Renault Clio gets a facelift and it is surprising what a few touches can do
First Drive: Renault Clio
THIS was more an interior decoration than a facelift in the true sense of the word.
Yes, the revised Renault Clio gets full-LED headlights and lighting signature with the C-shaped daytime running lights to change its looks a bit. There is that sharpened sense about the front, rear and sides.
But this was mostly about re-decorating the sitting room - the cabin - which current occupants have criticised for being a bit dowdy, dull and old-fashioned.
And it is surprising what a few touches can do; better materials and more equipment bring it well up to date with more modern rivals. It needed that.
While they were at it they came up with some new colours for the outside and the Mars Red caught my fancy big time.
The Clio tends to have a loyal following and even in the bad years people still bought it in reasonable numbers.
This so-called supermini segment accounts for 15pc of all cars sold so the numbers are big with the Clio only trailing the excellent Ford Fiesta, Toyota Yaris and Volkswagen Polo in Irish sales.
It has always been a smart little driver - in many ways that has been its outstanding attraction. My drive in this proved things haven't changed much.
If I were to pick one version it would have to be the new 110bhp 1.5dCi diesel (3.5 l/100km, 90 g/km).
I drove it around the Bordeaux countryside the other day. It was a dote on narrow, twisty country roads that reminded us so much of Ireland.
The only thing against that model is price. It is beyond the reach of many buyers.
Which is why the 1.2-litre 75bhp petrol version is the one the majority of people buy. There is also the excellent 3cyl TCe 90 petrol.
For all that, diesels are racking up reasonable sales (the 1.5 dCi 90 ECO version manages 3.2 l/100km and 82g/km). I'm told they are going to put on a bit of a push on to increase diesel sales. That should be interesting.
As you'd expect, they are reporting improved fuel economy and lower emissions with all powertrains.
The revised car gets here in September so it is really a 171-reg for anyone thinking of buying next year.
And there might be a 1.2-litre 110bhp TCe petrol - which we also drove. If they decide to bring it in it will be for next April. It was okay; but the diesel still beat it hands down.
The current Clio starts at €15,390. I'm told to expect a price increase of €200/€300 for the new one. Renault do stress, however, that there is at least €700 worth of spec now on board.
As I said, the big changes are in the cabin. We had versions with two-tone upholstery that made it look particularly smart. However, it was still that bit tight at the back - too much to hope for such structural change with a facelift.
Standard spec (Expression - 18pc of sales) now includes electric windows and door mirrors, Bluetooth radio with USB port and jack socket, front/side/curtain airbags, Bass Reflex speaker system, Hill Start Assist, keyless entry.
The R&GO system essentially turns your smartphone into a navigation and infotainment system.
The Dynamique Nav grade is the big seller (83pc) and has the new 7ins touchscreen MediaNav infotainment system with integrated navigation. You can also go for a BOSE sound system.
There are a lot of options - from panoramic glass sunroof, rear parking camera to hands-free parking. And I won't even begin to list the range 'personalisations'.
They have also updated their high-performance models - the Clio Renault Sport 200 EDC hot hatch and the Clio Renault Sport 220 Trophy for the 'enthusiast'. I gave this a gallop on the track.
Yes, it was fine but I wasn't shaking with excitement after driving it.
Maybe I'm spoilt. Funny, though, how the memorable drive for me from the sojourn in the Bordeaux region was the brisk and smart diesel.