Car Reviews

2020 Renault Clio review

2020 RENAULT CLIO IN A NUTSHELL: Small Renault still looks real sweet on the outside. Now has a lovely cabin too: well-trimmed and spacious. Road manners are good, not brilliant.

What is the 2020 Renault Clio?

The Clio is one of the definitive European light cars. Which means it’s not just meant to be for biffing around cities. It’ll do cross-continental trips too, and can be had with sophisticated luxury and active-safety kit.

Of course, every Renault Clio generation has produced a wonderfully rabid sports variant. This one will too, but not yet.

Now entering its fifth generation and close-on 30 years old, the Clio has been a vastly important machine. It’s the best-selling French car ever, with more than 15 million finding homes. Two of those four previous generations have won the coveted European Car of the Year trophy.

Versus the outgoing Clio, it’s mostly on the interior and the connectivity where the changes have occurred, and they’re big. We’ll be covering them in the sections below.

For now we have two main petrol engines in Europe, which we’ve tested. One is the 74kW three-cylinder, which is attached to a five-speed manual. That’s an uprated version of the engine available in the outgoing Clio. The other powertrain is a four-cylinder, making 96kW, with a seven-speed DCT. That’s a new super-torquey 1.3 with a particulate filter for very clean running.

The suspension is new but straightforward: struts at the front and a torsion-beam rear.

The body is stuffer and better in a crash than the old one, and manages to be slightly shorter while still roomier.

Interior

What’s the 2020 Renault Clio like inside?

You’re immediately struck by both the audacity of the design and the quality of the materials. In the past, it was the VW Polo and Audi A1 that set the standard for making small-car interiors feel expensive. But their new generations use cheap hard plastics and try to disguise it with glossy infotainment screens.

The Clio has soft-touch textured materials in most significant areas. Expensive-feeling switchgear adds to the effect. The climate controls are easily reached wheels and buttons, not screen-based simulations. A vent strip runs right across the dash, so the fresh air aims at your face, not your belly button.

The steering wheel carries cruise control switches on one spoke. On the other is a set of buttons to control the digital portion of the instrument readouts. The stereo controls (volume, track select, source, etc) are on a stalk, as has been Renault practice for decades.

The seats support well, and there’s enough adjustment in them, and in the steering column. So everyone’s going to be able to get comfortable.

Yet those chairs have also had some of the bulk taken out of them, to leave more rear room. It’s up with the best among small cars. But you won’t find vents or USBs back there. The mid-spec model even has wind-up rear windows.

The boot, at 391 litres, is about the biggest in the class, though the bumper sill is quite high.

What’s the 2020 Renault Clio infotainment like?

Even in the second-from-bottom spec, Iconic, you get a full-time connection – In Renault parlance, EasyLink. It includes navigation and other apps giving online destination searches for food or services, and local fuel prices. It also includes phone mirroring – Apple CarPlay is especially well integrated, allowing you to show car functions and at the same time the music track that’s playing.

This is on a landscape-format central touchscreen. Move up another trim (it’s called S Edition in Europe) and the screen turns into a bigger portrait-format job. This one adds a useful info screen between the instrument dials.

The standard 4x20w stereo is a bit undistinguished. As a reasonably-priced option, a Bose stereo shakes the trees. Another option is a virtual instrument pack, but it’s not that big and not that configurable.

DRIVING

What’s the 2020 Renault Clio engine like?

The little three-cylinder is a refined thing, able to scoot around the city or cruise at highway speed with no trouble. But ask for more and you arrive at the limitations of its modest power output. Also, the five-speed’s gearshift is a bit long and imprecise.

But fuel economy with this powertrain is impressive, both in the brochure and in my on-road experience.

The bigger 1.3-litre engine is able to punt you along at a decent lick without trouble, and for a ‘city’ car does a good job of open-road overtaking even up hills.

The DCT transmission chooses its ratios smartly. Which is just as well as the paddles on the steering column don’t really over-ride properly – you can’t stop it defaulting back to auto after a few seconds.

What’s the 2020 Renault Clio like to drive?

The steering is pretty quick-witted even for a light car, so the impression is of a keen and darty little thing in urban situations. The only trouble is the weighting – especially on the smaller-engined one – doesn’t build up realistically or progressively enough. So it’s hard to be smooth on bendy rural roads until you’ve had some practice.

The bigger-engined one, maybe because you can put more power through the tyres, or maybe because it has more weight on the nose, felt more natural to me.

When you do get to the cornering limits it’s quite fun – you can trim its attitude with the throttle, but it isn’t wayward or intimidating. And the brakes are firm and reassuring.

As part of its mission to feel sharp-reacting, the ride has been tuned quite firmly. That’s OK for highways, but in bumpy city streets or far-out rural roads, you’re thrown around a fair bit. Go for a VW Polo if you like a more placid ride.

How safe is the 2020 Renault Clio?

Renault was one of the very first manufacturers to grasp that strong safety-test results aren’t just the right thing to do, they’re good for business because stars sell cars. So this Clio is the 22nd Renault (not all of them have come to Oz) that has scored five stars in the Euro NCAP test, which ANCAP is aligned to.

Active safety systems are also a part of NCAP these days and the Clio gets the big ones as standard. That’s an autonomous emergency braking system (AEB) including pedestrian and cyclist recognition. Also, lane departure warning (LDW) and lane keep assist (LKA) to nudge you away from the lines, and traffic sign recognition (TSR). Cruise control includes a limiter function.

Visibility is enhanced by full LED headlamps across the range, and further up you get a reversing camera or even full 360-degree cameras.

On the top model, the driver-assist includes active lane centering and radar cruise, allowing assisted driving at all road and motorway speeds down to stop-start traffic jams.

2020 Renault Clio pricing and spec

Price N/A Warranty 5 years/ unlimited km Engine 1.0L petrol turbo, 1.3L petrol turbo Power 74kW at 5000rpm 96kW at 5000rpm Torque 160Nm at 2750rpm, 240Nm at 1600rpm Transmission 5-speed manual 7-speed DCT auto Drive front-wheel drive Body 4050mm (l); 1798mm (w exc mirrors); 1988mm (w inc mirrors); 1440mm (h) Turning circle 10.5m Towing weight 900kg (braked), 580kg, 615kg (unbraked) Kerb weight 1178kg, 1248kg Seats 5 Fuel tank 42 litres Spare No Thirst 4.4l.100km combined cycle, 5.2l/100km combined cycle

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Editor's Rating

How do we rate the interior and practicality?
How do we rate the value?
How do we rate the controls and infotainment?
How do we rate the performance?
How do we rate the ride and handling?
How do we rate the safety?
Though it doesn't look new, the Clio actually carries across very few parts indeed from the old one. It's just that they didn't radically alter the exterior because people liked the style and the Clio was Europe's biggest-selling light car. But get inside and there's a transformation, with top-of-the-class materials, good infotainment systems and fine seats. There's decent room too, including a class-leading boot. The powertrains are economical and smooth, but the suspension is set up fairly firm for city driving. It's happy on the highway though.

Paul Horrell

Paul Horrell

Paul's working life has been paced out in cars. He began road-testing when the VW Golf was in its second generation. It's now in its eighth. He covers much more than the tyre-smoking part of the road-test landscape. He roots around in the financial machinations of the car corporations and the apparent voodoo of the technologies. Then he clarifies those complications so his general readers – too busy to lodge their heads up the industry's nether regions – get the fast track on what matters and what doesn't. A freelance writer living in London, he usually gets around the city by bicycle, which adds to his (sometimes justified) reputation as a bit green and a bit of a lefty. He's a member of Europe's Car of the Year jury.