Car reviews - Renault - Clio - GT
Looks sharp both inside and out, decent handling
Room for improvement
Firm ride, not that quick, could be cheaper
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30 Apr 2014
WITH a starting price of $25,290 (or an extra $3500 to get the better-equipped GT Premium), the mid-range Clio is smack-bang between the 88kW/190Nm $23,290 Dynamique and 147kW/240Nm $29,290 RS.
Don’t think of this as a watered-down RS, but as a spiced-up Dynamique. The GT shares the latter’s 88kW/190Nm 1.2-litre turbo-engine and six-speed dual-clutch transmission instead, rather than the RS’ manic 147kW/240Nm unit.
It’s more a Barina RS and Fiesta Sport rival than a real hot hatch. It wouldn’t want to step on the RS’ toes, after all.
The zero to 100km/h sprint time of 9.4 seconds is hardly warm-hatch territory.
At higher engine speeds, the lack of top-end torque finds the little Clio out even more. The GT is sprightly enough around town but overtaking from 80km/h takes a little time.
This version gets a chassis tune different to both the cushier Dynamique and the more hard-edged RS: the springs are 5 per cent stiffer than the Dynamique, while the damping forces are 50 per cent higher up front and up 40 per cent at the rear.
All this, plus the 17-inch wheels, means the GT has a firmer ride than the average pocket hatch, up there with the properly sporty RS. It tends to feel a little busy over corrugations, though there is scarcer compromise in an urban setting.
The Michelin Primacy tyres transmit some noise through the cabin, but bring to the table tenacious grip. These hoops pair up with the stiffer ride and stiff chassis to make the GT thoroughly enjoyable on twisty roads. Just don’t perform any uphill overtakes.
As with the regular Clio, the electric-assisted steering is light and lacking in feedback, though if you can ignore the sensory deprivation you will find it relatively sharp and direct. The Drive Selector will add a little heft, though the problem never goes away entirely.
Paired with the tiny turbo is a standard six-speed dual-clutch automatic with column-mounted paddle-shifters. We found some low-speed hesitancy, where the pair of clutches seemed a little confused over whether to shift up or down. At the same time, the shift times are not as slick as the Volkswagen DSG system.
Carried-over from the regular Clio are the front MacPherson, rear torsion beam suspension, the steering system with 2.71 turns lock-to-lock, and 258mm front disc brakes and 230mm rear drums.
Despite the small dimensions and rear drums, the stoppers bite down with reassuring urgency, no doubt a result of the Clio’s circa-100kg weight loss over its predecessor.
Stepping inside the cabin, the Clio ticked a lot of boxes. The styling is as sharp in here than it is from outside. A large tablet-like display dominates, while the instruments are a cluster of shapes and – for a French car – even the ergonomics are good.
The GT adds nicely bolstered buckets, glossy-black interior highlights (that are a magnet for dust and scratches) and a nice leather steering wheel. Phone connectivity is slick to set-up, though the streaming was interrupted by the odd glitch on one of our test cars.
Standard equipment on the ‘base’ GT includes all the styling tweaks, automatic headlights and wipers, LED daytime running lights, rear parking sensors, cruise control with a speed limiter, keyless entry and start with a ‘key card’, climate control and satellite-navigation on an eight-inch touchscreen.
The GT Premium adds the more advanced R-Link infotainment system with more detailed maps, a novel R-Sound system that pipes a range of different exhaust notes into the cabin — from a Clio rally car to a futuristic UFO-style pod — a fixed-glass sunroof, leather heated buckets, a bigger spoiler and a rear-view camera with a lens hidden in the signature Renault logo.
As with other Clios, the GT has a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty and is eligible for Renault’s Capped Price Servicing program of $299 per calendar year for the first three years.
Four airbags are standard - dual front and front side/head airbags - however the 2014 Clio does not offer full-length curtain airbags. It still gets five ANCAP stars, but this is a cost-cutting step too far for our liking.
So, to the verdict: Personally, your correspondent would opt for the sharper Fiesta ST for the circa-$26k asking price. But if you want something that looks the part, can handle a bend or two and you aren’t in a massive hurry, then the GT is quite likeable.
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