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A first month of smooth sailing in our new Renault Clio had us convinced we’d handed back bad luck with our original Clio long-termer, which copped a rogue tree branch to its bonnet one cyclonic Sydney night.
That the phrase ‘the Clio Curse’ is now notorious at the CarAdvice office probably gives you an indication that may not have been the case, however.
A colleague on a weekend supermarket run – ostensibly squeezed in between his casual sessions of mirror smashing and indoor umbrella opening – returned to find a trolley-shaped dent in the Clio’s driver’s door. Poor little guy!
When I grabbed the Clio’s plasticky credit card-style key out of the office fishbowl the following night, I thought surely lightning couldn’t strike a third time…
Having parked the Clio on a steep hill around the corner from my North Sydney home and dashed inside for a moment, I returned to find it sharing an intimate moment with a black Jeep Wrangler. The French might be infamous for their amorous activities, though the back of the Clio’s neck hadn’t been sweetly kissed in this case, but had been head-butted by the off-roader.
While demonstrating that the Clio’s handbrake is strong enough to support both its weight and that of a Yank Tank with a broken one, the Clio was pinned overnight until its owner extracted his car’s famous five-slat grille from our car’s once-handsome derrière the following morning.
Incredibly, however, the Renault was left unscarred by the Jeep, saving yet another visit to the body shop.
With the curse behind us – touch wood – the Clio has been able to share the love in other ways this month.
It’s a favourite at CA HQ: some besotted by its flashy red panel highlights, others enamoured with its keen handling and thrummy and characterful three-cylinder engine, which Dan says has freed up a bit over the past month but not to the same degree as the four-cylinder before it.
So popular has it been that I’ve seen little of it. It’s spent much of its time in the hands of our video editor Christian, with whom it’s proved a reliable camera car capable of keeping up with a Maserati Quattroporte on a Bathurst road trip, and a noble steed for an excursion to the Blue Mountains.
In a big month of kilometres in which the Clio almost doubled its odometer, it achieved fuel consumption of 8.0 litres per 100km at an average speed of 33km/h.
Christian’s a fan of the Clio’s deep boot, which easily swallowed a weekend’s worth of rock climbing and camping gear. He also likes its comfortable ride, which smooths coarse city and country roads and remains composed over sharper-edged road joins and potholes, while the seats get the tick of approval for comfort – particularly after sleeping a night reclined in the passenger seat beneath a doona.
A coffee addict like Dan, Christian (below) too complained about the Clio’s tiny cupholders (its cabin stowage options are poor in general, with its glovebox and door bins also smaller than average), pondering whether the French drink only babycinos.
The Spaniard longed for more low-down punch from its 66kW/135Nm 0.9-litre engine, which forces you to nail the throttle and grab first gear at speeds at which most cars would happily be held in second. Five minutes after swapping from the Clio into Dan’s new Audi A1 long-termer, my phone flashed with this message: “This is a proper second gear… And third…”
Finally stealing some alone time with the Clio, I’ve had the chance to settle in over the past fortnight and get a feel for what it’s like to live with.
As a current-generation Volkswagen Polo 77TSI Comfortline owner, the Renault Clio Expression is in many ways the antithesis of my mature but admittedly somewhat boring German hatchback.
The Renault can’t match the Volkswagen for cabin refinement – the quality of the Polo’s plastics and materials is higher, and elegant touches such as satin chrome highlights are substituted for fake plastic chrome in the Clio, which, in the case of the trim surrounding the instrument cluster binnacles, can catch the sun and reflect into your eyes.
The Clio’s rear visibility is also ordinary – the tiny rear-quarter windows do nothing to break up the vast blind spot created by the C- and D-pillars.
But the Clio is colourful, light-hearted, and fun – just as a city car should be. Its large central display makes the Polo’s slim, monochrome audio screen look a decade out of date – though this is addressed in the updated model due in September – and it’s got character and joie de vivre that the more serious Volkswagen simply can’t match.
My girlfriend, who has a French surname and is a self-professed lover of beautiful things (one quick look at my rough mug will tell you the relationship’s surely not long for this world…), has fallen head-over-heels for the Clio’s styling. She says it’s the hot favourite to replace her loyal but bruised and battered Holden TS Astra.
Among my favourite features of the Clio is its keyless entry and start system. With the key card in your pocket, you can open the car by pressing the black button on the door handle, turn the engine on and off, and lock the car by simply closing the doors and walking away.
It’s a little thing, though give me a turn-wheel to adjust the angle of the driver’s seat backrest (as the Clio and Polo both have) over a lever every day of the week.
Dan may have abandoned the little Renault for his supposedly more premium Audi A1, but the CarAdvice office isn’t complaining: there’s now simply one fewer person in the long queue to take the Clio home each night before we have to hand back the keys in a few weeks’ time. Hopefully with no further scars…
Renault Clio Expression TCe90
Date acquired: February 2014
Odometer reading: 6856km
Travel this month: 3236km
Consumption this month: 8.0L/100km
Renault Clio Review: Long-term report one
Renault Clio Review: Long-term report two
Renault Clio Review: Long-term report three
Renault Clio Review: Long-term report four