First Drive: Renault Clio 4 | SACarFan

19 Mar 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on First Drive: Renault Clio 4 | SACarFan

First Drive: Renault Clio 4

If you’re in the market for a B-segment hatch, and let’s face it who isn’t. Ray Leathern commands you to drop what you’re doing and order a Clio 4 right now. Hell, even if you can’t drive, have never seen the outside of your house, you should still go out and buy one.

That’s how good the new Clio is.

You don’t believe me, do you? You think Renault made me an awesome cake on my birthday one year and now I’m in their pocket. Well, strictly speaking they did make me a cake one time, but hey, no, just no.

I’ve been struggling to love the French brand for many years now (the RenaultSport products don’t figure into this rationale, mind you). I’m sorry, but the humdrum Mégane just looks blander than bland; the Koleos and Fluence were just imported, rebranded, bits of flotsam from Korea; the Logan was like the apocalypse to motoring; the Sandero was only slightly better and only slightly better than taking the bus; and the Scenic, well, no, I can’t bring myself to express how ugly I think it is.

Then this new Renault Clio 4 arrives and ‘jumping Jehovah’, ‘swing low sweet chariot’ and ‘holy smokes Batman’. I can’t think of a car in recent years that has left me so dumbstruck by its utter magnificence. I was left racking my brain for a French metaphor to help illustrate my point and I came up with a cooking one that I think fits the bill. Here it goes:

I don’t know how to create amazing French cuisine, but I’m very good at eating it, or at least critiquing it. It is the same with cars. My idea of a perfectly adequate car is a 1999 Nissan Sabre with everything stripped out so it’s nothing but a bare shell with a cheap seat bolted into it.

I couldn’t even begin to comprehend what it takes to summon a workforce to build tens of thousands of comfortable, affordable, good looking, safe, sexy, hi-tech cars for the masses. I can critique them, however, just like I can eat a meal. I’ve asked all the experts and they say the most authentic French dish is a soufflé.

Now, apparently you can get a sweet and a savoury soufflé, so for this metaphor we will use a classic cheese soufflé or, Soufflé au Fromage if you speak frog.

To start with the perfect recipe for a soufflé, you need the right amount of soft butter. This is the styling of the new Renault Clio 4. In a high spec model with metallic paint and 16-inch or 17-inch wheels it is utterly gorgeous for a B-segment hatch. Seriously, it’s better looking in the metal than the pictures you see before you. The Clio 4 is actually quite a large vehicle, but the clever, flat, bonnet lines hide that fact well.

There are hints of Kia Rio all over it, but its better executed with its LED adorned, seductive, front end and the LEDs are standard across the whole range; bonus. Those hidden rear door handles really do make it look like a two-door too.

Next up you need grated cheese. This is the Clio’s interior. Young, European-minded buyer’s demand loads of stuff in their cars and the Clio 4 has it all. The interior dash, dials and layout are actually very plain and uncluttered, but all the interfacing happens on the centrally mounted and massive tablet-looking thing.

I love its style, with its slightly out-of-whack lean on the edges and the air vents punching through the middle. The technology it houses is simply cutting-edge for a B-segment car too.

No cheese soufflé will be worth a damn if you don’t get the perfect amount of flour into the recipe. This is the Clio 4’s glutinous array of standard specification. From the mid-range Clio 4 up, you get a touch screen with satellite navigation (an LG system with maps supplied by Nav Tech and Map Go), cruise control, USB/Aux-In/Bluetooth audio connectivity and a keyless key-card.

You also get a fruity sound system called ‘Bass Reflex’ that can emulate the effect of a sub-woofer.

No safety conscious Renault is going to underperform in crash testing, just like no soufflé will be worth its salt without just the right amount of, well, salt. The Clio 4 was awarded a full 5-star rating and ‘Best-In-Class City Car’ for 2012 by EuroNCAP and you may think the organisation just hands prizes out to anyone who makes a car these days, but you’d be wrong. The Clio 4 has ABS, EBD and ESP as standard, while four airbags are also standard fit across the whole range.

