Renault Clio long term review

Report 23: 25 November 2014 – how far has the Renault Clio come? This far!

There’s another Clio in the family now, as last weekend my brother bought a fine example of Renault’s popular supermini – Chloe met one of her sportier ancestors…

It’s a little older than ‘mine’, being registered on a ‘55’ plate. It’s also probably the antithesis of the blue beauty, too, as it’s a Renaultsport Clio 182 Trophy – probably the greatest naturally aspirated hot hatchback ever made, limited to just 500 units in the UK.

Having a blast in his car on some damp Warwickshire lanes reminded me 1) of just how good old Renaultsports still are (and how I think Renault has lost its way slightly with the new Clio RS – but that’s another matter entirely), and 2) how far the Clio has come as a model.

OK, so the Trophy was stripped out to begin with – it didn’t even have adjustment for the intermittent wipe – but it’s clear to see how material and build quality have improved in just less than 10 years.

Whereas the Trophy generation feels small and cramped, especially in the back, the current Mk4 feels spacious by comparison. There’s plenty of leg and headroom in the rear, the boot is miles bigger and it’s considerably more refined.

It’s no surprise, as that’s exactly what you’d expect from a modern car vs one that has its roots in not just the last decade, but the one before that.

It’s simply an indicator of how far cars have come, and the Clio in particular.

Renaultsport Clio 182 Trophy

Report 22, 12 November: the Clio certainly has the va-va-voom in the looks department

At a recent family gathering I was reminded of just how attractive the current Clio is for a cooking supermini and why, on looks alone, it’d be the one I would opt for if I had to buy a small hatch.

Even with the thick grime of winter coating the Clio’s bright blue body – now rather duller as a result – it’s pert shape and flowing lines are still plain to see. It’s got a bit of a big nose (thank pedestrian crash legislation for that), but, hey, who’s perfect?

The Volkswagen Polo is a bit too staid and plain, the Ford Fiesta too sharp and aggressive and fussy for my liking. The new Vauxhall Corsa looks, well, like the old Vauxhall Corsa, which is a bit bland also. They’re the Clio’s main contenders, so when it comes to aesthetics at least, the Renault has its rivals liked in my book.

Rear three-quarter and square on from the back are its best angles. The back end is taut and squat and, with the gloss black diffuser insert and boot spoiler on this car, actually sometimes mistaken for a Renaultsport Clio.

Replying to those enthusiastic questions with, “Er, no, it’s a 1.5 diesel” engenders quite the surprised but quietly impress reaction, actually.

The reason I’m making this point is that at said family gathering, the person who commented on the Clio’s design was a female who – self-confessed – has no interest in cars what so ever. She didn’t know what the Clio was, but she knew she liked the look of it.

It just so happens that due to circumstances, said female is also in the market for a new car.

They probably won’t do all that much research when it comes time to make the final purchase on their new supermini. Her decision will be made up of an analysis of cost, efficiency and looks – when it comes to these three, why should she look any further than this?

In fact, her comments reminded me just how stylish the Clio is next to the usual station car park bores, to the point where I’m inspired to go and give it a wash and clean that muck off.

Now where did I put my sponge?

Renault Clio Dynamique Medianav dCi 90 Eco2 Stop & Start – long-term review

Report 21, 1 November 2014: the rear-engined Renault Clio 

I’ve made a trick modification to the Clio – it’s now got an engine in the back, too. Ok, so it doesn’t drive the wheels, but there is an engine in there…

It’s a spare Suzuki GSX-R 1000 superbike engine for my track car – a little project I’m embarking on to find a few more horsepower. All this eco driving gets to you, you know…

But there’s actually a point to this story, so bear with me.

The beauty of a superbike power unit is the gearbox is part of the crankcase, and it’s all made of aluminium, so it’s very light. This 75kg (approx.) package makes 164hp in standard tune and it can fit in the boot of a Clio, proving the plucky little Renault’s practicality once again.

And, actually, while it’s been detrimental to the car’s handling, it’s improved the ride. Seriously…

I like the way the Clio is sprung and damped at the back, but over the worst surface undulations it can sometimes get a bit out ruffled – like the body and wheel movement go slightly out of phase with each other.

By adding the weight of, say, a Suzuki motorbike engine over the rear axle, it seems to calm this trait down a touch, further improving the already decent ride.

Of course, passengers in the rear have a similar effect, but this just goes to show how wide the car’s window of operation is. Renault doesn’t make a Clio van in Mk4 guise, but on this evidence, maybe it should?

