Clio makes perfect cents for the city

What is it?

WE know girls go to yoga to look at other girls.

However, if they have arrived in a car associated with stress-free lifestyle and Lorna Jane outfits, they will be many points ahead of the try-hards who have cycled to the venue, or come in something Korean or Japanese.

Top marks will definitely go to folk who pitch up in Renault’s new Clio, a city car brimming with chiqueness (it’s French, you know) and competition-whacking things such as chromed mirrors, hidden rear door handles and more classy  features than you’d find in cars twice its price.

Chaps would love them too, because apart from having Margot Robbie looks, the Clio has Xena-style capabilities, including a boot able to accommodate the most daunting of wares from Bunnings and Ikea.

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What’s it cost?

The Clios come in six variants: a 1.0-litre, a trio of three with 1.2-litre power and a pair of fierce 1.6s — but today we’re in one called the Zen.

It’s one up from the base Life, but below the Intens and GT-Line, and at $19,990 plus on-roads, it has to be one of the most comprehensively equipped cars per dollar on the planet.

Its 1.2-litre four-cylinder engine produces 88kW and 190Nm, uses premium petrol, as befits a car of its breeding (it can trace its ancestry back to 1898) and it front-drives its 16-inch alloys via a fast and smooth six-speed dual clutch automatic gearbox.

Great. But with all that comes cruise control, reversing camera, parking sensors front and back, automatic door locking, eco drive mode, automatic stop-start, auto-on wipers and headlights, foglights front and rear, satnav with voice control and, autonomous emergency braking — apart from all the electric driver aids du jour — and a superb pair of ‘pure vision’ LED headlights.

Plus an audio system with DAB/AM/FM 4x20W radio with twin dashboard tweeters, MP3, Aux, USB and fingertip controls, Bluetooth and a 7-inch touchscreen.

It’s not Apple Play or Android compatible, but it is all there and easy to navigate.

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What’s it go like?

The dash is a swathe of up-to-date and attractive dark and carbon plastic weave with the rev counter placed left and the fuel level right, and a digital speedo set in the middle.

The front seats have abundant space for taller people, easily coping with my 190cm frame. Also, the driver’s seat is height adjustable and the steering for rake and reach — so it’s an easy fit for almost anyone.

Legroom is fine in the back and seating comfortable with the extendible headrests proving wonderfully practical in ergonomics.

The small glovebox is offset with side pocket and door-mounted space for all life’s tag-alongs.

However, the central cup holders are very shallow and could fell your latte at any speed. I’d suggest some side mounted foam inserts or yesterday’s bubblegum under the cup.

The 300-litre boot will swallow all the yoga mats you and your friends can muster and, with the 60/40 split fold seats knocked flat, it expands to 1146 litres — a big, deep space indeed.

Can it perform on the road?

On paper the motor’s stats look average, but behind the wheel the 1.2 turbo’s 88kW and 190Nm gives healthy verve coupled to the six-speed auto gearbox.

The torque helps the drive enormously as does the car’s light weight, amounting to a French maid’s outfit at 1017kg.

The combination can push the car from Zen-100km/h in under 10 seconds.

It helps cornering and handling too, making the Clio feel quite nimble for a city commuter. The car stops well, but why it has drum brakes on the back wheels is a mystery.

Fuel consumption claimed by Renault is 5.6L/100km though we got 5.8 on a country run and 6.7 on the town cycle. Pretty spiffy.

Cabin noise is very well damped. I’d say best in class.

Forward and side visibility is good and those C-shaped headlights are excellent, with good throw and spread, the latter boosted by a foglight that comes on as you turn to light up a great slice of the surrounding real estate.

The large C pillar section hampers rearward visibility, but those large mirrors help.

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What we like?

  • Good looks
  • Interior space
  • Comprehensive list of features
  • Good warranty for non French believers
  • Great headlights
  • Good strong chassis
  • 5 star safety


What we don’t?

  • Small cup holders
  • Big C pillars
  • Rear drum brakes

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The bottom line?

The Clio Zen is a perfect town car. It looks stunning, goes, stops and handles a commute with a minimum of fuss, complete compliance, little fuel use and plenty of space and comfort. And it comes with a five-year unlimited distance warranty.

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Renault Clio Zen, priced from $19,990
  • Looks - 7.0/10
  • Performance - 6.0/10
  • Safety - 8.0/10
  • Thirst - 7.5/10
  • Practicality - 8.5/10
  • Comfort - 8.0/10
  • Tech - 7.0/10
  • Value - 8.0/10

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