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Writing this final report on our Renault Clio feels like saying ‘Bon voyage’ to a good friend unsure of when, or if, you’ll ever see them again, so much has it become part of the family since rolling into the CarAdvice garage in February.
Not all long-termers endear themselves in such a way, but over the past four months the Clio has proven itself to be both liveable and loveable – qualities rarely associated with city cars.
It’s effectively been adopted by our video editor Christian, who at some point this month so smoothly and tactfully transitioned from calling it “the Clio” to “my Clio” that now nobody bats an eyelid when he flees the office on Friday nights to spend the weekend with his little French fling.
It came as little surprise, then, that forcing him to hand back the Clio’s black plastic key card elicited from him a level of emotion on par with watching his beloved Spain get bundled out of the World Cup in straight sets.
Like any relationship, however, Christian says it hasn’t all be smooth sailing.
While we appeared to have shaken the ‘Clio Curse’ of random bumps and scrapes as documented last month, the Renault began to live up to its French reputation this month, revealing a few unprovoked quirks of its own.
Christian says on more than one occasion its air conditioner has grumbled loudly at start-up and coughed dust from the passenger-side vent before settling into its usual rhythm.
And recently it’s developed a fault with its fuel tank where attempting to refuel it leads the nozzle to ‘click’ almost immediately as if the tank is full, requiring drivers to gradually trickle fuel in. We’ve alerted Renault to the issue and we’ll post an explanation when the problem is identified.
Another fuel-related head scratcher is the gauge in the instrument cluster, which suffers from a serious case of ‘liar, liar, pants on fire’.
After wresting the keys from Christian ahead of a weekend escape to Bilpin in NSW’s Blue Mountains, I brimmed the Clio with 44.98 litres of the 95RON premium unleaded its turbocharged 66kW/135Nm 0.9-litre three-cylinder engine requires.
Its 45-litre tank and 4.5 litres per 100km combined cycle fuel consumption rating give it a theoretical range of 1000km, meaning that you’d expect the needle on the fuel gauge to fall roughly a quarter of a tank every 250km. Given that we’ve recorded actual consumption of closer to 8.0L/100km, that translates to a range of more like 560km, or 140km per quarter.
The Clio’s fuel gauge has a mind of its own, however. After setting off from the servo, we covered 376km before the needle moved even a fraction off full. It then took just 57km for it to fall to three-quarters of a tank, despite being driven in an identical manner, making it hard to trust with any surety. We’ve noticed this in other Clios we’ve driven too, suggesting the issue is not isolated to our car.
Additionally, the trip computer’s distance-to-empty readout regularly loses its ability to estimate your remaining mileage below 40km, leaving you to rely on the erratic analogue meter.
Our other persistent nag with the Clio is the glitch with its Bluetooth audio streaming system, which intermittently drops out and back in again when streaming music from certain smartphones (we’ve experienced the issue with iPhone 4 and all later generations). There’s no CD player in the Clio either, which means connecting your phone via USB is the best option.
But enough with the niggles.
The Bilpin road trip demonstrated the strength of the Clio away from its natural city and suburban habitat, where its light steering and supple ride quality shone brightly, though the tiny engine’s lack of versatility is exposed.
The typically offbeat triple is quiet at highway speeds despite revving beyond 2000rpm in fifth gear (the manual’s highest ratio). The cabin is also well protected from wind and road noise, and the soft suspension effectively smooths undulating and coarse-chip country roads, making it a comfortable and refined cruiser.
The Clio keeps smiles on faces on winding mountain roads too. The steering feels a little numb around the straight-ahead position, but it’s nicely progressive from there and delivers surprising feel for a city car.
Its soft set-up means it rolls more and feels less composed through corners than my Volkswagen Polo 77TSI, though the Clio’s neatly balanced chassis encourages you to explore the edges of its playful nature.
And so it’s with a little sadness that we say ‘au revoir’ to our second Renault Clio long-termer. More so than our original Expression, whose more capable four-cylinder engine couldn’t match the character of the three pot, nor its ditzy six-speed dual-clutch rival the fun of its manual shifter, nor its grey paintwork exude the personality of its sporty red, black and white combination.
It may lack the Polo’s maturity and may have developed the odd niggle, but the Renault Clio is a capable, colourful and endearing city car, and one of the best all-rounders in its class.
Renault Clio Expression TCe90
Date acquired: February 2014
Odometer reading: 9908km
Travel this month: 3052km
Consumption this month: 7.9L/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
Renault Clio Review: Long-term report five