Accelerate

SA's premium automotive magazine

Launch Pad: Renault Clio

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Cool curves

Wendy Robinson

Sensual, sexy, curvaceous, young, sporty and dynamic are key words when describing the all new Renault Clio.

The man responsible for the curves that invoke feelings of excitement and desire when one first sets eyes on this B-segment hatch contender is Laurens van der Acker. With a qualification from Delft University of technology, he has worked for Audi as their exterior designer and later for Ford and Mazda. He joined Renault in 2009. As director of Renault industrial design, his mandate was to “design beautiful cars”.

But let’s not be too distracted by the chemical attraction one feels for the new Clio’s enticing exterior.  Under those curvy bonnet lines and winking LED’s, sits a very important facet of the new Clio, a new 898cm3, 3- cylinder, 66kW turbo petrol engine, offered in the Expression and Dynamique models. (There’s also the proven 55 kW naturally aspirated 1,2-litre petrol engine in the base-line Authentique model).

At the launch we were reminded by Yorkk Duchassoy from Renault’s power train division, of Renault’s F1 ‘light engine’ technology that powers four teams in the 2013 world championship line-up. That, he said, contributed in a real way to the design and development of the new little ‘triple’.

This new ‘energy’ engine is not only affordable but features useful technological innovations.  One of its features is a 12-valve DOHC intake camphaser that helps optimise torque output, CO2 emissions and fuel consumption. A piloted variable oil pump also improves low end torque and enhances the feeling of the turbocharger.

The other factor in the Clio’s ‘energy smart management’ is its minimal service requirements. It has a timing chain designed to last for the engine’s lifetime, and needs an oil drain only every 15 000km and a sparkplug change every 60 000km. This of course all translates into long term savings.

Performance is brisk, thanks to the strong 135Nm  of torque at 2 500 r/min, delivered  to the front wheels through a  five-speed manual gearbox.

Although Van der Acker’s style has created a sports coupe persona, the latest in the Clio line is still a practical five-door vehicle in the tradition of the nameplate. The 300-litre boot space is fairly generous and a full spare wheel is now positioned underneath the car, released by a control from within the cabin.

Slipping into the cockpit of the top of the line Dynamique model is a sensory experience all on its own. The ergonomics in this B-segment hatch are uncompromised. The MediaNav multimedia system is integrated into a specially designed section in the centre of the front console that resembles the look of a touch screen phone in a large format. The system offers navigation, radio, audio streaming and Bluetooth, USB and jack connections. Also included is manual air conditioning in the top two models, Eco mode and Renault Bass Reflex. Lavish dark carbon upholstery and glossy black paint and chrome finishes add to the attractive finishes.

Safety is key in the Clio and all three models come standard with ABS, EBA, ESC and ASR (anti-slip regulation).  Driver, passenger and side airbags are standard, and there’s electric power steering. A speed limiter and cruise control set-up (in the Expression and Dynamique models), as well as Hill Start Assist have all contributed to the Clio’s 5 star Euro NCAP rating.

Out on the open road in the Kromdraai area, the Clio was extremely responsive and the torque delivered by the little three-cylinder Turbo was surprising. I noticed a little lag low-down, but we were driving at a high-altitude, so it was to be expected. Personally I love the familiar typical little grunting sound from the three-cylinder engine.

The Clio Dynamique sits staunchly on its 17-inch wheels. Grip and handling are impressive, the little hatchback providing a great sense of security whilst feeling incredibly sporty.

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