This flashy Clio showed some nifty needlework
Judging by the amount of correspondence I've had over the past week or so, not one of you believes the miles-per-gallon claimed by carmakers. As soon as I had reported on a new study which found an average 25pc difference between claimed and real-world returns, the emails started.
Lord, some people were so disappointed. A few had changed cars to 'benefit' from better MPG only to discover, to their substantial cost, that they were worse off on fuel consumption. Incidentally I should thank so many people for emailing me. I just couldn't get to reply to all.
Anyway, you can imagine the frame of mind I was in when I picked up this new Renault Clio 1.4-litre diesel which claims – are you sitting down? – to be able to do 88.42 miles per gallon. Repeat: 88.42 miles per gallon (3.2 litres every 100km). Outrageous. I mean I'd partially believe that if it was just cruising on an open road with the wind at its back and an eight-stone driver at the wheel.
So how did it fare?
Well let me tell you a little bit about the Clio first. Here's a car people I know have really liked in previous incarnations. It is perceived as being a handy, smart little number. Quite a loyal following out there.
Well, this is a real shift for them.
For a start they only do a five-door now, but the design is a lot sharper. Where the previous one had a solid, slightly chubby look, this is much more aggressive in styling – and I like the way they have 'indented' the flanks. Flashy little Clio now.
They've copied the idea of 'hiding' the rear-doors' handles into the angle at the back. It is lower than the old one (45mm) and looks more like a coupe. The cabin, on first appearance, is as smart as they come with the dash substantially enhanced by chrome bits here and there on the Dynamique model I had. The focal point is the touch-screen that more or less takes care of whatever function and setting you want. Great job.
Not so sure about the plastic flange on the top/inside of the doors, though. It felt and looked a bit cheap. The material on the dash is much better. They also got good seats in with plenty of wriggle room for me while the back had loads of space for two, although there are seatbelts for three.
Renault has always equipped Clios with a spritely enough little chassis.
This adds a bit by being better at bridging the gap between sharp and comfortable responses to what your wheels encounter on the road. They've got a nice bit of balance on that.
I drove a fair bit around town, running errands here, there and everywhere. There's a lot of equipment on it – I mean cruise control and speed limiter is standard. Decent boot, too.
I drove to Gorey and back. Heavy traffic into town. And still the fuel needle did not move. I thought I had discovered a fault. No, I was told when I checked. Others had found something similar. The needle hadn't shifted by the time 293km registered on the digital thingy.
At the 293km mark it was doing 20.3 kilometres on every litre. That translates into 57.34mpg. Not bad. On I went. I wasn't driving that hard but it was city low-gear work. I reset the whole shebang. And when I was finished, with the needle still hovering around the 'F' it was doing 20.7 kilometres (58.47mpg) on every litre. A long way from 88mpg, I agree, but impressive nonetheless considering the sort of driving I'd undertaken. It means you can confidently expect to get around 600 miles on one 45-litre (almost 10 gallons) tank of fuel.
The naysayers will argue that you don't need a diesel in a small car like this; that you would be a long time saving the difference between the extra outlay on the price of a diesel motor and the lower fuel running costs. This diesel costs from a whopping €17,990 with the Dynamique spec at €19,290. Gulp!! I mean you are into family car price territory there.
Indeed someone has done a study on how long it would take to make up the difference and it stretches to 14 years. Some suggest it could take longer. And yet there is an inherent satisfaction in knowing you are getting the last metre from every drop of fuel, isn't there?
Still, I think the 1.2-litre (75bhp) petrol that starts at €14,990 is more realistic. Just like MY miles-per-gallon figures from the real world.
* Renault Clio five-door supermini, 1.4-litre dCi (1,461cc, 90bhp), 83g/100km, €180 road tax.
* Standard equipment includes cruise control and speed limiter, electric front windows/door mirrors, Stop/Start, 60/40 split-folding rear seat, daytime running lights, driver/passenger/front side airbags, ESC (helps avert skidding), Hill Start Assist, 4x20W radio with Bluetooth and USB connection, Bass Reflex system.
Dynamique spec adds manual air conditioning, 16-inch alloys, seven-inch touchscreen/MediaNav system and chrome inserts/surrounds.
* Prices from €14,990 for 1.2-litre petrol. Diesel: €17,990, Dynamique trim: €19,290. Remember: delivery and related charges are extra.