The latest offering will be a great improvement, with echoes of the firm's richer days, writes Campbell Spray
AT last the warranty deals pioneered by the Korean brands are having an impact on the major European marques. Peugeot, which is being bailed out by the French Government, announced on Friday that it will offer a five-year warranty here as standard across its passenger-car model range for 2013.
Meanwhile, its French competitor Renault launched the fourth-generation Clio with enthusiasm in a cavernous but fairly empty hall at the National Convention Centre in Dublin last Thursday. Some of my colleagues would prefer a journalist-only launch event, but it's Renault's money so they can do what they like and invite whom they wish, as long as the facts are given and a decent chance to evaluate the car is offered.
Renault needs the new Clio, which was first launched in 1990, as the company traditionally had a great following for small and cheerful offerings at good prices. The Clio worldwide sold 12 million.
The company has done very well here over the past few years but much of that was on the back of enormous cash-back and scrappage offerings, which aren't sustainable in the long run.
Frankly, some of the cars weren't very special but the deals ensured that they were viewed through tinted glasses. The new range coming over the next year should be a great improvement.
Renault's electric vehicle roll-out hasn't been the great success that the company promised but the blame isn't confined to the French company and should be shared with the infrastructure and the overall technology, which still feeds into range anxiety.
Hybrid cars are a safer bet at the moment.
Much of the push for the new Clio will come from the very deep pockets of Renault's finance arm. In its well-specced Expression set-up the car will be sold for €14,990 or €149 a month over three years as part of a personal contract plan.
When it was seen at the Paris motor show, the new Mark IV Clio was called "a pretty spiffy design" by my colleague Andrew English in the Daily Telegraph.
With coachwork that echoes various Renault concepts from the company's richer days, including the 2010 DeZir concept car, the new Clio arrives with a new 90bhp, three-cylinder, 0.9-litre turbo petrol engine and the latest version of the company's 1.5-litre dCi turbo diesel, which delivers 88.3mpg and 83g/km -- something of a record.
The car will come with Renault's R-Link seven-inch, touch-screen technology, which can be used to download applications that include different engine sounds -- presumably, said Andrew at the time of the Paris Show, "to muffle the stodgy grunt of the new three-pot".
Breaking with tradition, the new Clio will be available solely in five-door guise, but with a coupe-like silhouette incorporating hidden rear door handles and a sportier profile.