South Africa never got to experience the first-generation Renault Clio that was rolled out in the late 1990s.
When the hatchback finally did reach Mzansi in the form of its second generation, it made such a statement that it was celebrated as the car of the year.
It was a very prestigious accolade back then and one the debonair Frenchman thoroughly deserved. It moved the goalposts in a segment not exactly renowned for adopting cutting edge technology or the intense competition associated with it today.
The third generation continued along its predecessor’s path in attracting new buyers to the French brand which before the Clio’s arrival didn’t enjoy the best of times on the local scene.
In 2013 the fourth generation Clio sporting a bold new design again made such a dashing local entrance that it became the top selling model out of the first three offered in South Africa.
It might be overly ambitious of Renault to expect the same a similar reception for the fifth generation Clio that was launched locally in February.
Having already made its global debut back in 2019, a series of setbacks resulted in the all-new Clio having to wait almost three years to reach Mzansi. And to make things worse, the French carmaker predicts a stock shortage until at least July as a result of the ongoing global semi-conductor crisis.
However, our friends over at Renault do at least have enough stock to allow the motoring media to sample the model. We recently got to drive the Clio Intens, which at R349 900 sits atop the three-model line-up.
Few will argue that the new Clio is one damn sexy little French number. Its exterior styling is highlighted by its signature Renault C-shaped daylight running LED headlights, large LED taillights that extends into the tailgate and concealed rear door handles. The gloss black and chrome touches included on the Intens trim level further enhance the aesthetics.
The 17-inch diamond cut alloy rims, which is part of the optional R20 000 Intens Option Pack, give the new Clio an even more distinctive presence.
French flair in Renault Clio
Inside the typical French flair continues with an elegantly styled cockpit which combines a variety of black finishes with subtle satin chrome inserts and soft-touch panels. The elegant feel is further enhanced through multi-sense experience interior ambient lighting.
The driver benefits from a seven-inch digital instrument cluster, while the Intens option pack features a 9.3-inch vertical touchscreen multimedia system over the standard seven-inch display. Smartphone connectivity is standard on the Intens.
Also standard on the Intens is an electric handbrake with autohold, rain-sensing wipers and rear parking sensors, while the front parking sensors and rear reverse camera are included as part of the Intens Option Pack.
Boot space in the new Clio is an impressive 391 litres, with the added benefit of 60/40 split rear folding seats.
The fifth generation Clio arrived in South Africa on the back of achieving a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating. In Intens trim, it includes safety features such as six airbags, electronic stability control, ABS with EBD, hill-start assist, auto high beam control and lane departure warning.
Renault Clio underpowered
The Renault Clio Intens is powered by a three-cylinder, 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine mated to five-speed manual transmission, the only powertrain combination offered on the entire line-up. It produces 74 kW of power and 160 Nm of torque which is sent to the front wheels.
On paper the outputs might seem rather decent and closely matched to its rivals, but we felt that the mill is a bit underpowered.
Once you get going it’s easy to keep on the boil, but acceleration is too sluggish for a car that is considered to be a nippy little city slicker.
Once you reach the national limit on the freeway, you also feel that a sixth gear would have done the Clio the world of good.
Despite its shortcomings in the power department, the Reanult Clio is nonetheless a pleasure to drive. The clutch is light, the gearbox slick, the steering direct and the car is easy to manoevre. In fact, it’s everything you would want in a daily runaround car.
We managed fuel consumption of 8.3 L/100 km during our week in the Clio, spent exclusively in city traffic.
It’s not far off the claimed urban consumption of 7.7 L/100 km, but still rather thirsty for a small car. More open road driving is bound the bring the combined cycle figure down, but we doubt whether the claimed 5.7 L/100 km is achievable in the real world.
While its overall look and feel, comfort, technology and safety systems might all be an easy sell for the fifth generation Renault Clio, the solitary powertrain option does limited the product.
But ironically, its biggest downfall is also its biggest ally as the engine/gearbox combination helps to keep the price attractive in a segment that is a lot more cutthroat compared to when the Clio made its local debut.
The fact that the new Clio compares very well overall with its rivals despite its late arrival – albeit not moving any goalposts this time around – is a testament of the quality of the French hatchback. It is going to struggle against the entrenched top sellers in the segment, but it’s a solid left-field choice for those looking to stand out from the crowd.
The new Renault Clio comes standard with a five-year/150 000 km warranty and two-year/30 000 km service plan.
For more information on the Renault Clio Intens, click here.