Renault Clio Dynamique Medianav dCi 90 Eco2 Stop & Start – long-term review

Report 20, 20 October 2014: Sean’s Clio goes in for a ‘technical check’ – but is it bad news? 

Today my Renault Clio long-termer was swapped for a bright yellow Twingo with the 1.0-litre SCe 70hp engine. It’s a car I quite like having experienced it on the launch, and one that I won’t mind driving for a few days – but the reason it’s here isn’t great for the vehicle it’s temporarily replaced.

The Clio has had to go in to have its “braking efficiency” checked, according to Renault.

I can’t say I’ve ever felt the brakes iffy on the fine Clio, if anything, as remarked in report 13, they’re a little too powerful at the top of the middle pedal’s travel.

It passed with a clean bill of health though. Renault rapidly came back to me to say the only thing that needed replacing were the brake shoe retaining clips, as this has to be done when they’re removed for the checks.

So, our Clio didn’t need any remedial work, but how many units in the UK were affected?

In total, 20,454 cars will need to be checked, but the French firm is forecasting that the vast majority will not require any rectification. This certainly fits with my experience over the time I’ve spent with the Clio so far, as the build quality and reliability have – whisper it – been exemplary.

Renault Twingo

Report 19, 10 October 2014: driving the Renault Clio of the future 

Exactly a week after the first press day of the Paris Motor Show, I was back in the French capital to drive an even more efficient Renault than our Clio – something I didn’t think possible.

Ok, so this was a working prototype of the firm’s Eolab motor show concept car, a Clio-sized hybrid vision of the future employing some real-world innovations that will make the next generation (and the generation after that) of Renault superminis even more economical. How long before we see a 100mpg Clio?

Renault reckons every 10kg of mass you can strip from a vehicle equates to 1g/km CO2 saved, so with a 400kg weight reduction over a regular Clio and 30% better aerodynamic efficiency, the Eolab resolutely smashes my long-termer’s economy, returning a claimed 282mpg with 22g/km CO2.

Even as a prototype, it still felt similar to the Clio to drive, with light steering and a nice, light, airy cabin.

It’s quite an incredible car, but as I got back from the airport and climbed straight back into ‘my’ Clio it didn’t feel inadequate. This is still the second-most economical car on sale in the UK today powered by liquid fuel only.

This Eco2 1.5 dCi Clio is at the forefront of eco technology now, and you sense that on the move. Renault isn’t resting on its laurels though, for the Eolab previews how parsimonious future Clios – and other models – could be.

Renault Eolab eco concept

Report 18, 1 October 2014: Sean is hot for (the Clio’s in-built) teacher 

I’ve not talked about fuel economy for a while, have I? That’s because it’s still ticking over at a more than acceptable rate in the late 70s to early 80s – although I think the engine and transmission are getting looser still (in a good way) as the miles clock up.

What I have been doing over the last week or so is using the Clio’s on-board eco driving tips to therapeutically de-stress before the Paris Motor Show.

There’s a veritable instruction manual on how to drive efficiently hidden inside the R-Link multimedia system – the ‘Eco-coaching’ function. It gives you tips on how to accelerate more smoothly, brake more progressively and generally how to avoid burning needless fuel.

I was skeptical of this feature at first and thought it a bit of a gimmick. However, by giving it a chance I discovered there are plenty of gains to be had. Use it in combination with the instant fuel economy readout and finding more mpg over and above the daily cruise is achievable.

If you’re used to driving larger capacity diesels, the instant mpg gauge will be useful. 2.0 oil burners and above tend to be able to pull higher gears at lower revs thanks to the extra torque. This small 1.5 can’t.

By heeding the instant meter’s laid-bare numbers, you’re able to see what gear and revs are best for what road speed. On the flat, if you’re looking after the planet, it should always read its maximum of 99.9mpg.

Once I got my head around this properly and used all the tools at my disposal – including the gear change indicators, which are actually well calibrated – I’ve found it much easier to boost the Clio’s efficiency. My Eco driving score has gone up to 98 out of 100, too.

Renault Clio Dynamique Medianav dCi 90 Eco2 Stop & Start – long-term review

Report 17, 15 September 2014: the Renault Clio character comes under scrutiny 

French cars have always traditionally been a bit mad. Quirky features like indicators in the wrong place and weird shaped steering wheels gave them a distinct character.

