To impress my little French conquest, I took it to a chic little bar in inner-Sydney. I had a mind to take it back to my hotel a little later on, so I was hoping it would prove enjoyable company.
Somewhere with fixie bikes out front; ironic moustaches, flat caps and ear-spacers inside; and preferably with excellent coffee. We were into that before it was cool, by the way.
I was excited to take the Clio on a date because I’d spent a lot of time perving on it beforehand. It’s got curves in all the right places.
Parisians, that most tres chic of people, have a knack of making one feel a little shlubby by comparison. In much the same way, the Renault Clio makes the likes of the Volkswagen Polo look a little grey.
Our car actually was grey, though those odd red-lined wheels added some quirk. We like it.
Peak-hour is a burden, so something with some vim and verve, and a nice touchscreen interface with sat-nav, is essential. The Clio ticks that box, albeit not as convincingly as the new Mazda 2.
It’s all a bit slick and new, and certainly more interesting than most. Those lavish red highlights — options, we’re relieved to say — are a bit over the top. The top-spec car’s equipment list is strong.
It’s also a pretty practical little baby, with plenty of room in the back for the class, though the oppor-tunity cost of that styling are those tiny rear windows that are a pain to see out of.
Standard sat-nav, a split-screen display, the tablet-like fascia with shiny black surrounds, the cool oval-shaped digital speedo, the hidden rear door handles and those weird red wheels.
Keep in mind ours is a high-spec model, albeit short of the RS and GT-Premium.
Finally, we have to give props to the feature in the infotainment section that allows you to pipe an artificial engine noise into the cabin. Our highlight? The famous V6 Clio of the early 2000s.
First of all, the USB charger went haywire, alternating between charging and not charging one’s phone with something approaching a nervous twitch.
We didn’t like the odd rattle from the rear and the propensity of the dual-clutch automatic transmission to roll back without a hard application on the brakes (and subsequent engagement of hill-hold assist).
Well… it gets a five-star NCAP rating, but it controversially goes without rear curtain airbags. So truth be told it wouldn’t be our choice for lugging about the kids.
Our car’s 88kW/190Nm 1.2 turbo-petrol is a sprightly number but uses only 5.2L/100km (on 95 RON). In other words, you won’t have to splash out on drinks to keep it happy, though you might have to fork out for the expensive stuff when you do.
Renault also does capped-price servicing for three-years at $299 a pop, with intervals of either 15,000km or 12 months.
That USB problem would drive us crazy. But it’s likely an easy fix and not a common problem.
As a nimble city car, the Clio is a handsome little devil and has all the characteristics you want: it’s a sharp handler with a comfortable ride and a responsive engine at low speeds. It’s a cinch to park too, if you can get past that compromised rear visibility and trust the sensors.
Truth be told, our $23,790 (plus on-road costs) Dynamique model is, while priced competitively for this spec level, still exxy for a light car. The $16,790 (plus on-roads) Authentique is a bargain though and would be perfect for us.
I enjoyed out first night so much, I kept the Clio for the week. A night out with my friends is on the cards…
The choice are nearly endless. If you want cute, the new Mazda 2 is a good backup. If you want spacious, get a Honda Jazz. If you want refined, go the Volkswagen Polo. And if you value razor handling, go the Ford Fiesta.
You live in the city, you value stylish charm over Teutonic precision, and you’re a bit of a Francophile.