The French firm is resigned to giving up around 10% of its share of registrations in the supermini segment as a result of reduced profit margins, Fleet NewsNet can reveal.
Renault’s small car brand manager, Jeremy Townsend, said: ‘We’re launching a product that will overtake its rivals in safety, packaging and performance. But market forces make it impossible for us to raise our price differentials by more than £200 over the current model, so the sensible course is to reduce volumes in some areas.’
In an interview as the third-generation Clio was making its international media debut, he said Renault had accepted that the company’s current supermini market penetration of 35% would fall to ‘nearer 25%’ following the car’s British launch.
Townsend added: ‘This is a more expensive model to manufacture. It has a better structure than Clio II and has been engineered to offer better performance, safety, more equipment, better technology and greater refinement.
‘However, competition means we are simply not able to pass on all our additional costs to the customer. As a result, our margins have been pared back and we’ve had to take a close look at all our marketing activities.
‘Like our rivals, we have been competing for business with the NHS, public sector, Motability, driving schools, courtesy car and daily rental fleets. While it was difficult to keep in the courtesy car area with Clio II, this sector is now a no-go zone for the new car.
‘And while we have no intention of walking away from all our daily rental obligations, our activities in this area will be scaled back. We’re going to be a lot more careful with numbers.’
First launched in 1990, the Clio has featured in Britain’s list of top 10 best-sellers for more than a decade and registrations topped the 83,000 mark in 2003.
Next year, around 50,000 examples of the new range are expected to be sold, along with 13,000 examples of the current car, which is likely to continue to be offered in high-value form for another two years to help Renault fight increased competition from newcomers such as the Citroen C1, Peugeot 107, Toyota Aygo and the revamped Suzuki Swift.
Longer, wider and taller than its predecessor, the new car looks noticeably bigger. Remarkably, it is only 22cm shorter than the hatchback version of the Megane, its lower-medium stablemate.
The dimensions allow Renault to boast class-leading interior packaging and there’s no doubt the Clio has much of the feel of a larger car.
Compared with Clio II, visibility for occupants is increased by 10% and significantly, the car has levels of comfort that approach lower-medium sector standards, though it is a pity that plumbing problems prevent right-hand drive versions from having a refrigerated glove box – a curious omission in a range which boasts upmarket touches such as keyless entry and tyre pressure monitoring.
Thanks to short overhangs and a wheelbase extended by 10cm, the new bodywork provides sufficient space for comfortable travel in the rear, with enough kneeroom for adults even if the driver and front passenger are six-footers.
It also boasts greater practicality and has a boot that extends from 288 litres to 1,038 litres when the rear seat backrests are folded.
All models have a minimum of six airbags, anti-lock braking with electronic brake distribution, brake assist and automatic door locking. An engine immobiliser is also fitted across the range, so the Clio scores highly on security as well as safety. With variable power steering, electric windows, remote control radio and CD fitted as standard, the car is well equipped.
Petrol engines of 1.2, 1.4 and 1.6 litres feature improvements to boost economy and a third version of the 1.5-litre dCi turbodiesel is now teamed with a six-speed gearbox to make 106bhp available with more than 61mpg economy in average driving.
Behind the wheel
THREE centimetres doesn’t sound like much, but adds up to a lot in the latest Renault supermini. The Clio is 3cm bigger all round inside – enough to make you think you’re driving a car from the class above.
The cream on top is the fact that the Clio manages to behave like a bigger model too, which is quite a feat for a design that’s still less than four metres long. Better as well as bigger, this little-but-large car looks chic from every angle and shows how much economy motoring has improved in the last few years.
That’s particularly apparent inside, where the dashboard is slush-moulded for a soft, high-quality feel. The detailing is impressively neat and all the switchgear falls easily to hand.
All versions perform well, considering the average 133kg weight penalty imposed by extra metal and increased sound deadening. Handling and ride characteristics give the car excellent long-distance credentials, and the most powerful turbodiesel is a delight.
Good as it is, though, this version carries more than the standard £900 diesel premium because it is packaged to include a six-speed transmission. At £700 less than the dCi 106, the dCi 86 is the better option, providing plenty of power along with the best economy potential.
RENAULT’S cheeky baby model has just graduated from finishing school. Well groomed and perfectly mannered, it is a credit to its designers and an object lesson in demonstrating just how mature small car motoring has become.
|Engine:||1.1||1.4||1.6 VVT||1.5 dCi 68||1.5 dCi 86||1.5 dCi 106|
|Max power (bhp/rpm):||75/5,500||98/5,700||111/6,000||68/4,000||86/3,750||106/4,000|
|Max torque (lb-ft/rpm):||77/4,250||93/4,250||111/4,250||118/1,700||147/1,900||177/2,000|
|Max speed (mph):||104||114||118||97||108||118|
|Fuel consumption (mpg):||47.9||42.8||42.8||61.4||64.2||61.4|
|CO2 emissions (g/km):||139||158||157||123||117||123|
|On sale:||October 15.|
|Prices (OTR):||£8,895 – £12,650|