So, with modern French motors like the Clio, has moving more mainstream and going more conventional killed the Gallic hatch’s personality. No.

It’s just different now. Some look back through rose-tinted lenses at old French vehicles, but fundamentally, in the modern era, they’re just better. In all my time with the Renault not once have I encountered a serious problem – there have been a few minor glitches but no matter what the weather, the Clio has just worked.

That it’s more conventional is actually a positive trait for me. You see, a car’s flaws can often be passed off as character, and you wouldn’t want to buy a vehicle with any significant foibles, would you?

True, the supermini sector today is more homogenous and the Clio more like the Ford Fiesta or Volkswagen Polo in terms of design, layout, material quality – you could go on.

But, crucially, there’s still more than enough of a hint of France there, particularly with our car in its traditional French blue and Tricolore interior.

The chassis is supple and composed, sort of boingy with a controlled edge to the damping. This helps that grown-up feel I was talking about last time.

The blips and bongs the infotainment system and parking sensors make – and even the typefaces on the instrument binnacle – just seem French. If you taped up the Renault lozenge on the wheel and put me inside, I just know this car would be from across the Channel. 

For me, it’s a good compromise between character (no, not flaws) and convention. 

Renault Clio Dynamique Medianav dCi 90 Eco2 Stop & Start – long-term review

Report 16, 29 August 2014: Renault’s Clio comes of age 

We’ve had a number of tasty press cars in recently – a Porsche Macan S, a VW Golf R and a Mercedes-Benz GLA – and it’s amazing how grown up the Clio feels compared to all of them. The Clio has transitioned from a basic box in the early years to a neatly refined supermini.

Ok, so the interior isn’t leather-clad and the dash not coated in soft-touch plastic, but these Germans cost tens of thousands more then the Renault.

You get similar functionality from the multimedia system, it’s more efficient and, for the price, is pretty much as comfortable as much more expensive machinery.

It’s an endearing car, the Clio, and while I’m quite happy to swish around in vehicles like Porsche’s mega Macan SUV, every time I get back into the Renault I am genuinely impressed with how refined it is.

The motor chugs a little from start-up when it’s cold outside, but it soon settles down to a muted thrum. It rides nicely and there’s not much road noise. It is bigger than the majority of its rivals, but this enlarged footprint on the road gives a very mature feeling from behind the wheel.

Renault Clio Dynamique Medianav dCi 90 Eco2 Stop & Start – long-term review

Report 15, 8 August 2014: did Sean’s Renault Clio manage to hit the magic 1,000-mile mark?

My target was to see if I could travel over 1,000 miles on just one tank of diesel in the Clio. I have to say, I failed – but not by much.

I managed a frankly quite astonishing 956 miles from one fill-up before I lost my bottle and pulled into a petrol station.

My final journey on the Renault’s tank was down the M6 and M1 at a nice, steady 68mph, watching the mileage rack up and the trip computer stay constant at 80.8mpg. As the next fuel stop was some way away, I thought I’d not risk having to call Renault to recover the car late on a Sunday night.

Putting just £10 worth in the tank to get me home (expensive motorway fuel…) I actually continued to tool around for a good few days, pushing the trip computer well past 1,000 miles.

I’m confident that on just the one fill-up – albeit brimmed until it was almost overflowing onto the forecourt – I would have hit my target if I had just held my nerve.

Even so, clocking 956 miles means that my fuel bills are miserly at the minute. We recently published the list of the most economical cars in Britain – the Clio came out in second spot and was even more efficient than one hybrid car on the list.

I’m now really appreciating its strengths.

Report 14, 23 July 2014: Sean’s Renault Clio loosens up and returns some incredible fuel economy

In my last report I mentioned the Clio had been spitting out some frankly incredible fuel economy numbers, and drinking very little of its maximum 45 litres of fuel.

I say 45 litres, but I reckon on my last fill-up I squeezed quite a few more in, as the diesel level was visible at the fuel filler cap.

There’s potential to hit the magic 1,000-mile mark from one fill-up.

According to the receipt, I squirted 40.51 litres into the Clio’s tank, with the fuel needle still showing between one quarter and one third on the gauge.

This happened back on the 17 July and was the first time I’d put any diesel in the car since the Le Mans 24 hours over one month earlier. Yes, before that, the last time I filled up was in France and there was still plenty of range left.

On that subject, as you’ll see from the picture, on my half-a-tank-that-wasn’t-really-half-a-tank of fuel, I travelled roughly 567 miles. The range computer was estimating I could cover a further 512 miles at my current average fuel economy. Which equated to 81.1mpg.

