Renault Clio Sport Tourer
1.5 dCi 86 Dynamique review
by David Finlay (15 January 2009)
The comment has been made several times in this magazine that estates often look better than the saloons or hatchbacks on which they are based, but that usually applies to larger vehicles. It's difficult to make a small car look good in estate form, and while the Clio Sport Tourer won't exactly frighten the horses or cause children to burst into tears the moment they see it, it would also be stretching credibility to suggest that it is a beautiful piece of work.
For practicality, though, it's not an easy car to beat. The standard Clio hatchback has 439 litres of luggage space with the rear seats in place and 596 litres when they're folded - figures which are moderately good but not class-leading.
The slightly longer Sport Tourer manages 439/1277, which is better than a Peugeot 207 SW, better than a Ford Focus hatch and better even than the Modus, Renault's compact MPV built on the same platform (though not quite as good as the Nissan Note, which is in many respects the same thing as a Modus). For significantly greater room among comparable cars, and then only when the seats are folded, you would need to look at either a Grand Modus or a Vauxhall Meriva.
Now, I don't want to use the word "cavernous" here, being a fellow who likes to avoid clichés whenever possible, but you get the point. And another fine piece of estateness with the Clio is that when you open the tailgate you're presented with a load floor which is at exactly the same height as the rear sill. Furthermore, that floor is itself a false one which acts as the cover for a further, fairly shallow compartment in which you can store things you would prefer to keep hidden from view.
All good so far, and there's more to come. The Sport Tourer is available with several petrol and diesel engines, and the one in the car tested here might just be the one I would go for myself. It's the 1.5-litre dCi turbo diesel in 86bhp form, which doesn't sound very exciting and has rather dull performance figures of 108mph flat-out and 0-62mph in 13.0 seconds.
In spite of all that, this is actually a very good engine which reacts as quickly as you need it to when some spritely acceleration is required. You might prefer to spend an extra £736 on the 106bhp version of the same engine (and the six- rather than five-speed gearbox which comes with it), but personally I never found a need for that extra 20bhp.
Another good point about the engine is how well Renault has suppressed the noise it makes. Some small diesels these days are loud enough to blur your vision and cause blood to run down your earlobes, but not this one. Even when you're pushing it as hard as it will go it's still impressively quiet.
Since I did push the test car as hard as it would go on a few occasions (first because I had to, later because I wanted to) I used fuel at an average rate of about 50mpg, which is nowhere near the official combined figure of 64.2mpg. More careful owners should be able to achieve consumption in the mid- to high-50s, and that's not bad in the real world.
The official figure equates to CO2 emissions of 117g/km, and because the Chancellor doesn't need to know how much CO2 you're actually pumping out the dCi 86 therefore comes usefully under the 120g/km band, meaning £35 annual VED, no matter how you drive the thing.
In my more spirited moments I found that the car was a real blast to if you're prepared to treat it hard. In more gentle driving it's not as good - all the major controls seem to have been created with liberal use of felt and plasticine, the gearchange is both vague and notchy, and the suspension settings are so soft that there is far more body movement than I felt comfortable with. Much as I enjoyed driving the Sport Tourer quickly, I would always have swapped that part of its character for greater comfort at lower speeds.
And, since I'm in a bad mood now, this would be the time to point out that there is very little space for rear passengers (not that Clios have ever been any other way), rear visibility is shockingly bad thanks to the massive C pillars, and even though we're well into the 21st century now a great big company like Renault still thinks it's acceptable to sell a car whose steering wheel is not adjustable for reach.
That last point was particularly infuriating since the test car was fitted with cornering lights (part of a £250 Outdoor Pack option which also includes roof rails). Those lights are clever and useful, so if it's possible to build them into a Clio why is it not also possible to have something as simple and obvious as a reach-adjustable steering wheel? Come on, Renault, sort it out.