Tested: Renault Clio V - More shine and punch!
Renault and Clio, two words that did not warrant much attention to many walking the streets of South Africa, at least until 2013. What happened in 2013, you may ask? Well, that is when Renault South Africa introduced the glossy Renault Clio IV to us and that was a turnaround for the Clio in the country.
To make you understand this, let's put down the numbers: The Clio was introduced to South Africa in 2000 and is reported to have sold over 76 000 units since its introduction. The Clio IV was responsible for almost half of those sales after its introduction in 2013, so it is safe to say Renault South Africa can tip the hat and thank the Clio IV for its service.
It is because of that car that we find ourselves interested in what Renault has to offer with the new Clio V, which has started hitting the dealership floors mid-February 2022.
The Clio comes in 3 variants: starting with base spec Life, then mid-spec Zen and finally top-spec Intens which can be provided with an option pack and almost get to be the fourth variant. The vehicle we tested was the Intens variant (with option pack), meaning it has all the bells and whistles currently offered by Clio in South Africa.
What you get over and above the standard Intens (exterior-wise) is the bigger 17" diamond cut alloy wheels (Compared to the 16" alloy wheels on the standard Intens). Best believe this one feature changes the complexion of the car so much that I do not see many not ticking the box to add the option pack.
Overall, it still looks like the Clio IV in shape, you may even think it's a facelift. It is more of an evolution than a revolution in design terms, which is a good thing because Clio IV facelift can still take on the fashion runway even by today's standards. This is the main reason we think Renault South Africa can be forgiven for bringing the car 3 years after its introduction, it is still dressed to kill even in 2022.
What Renault did was to keep the formula and make subtle but also noticeable changes. The easy to pick changes from the Clio IV are the front headlamps cluster design, which now has day running lights in C-shape pilling off from the main cluster, then also the rear lights have changed in design. It is not easy to pick other changes like the grille now is opened a bit and incorporates some diamond effects, the height being reduced (8mm shorter), reduced length (12mm shorter) and now the car is 66mm wider.
Get inside and you will realise how much work has been done, I can say it's a revolution. I had many reservations when it comes to the Clio IV interior, especially the curvy buttons on the steering wheel followed by the placement of the cruise control and speed limiter activation buttons down by the gear lever. The Clio V steering wheel is now very much alive and well designed. It is wrapped with synthetic leather, well stitched with metallic bits, and now features more controls on both sides. The instrument cluster has also been improved from the "old digital watch" numbering to a more open, and clear 7" TFT screen.
Moving to the centre console you get a 9,3" tablet-style screen supported by minimal use of buttons down below. Only one button is used as a shortcut to the screen, otherwise, every other function is controlled via the touch screen. In the spirit of "practicality", the automated air conditioner controls have big enough knobs for ease of use even when driving.
As usual, the lower you go in specifications within the range of Clio(s) the smaller the screen sizes and automated functions. Like, without the Option Pack on the Intens variant you get a 7" touch screen instead, further down the pecking order to Zen you get traditional analog dials with a small 4.2" digital screen on the instrument cluster, then you keep losing nice-to-haves as you go down. When you get to the Life variant and realise you only have automated electric windows in the front and have to do some manual labour at the back.
When you start putting your hands all over the cabin, you realise that there was a great use of soft-touch materials, this has continued from the predecessor and always gave the Clio an edge in that "premium" feel even in lower specced variants. It is just on top of the door panels that they continued with hard plastics, which then joins most of the rivals in the class. Turning to the seats, we must commend Renault for the design, they are so well-designed, especially the slim headrests, desirable choice of materials on top-spec as well, covered by black leather on the outer side with some white trim then grey(ish) cloth on the seating areas. The lower specced variants just get standard black cloth, still, maintaining the design though.
When it comes to practicality, the Clio has always been class-leading, and this has not been compromised at all. It has a bigger 20% more boot space compared to the predecessor, at 391L, it is even bigger than some small SUVs (the likes of Haval Jolion, Nissan Magnite, Kia Sonet, and Chery Tiggo 4pro to name a few). Loved the ISOFIX points in front, maintaining the two cup holders in front, and adding a new feature, which is a deep (but narrow) armrest bin. Going to the back, there is sufficient leg and headroom for adults of around 1.7m in height, feels a little tighter than the predecessor though.