Hill-start assist gets you off an incline cleanly and high-tensile steel, with crumple zones, will keep even the drunkest pedestrian safe in the event of an accident.

Now we get to the steaming hot milk of the soufflé, or the propulsion under the bonnet. It’s an engine that’s part of Renault’s new ‘Energy’ range and it is a 900 cc, turbocharged, 3-cylinder engine. There is also a 1.2-litre normally aspirated engine on offer, but as is the way with hi-tech downsizing, it can’t actually hold a candle to the new 0.9-litre TCe engine. The headline figures are.

66 kW and 135 Nm of torque; 105 g/km CO2; and 4.5 L/100km fuel consumption. 0 – 100 km/h happens in 12 seconds, before the Clio tops out at 180 km/h. It may sound a bit feeble, and I thought as much as I sat through the presentation on the new engine, however, to drive, it really is anything but.

Those car bores among you will say Ford make a 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine and that makes 92 kW, so clearly, Renault are crap at making such an engine, but you’d be wrong, because much of the technology is similar in the way the turbo is integrated into the exhaust manifold. The CO2 figures of the Ford EcoBoost are simply astounding, granted, but they’ve actually made it too powerful, in my opinion.

Because the Ford Fiesta is so zesty to drive you end up flooring it everywhere and the economy goes out the window. Genuinely, the Renault TCe’s 66 kW is more usable and just that little bit more sensible in its everyday application. You could possibly think of it as a ‘Poormans EcoBoost’, but then again you’re paying poormans prices with the Renault Clio 4 TCe as well.

More on that later.

Like the bland but necessary egg whites of a champion soufflé, Renault says the new TCe engine is jam packed with technology that will make it easier to service, longer lasting and will reduce maintenance costs. The 900 cc engine has an aluminium block, a lifetime fitment timing chain, a variable oil pump for longer life and graphite pistons. In addition, because the whole thing has been optimised with #8216;F1 technology#8217; says Renault, the engine operates with low friction and high air swirl in the turbo, (which spins up to 250 000 r/min), it will be as reliable as the snooze button on your bedside alarm.

What’s left in our soufflé recipe? Not much else except the egg yolks, arguably the most important part of the entire exercise. In the Clio 4 it’s the drive quality and without this, your entire recipe will fall flat.

I’m happy to report the all-new Renault Clio suffers no such ignominy. It isn’t fast off the line, but it is sprightly and responsive, thanks to the cutting-edge engine and, while the steering is pretty light, you can still glide the car from bend to bend in a highly enjoyable manner. The best part about the Clio’s drive is the refinement and quietness.

It’s scarcely believable for a Renault, but the improvements in NVH and ride quality are off the charts for the French manufacturer.

So there you have it, all the ingredients in attendance for the perfect Renault Clio 4 and a ‘ Soufflé au Fromage’ . They’re only as good as the chef that puts it all together, however, and in that regard, Renault has added that little, special, ingredient that comes in the form of brilliant pricing.

The top of the range Clio 4 TCe Dynamique is R179 900, the Clio 4 TCe Expression is R169 900 and the 1.2-litre Authentique is R149 900. I was adamant the fully-loaded models would be over R200 000, but even if they were, Renault could probably still justify the price at such a level.

The only options are metallic paint at an extra R2 500, PDC (park distance control) for R2 000 and full climate control for R5 000. When pressed on the matter of how they can offer this almost obscene value-for-money proposition, Renault’s new MD simply said he’d rather make profit by selling lots of Clios rather than pricing them too high. We say “hear, hear” to that sentiment. Volkswagen, Kia and Ford#8230; be afraid, be very, very afraid.

The Renault Clio 4 is an absolute game changer.

Pricing (incl. VAT and C02 Tax)

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