First Sight: Renault Clio
The Clio is perhaps the most successful and certainly the longest standing model of the Renault range and this is the new third-generation version of this European market small B-sector hatchback. When the first generation Clio replaced the Renault 5 in 1990 it was the smallest car in the Renault line up, now the Clio is one of a small range of similarly-sized Renault models all based off the same platform shared with the Nissan Micra/March and Cube.
The Clio will be launched first as a three-door with the five-door to follow, and will be available with a choice of petrol 1.2-litre (75hp), 1.4-litre (98hp) and 1.6-litre (113hp), and a 1.5-litre dCi diesel engine in a choice of three power outputs: 70hp, 86hp and 106hp. Transmission options include a six-speed manual on the most powerful dCi 106, and a new robotised 'quick-shift' gearbox with paddles located behind the steering wheel.
Renault claims the Clio will lead the class in acoustic comfort and safety. Generation 8 Bosch ABS, electronic brake force distribution (EBD) and emergency brake assist (EBA) is standard, whilst electronic stability programme (ESP) incorporating ASR traction control, understeer control and MSR engine torque overrun regulation is optional.
There will be five trim levels and three equipment levels at launch with sport available later. Notable feature options include: tinted headlamp glass, panoramic sunroof, hands free ignition card, and additional front lights that shine around corners.
The new Clio's dimensions - length 3986mm, width 1707mm, height 1493mm - are marginally greater than the majority of the rest of the class (as is its base weight of 1080kg), whilst its 2575mm wheelbase is a significant step up - only 3mm less than a Volkswagen Golf.
The Clio looks less like a Clio and more like a Renault than previously, with elements from the Modus and Megane mixing with new aspects such as a shoulder that dives forward to a point just aft of the front wheel arch (in the sketches this theme better connects to the base of the rear door DLO), and a 'raised eyebrow' headlamp graphic. Hints of the hugely successful Peugeot 206 are evident in the five door DLO, whilst the three door logically differentiates itself more than previous Clios with a more dynamic profile.
The interior shares a lot with the Modus with a high standard of material quality, good storage and fine attention to detail - such as the new malleable, squash-ball like form of the vent controls that stems from Renault's 'touch design' philosophy. An additional and notable innovation is the central rear seat designed for children with a shorter higher squab, lower mounted seat belt and optional headrest design that better secures their head (see picture left).
The Clio is more grown up in its design identity than before as befitting it position in the Renault range of small cars as the mainstream model. It appears well resolved, conforms to the trends of the class and innovates in a way we have come to expect with recent Renaults with thoughtful interior design functionality and new aesthetic design details. Along with apparently very competitive technical specification the new Clio looks likely to be a success right from launch.