Tech and Features
When it comes to nice-to-have features, it has some up its sleeves. Here are some notable mentions from the top-spec Intens with Option Pack; Full LEDs headlamps and rear Lights for all variants (with high beam assist), Proximity sensing key with hands-free lock/unlock, wireless charging, ambient lighting, rain-sensing wipers, android auto and car play, standard navigation (also comes standard in lower specs), cruise control with speed limiter, front and rear parking sensors with reverse camera and an impressive touch, especially in this segment with LED interior lighting.
How does it drive though?
We have to say, we've always enjoyed the driver's seat adjustability in the CLIO IV, as the seat can easily be moved up and down and you can go way too low for that restful drive and this is continuing in the CLIO V.
When it comes to moving the vehicle, we experienced some love-hate relationship with it, it is easy to reach the screen, has great graphics, and is quite responsive even when driving. However, it also reminded us of things we were not particularly fond of when it comes to the Clio. The shifter is quite rough and sticky, you sometimes find yourself having to do some serious hard pulls to get into gear. A smooth-shifting manual is a necessity, especially to bring the fun element on days when one wants to drive spiritedly.
It was not all doom and gloom though, nearly screamed "Hallelujah" when we realised that they got rid of the 1.2L Naturally aspirated 55Kw and 0.9L Turbo 66Kw engines in favour of the 1.0L Turbo 74kw/160nm turbo engine across all variants. We used to complain a lot about the former engines especially on overtakes and uphill, it was a real battle, now this engine is a bit punchier and brings some confidence in overtakes, yes, it won't go up the hill like a +100kw engine but it is a serious improvement from the predecessor.
Clio has always been a little sensible than sporty when it comes to taking sharp curves and fast cornering (talking normal cars, not RS). It has not been as agile as the Ford Fiesta (Which is one of the best in that department) and the VW Polo which is a forever loved "Let's play" car. However, it has really improved, especially with the steering wheel mode settings which really do work to stiffen and soften the steering wheel and how responsive the wheels are in pointing towards the direction where you are asking from them. It can now add some bit of fun to those short town drives. Overall, though, driving dynamics improved, especially in town driving where it sometimes felt like it was running short of competition.
Where we never had an issue with a Clio, even compared to the competition, is how it's handling the road on long journeys, it is a cosier, gives you that "comfortable room" feeling on the highway with what we would regard as "above average" insulation for this class in relation to wind and road noise. Despite this car sitting on low profile tyres, we still found it to be winning as one of the best cruisers in this class. It feels well attached to the ground and you really don't get than "tin" like noise or feeling in this car at all, thanks to the choice of materials used in the interior.
It's got an impressive 5-star Euro N-Cap rating, 6 airbags (Including for head and side) and some advanced driving features such as lane departure warning, stability control system with ABS, emergency brake assist (EBA) and hill start assist (HSA). I think in this aspect, Renault got us covered.
Competition, pricing, and after-sales
The new Clio range is priced from Renault around R310 000 to up to R365 000, all variants coming with a 1.0T 74Kw/160nm and you are looking at a 2-year/30 000km service plan and a 5 year/150 000km warranty as standard. Its talking points over the competition are the pricing in relation to features, the warranty on offer and being the most practical with 391L boot space.
The challenges will come with the 2-year service plan as competition mostly offers 3 or more years with 45 000km or more (We are talking the likes of VW Polo Face Lift, Hyundai i20. Mazda 2, Kia Rio, to name a few). In addition, one of the biggest let-downs is the fact that it is currently only offered in manual in a world where many people would rather not do the demanding work of changing gears. This might also be worrisome to sales personnel on the dealership floors; we can only hope Renault South Africa will bring CVT or automatic versions.
Here is the actual pricing for all variants:
Renault Clio V Life: R309 900
Renault Clio V Zen: R324 900
Renault Clio V Intens: R349 900
Renault Clio V Intens (With Option Pack): R364 900
Overall, the great looks, improved engine, Renault's recent reputation with low fuel consumption, and the improved technology will get one to really think hard before passing this one. It really has a seat at the table in its class.