Two incidents have marked, in one case literally, the first two months of Renault Clio ownership, both of which involved trees – of sorts – and me being nowhere near the car at the time.
Having lent the car to a colleague one evening, an absurdly windy night in Sydney dislodged a tree branch, sending it crashing down onto the Oyster Grey bonnet of the little Clio. On that same night, a neighbour’s whole tree crashed onto their house such was the gust, so nobody exactly was to blame.
After being sent to car-hospital and emerging with a fresh bonnet – thankfully the engine was unharmed – the Clio was pressed into December running-around duties as its odometer ticked over 3000km.
An overseas assignment gave me cause to hand the car over to my 58-year-old mum to drive for a week, as she steers a 2005 Suzuki Swift and is looking to upgrade. It might be interesting, I thought, to get an opinion from an average Australian who doesn’t have a real interest in cars, but who drives an older-generation light car.
Incidentally, in the past month mum has been taking the odd photo of a car she likes in shopping centre carparks on her iPad and asking me what they are, for a potential purchase.
So far, I’ve had a grey Ford Mondeo Titanium wagon, black Nissan Maxima, silver Subaru Liberty wagon and grey Ford Falcon G6E sent to me – the latter picture of which was accompanied by the message: “What’s a G6E, Dan? Is this a rare car?” So much unintended irony it hurts. Bless her.
Some journalists from other media outlets believe regular punters don’t care about ride comfort, or steering, but comments from mum show how wrong that view is.
Mum told of how smooth the Clio is over the short, sharp bumps in the local Woolworths carpark. The Swift, she explains, crashes over them, although it does have 125,000km-old dampers.
She also likes the light, smooth steering more than the Swift’s that can suddenly get heavy during quick turns when parking – it’s a consequence of the electric motor being unable to keep up with providing assistance. Mum didn’t complain about the slow transmission, though being of European descent she prefers driving manual, like the Suzuki is.
Not yet retired, mum is an aged carer, and she liked how a wheelchair could stand upright in the Clio’s 300-litre boot, tilted safely against the rear-seat backrest, without requiring the 60:40 split fold seat to be folded down, as is required with the Swift.
I’ve suggested buying a Honda Jazz in the past because its brilliant flexibility would be perfect for carrying aged-care equipment, but mum didn’t like the boxy styling so we looked at a Honda Civic hatch instead. I’ve also suggested a Hyundai i30 Tourer, because its low loading lip would mean only lifting stuff slightly off the ground to get it in the back of the car, but we haven’t looked at that car in the flesh yet.
She loves the styling of the Clio, though. So does a fellow Woolies shopper, she tells me. A lady was writing a note to be left on the Renault’s windscreen asking about the car just as mum was taking her shopping trolley back to the Clio. Her new friend apparently loved the styling so much she wanted to know what the car was and how much it cost. My mum struggled with this a bit, and a missed call on my phone resulted in her guessing that this particular Clio costs about $35,000. Try $21,890 plus on-road costs, mum…
There have been no problems other than usual wear and tear with the Swift over its nine years with our family, so even if its three year/100,000km was matched by this Clio’s five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty, we wouldn't have required it. Japanese manufacturers have a quality reputation, and the French don’t, both for good reason, but Renault is working hard to address this with strong after-sales commitments and statistics to show improved quality and reliability.
When mum handed back the Clio it had averaged 9.8L/100km in mostly low-speed urban conditions with the odd trip to our family farm on the outskirts of Sydney thrown in, slightly better than what I was doing the month before in peak-hour gridlock.
The Renault was running perfectly and freeing up by the kilometre.
Clearly the Renault Clio was fed up that I was handing it around, though. Over the new year period I jumped into its big brother the Clio RS and allowed another colleague to take it away on a long-distance holiday – more of which you’ll read next month – but a couple of hundred kilometres out of Sydney, a Christmas tree of warning lights lit up the instruments.
Both the check engine light (orange with a picture of a spanner on it) and the stability control light came on, out of nowhere I’m told, with cruise control set at the freeway limit. Switching the car off and rebooting would solve the problem, but it came on twice again before now disappearing completely. Renault is investigating and we’ll report on the problem next month.
A packed past month meant I’d spent little time with the Renault Clio, and it wanted my attention. I felt guilty, but a new year scrub and shine has left it looking sparkly and the engine is continuing to improve, although (shhh, don’t let it hear) the transmission is still too ditzy. But this month it’s made others happy, and that’s what the Christmas spirit is all about. Could have done without the tree branch on the bonnet and tree lights on the dash, though…
Renault Clio Expression TCe120
Date acquired: November 2013
Odometer reading: 3595km
Travel this month: 711km
Consumption this month: 9.8L/100km
Renault Clio Review: Long-term report one