Finance
At a glance
We don’t like
Three rivals to consider
THE SEAT undercuts its rivals, and is the only model priced under the £11,000 mark. In high-spec Sport trim, the Ibiza, with its Volkswagen Group 1.9 TDI engine, produces 98bhp. The Ford costs £800 more in Zetec trim with the 90bhp diesel engine fitted.
The Peugeot 206, with its 110bhp engine, costs a further £700, while the new Renault Clio, with 106bhp, is the most expensive.
LESS than £200 separates first and last when it comes to service, maintenance and repair bills over three years/60,000 miles. The Clio should be the cheapest, with a projected garage bill of £1,224. The Fiesta is second with a cost of £1,320, the SEAT is third on £1,398 and the Peugeot will cost £1,422. The Renault and Ford lead the way with service intervals of 12,500 miles. The Peugeot needs attention every 12,000 miles while the SEAT has 10,000-mile intervals.
WITH a claimed combined fuel economy figure of 64.2mpg, the Ford is the most frugal supermini in this comparison and will cost a fleet around £4,000 over three years and 60,000 miles in diesel. However, all four are fairly closely matched. The Clio will cost about £200 more over the same period, thanks to average economy of 61.4mpg. The Peugeot returns 58.9mpg for a bill of £4,374 while the Ibiza is the least frugal. SEAT claims it will return 56.5mpg on the combined cycle for a fuel cost of just over £4,500.
THE SEAT Ibiza has the lowest front-end price and the highest residual value prediction, so it easily wins this section. CAP estimates the Ibiza will retain 34% of its cost new after three years/ 60,000 miles, leaving a cash lost figure of £7,122. Second place goes to the Ford. With an RV of 30% it is the best performer of the volume brands. Its cash lost figure of £8,072 is £900 less than the Clio in third, which has a low RV of 29% for a new model. The Peugeot will lose £8,917.
SEAT 11.91ppm Ford 13.49ppm Renault 14.78ppm Peugeot 14.90ppm
WITH such a clear advantage in depreciation costs, the SEAT Ibiza overcomes its poor performance in fuel terms to take the victory. Over three years and 60,000 miles it is projected to cost a fleet £13,104 to run, compared with £13,428 for the Ford Fiesta, £14,286 for the Renault Clio (which is hampered by having the highest front-end price and a relatively poor RV prediction), and £14,736 for the Peugeot 206.
Emissions and BIK tax rates
ALL four cars comfortably fall into the lowest benefit-in-kind tax band for the remainder of this year, although all the models registered after December 31 will be subject to the 3% diesel penalty and will fall into the 18% banding. For the remainder of this year the SEAT is the cheapest for company car tax, costing a 22% taxpayer £30 a month, rising to £35 from January 1. The Ford will cost £32 and then £38, while the 206 and Clio will cost £34 and then £41 with the diesel supplement.
YOU get a lot of car in the Renault Clio, although it is priced at the higher end of the supermini spectrum. Of its volume rivals it is beaten by the Ford Fiesta in both running costs and driver company car tax liability. However, the SEAT Ibiza puts up a very strong showing, with a decent drive, the cheapest wholelife costs and the lowest driver tax bills.