The Renault Clio will not be available with a diesel engine in Australia as originally planned when it arrives in August or September.
At the international launch of the reborn light hatchback last year, Renault Australia committed to a 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel model to act as a range topping variant until the Renaultsport version arrives the following year.
Instead the Clio will launch with a 0.9-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol entry engine, available with a five-speed manual transmission only for around $17K, and a 1.2-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine with six-speed dual-clutch transmission.
Renault Australia corporate communications manager Emily Ambrosy said the decision to ditch diesel was motivated by the fuel efficiency gains made by the petrol engines and the lack of popularity of diesel engines in the hatchback market.
“Petrol fits the demand of the small car market,” Ambrosy said.
The 135Nm turbo three-cylinder uses 4.3L/100km of unleaded combined, compared with the 230Nm turbo-diesel model’s 3.2L/100km, but diesels usually command a price premium of $2000-$3000. As with the petrol three-cylinder, the diesel is available in manual only.
Ambrosy describes both 2013 and 2014 as years of expected growth for Renault in the Australian market.
With Clio due in August, and the Clio RS and Captur sub-compact SUV in the first half of 2014, the corporate communications manager says Renault Australia expects “lots” of sales from the two brand new “pillar” models.
Renault Australia committed to offering keen pricing and specification for both models, with the Clio set to start “between the Mazda 2 and Volkswagen Polo” in terms of pricing.
“We want Australians to know what Clio is, to know about its great pricing and what great options it will have,” Ambrosy added.
So far in 2013, local sales are up 66 per cent and Australia continues to be the number-two selling market for Megane RS265 behind France but in front of Japan.
Ambrosy expects that when the Clio RS launches next year, it will move closer to the number of Megane RS265 sales.
Last year Renault sold 545 Megane RS models locally, compared with just 69 Clio RS models – that would indicate a potential near-eight-fold increase in sales of the new generation auto-only five-door Clio RS.
Renault Australia expanded its dealer network from 19 to 31 in 2012, and is aiming to close 2013 with 40 dealers. The expansion will be particularly in rural areas, citing new dealerships soon to open in Albury and Bendigo.
With $299 capped-price servicing across the range – and to be applied to Clio and Captur – for the first three 15,000km/12-month check-ups, and a five-year unlimited-kilometre warranty, Renault Australia continues to hope that buyers will be attracted to a brand that has had some quality issues in the past.
As an example of quality and servicing improvements, Ambrosy said that compared with when it launched in 2010, warranty claims of the Koleos compact SUV are down 57 per cent.