I’d seen more – 83.7mpg from the office to Heathrow airport – but given that those 567 miles took in all sorts of driving, from around town stop-start traffic, to braking and accelerating along country roads and gentle motorway running, it’s pretty good.

So, there’s potential for me to hit the magic 1,000-mile mark from just one fill-up. With 360 motorway miles ahead of me next week, if you see a French blue Clio mixing it with the trucks in the inside lane of the M1 and M6, give me a wave.

I’ll keep you posted as to how I get on.

Report 13, 28 July 2014: a one-off post for the Renault Clio

This update on my Renault Clio long-termer will contain things I have not yet said about the Renault and predict I won’t mention again: the bad points.

That’s a genuine statement, because there are so few things wrong with this car. And anything that has come to my attention is so small, it only warrants passing mention rather than dwelling on. See below.

So things I don’t like about my Renault Clio. Number one: the brakes.

Let me preface this with a defence. The brakes are fine; perfectly safe and very good at bringing the car to a sudden stop safely, with plenty of power.

However, they do feel a bit dead at the top of the pedal, which – in a supermini that spends most of its time zipping round town and on motorway airport runs – is quite important.

On the road, in most situations (and especially if you’re anticipating traffic conditions like I am to try and maximise fuel economy), you only ever use a fraction of a car’s braking performance. So for there to be little feel over this part of the brake pedal’s travel can have some odd outcomes. The most major one of which is kangarooing your way into a parking space.

As you slowly manoeuvre around, brushing the brakes to gently modulate your speed, there’s not much of a reaction. So you push harder, which then clamps the pads onto the discs with more ferocity than you might have expected.

Anyway, enough on the brakes. Let’s focus our attention on the gearbox.

It’s a nice transmission to use – there’s nothing wrong with the change action, or the weight of the throw, or the accuracy, or even the positivity.

The ever so tiny problem with it is the spacing of the ratios between fourth and fifth.

I understand why Renault has chosen to go for a big gap between the top two gears – by keeping fourth relatively normal and lengthening fifth, it means cruising around town you get plenty of economy, while on the motorway the longer fifth gear helps keep revs down and efficiency up.

Except that in the interim speed limits – the 40mph and 50mph sections – you’re stuck between a gear. Fourth is generally more appropriate than chugging along in fifth with the “change down” sign flashing at you, but the engine is not at peak efficiency there.

Sorry if I sound like a total eco bore, but the whole point of my time with the Clio was to see just how economical both it and I could be.

On that subject, we’ve crunched some more numbers recently and the results are incredible, so we’ll fill you in on our progress next time.

That’s the ever so minor problems dealt with though, and given we’ve already spent more than 5,000 miles together, for these two minor things to be all I can pick fault with, I really am impressed. 

Report 12, 23 July 2014: parking problems 

You may have read how much I like the reversing camera on my Renault Clio long-termer – see below if not.

But following my gushing praise for the clever little gadget, I’ve found a very slight flaw. Not with the camera itself, but with the £315 rear parking sensors that I specified with it.

These tiny negatives highlight just how capable the Clio is, but in this case, I think it’s more to do with calibration than the system itself. For me, the ultrasonic bongers start sounding too late.

It means if you reverse towards an object at anything other than a few mph, the time between the first bleep and a solid tone is too short.

It’s a small gripe complaining about parking sensors on a small car that’s easy to park anyway – and actually, this is not a complaint, it’s an observation – but a little more warning would be nice.

On the odd occasion I’ve thought my velocity was too quick and that I would hit something behind given the rate at which the different stages of beep chime in, causing me to slam on the brakes.

At least when the tone rings solidly in your ears you won’t actually hit anything, as it leaves you a healthy gap to ensure bumpers aren’t, well, bumped.

Obviously I’d rather have them than not, and they are extremely useful in conjunction with the camera, but it’s just an observation from living with the car for a few months now.

For me to be mentioning something so small in the negatives column shows just how competent and capable the Clio is.

Report 11, 15 July 2014: going backwards has never been so fun 

Last time I was singing the praises of our super-frugal Renault Clio long-termer for its clever keyless entry system. This time the story is very much the same, but the gadget different.

Among the myriad cool and really rather grown-up options fitted to the Clio, the colour reversing camera is one of the best. I never knew going backwards could be so fun.

At £350 it’s most definitely not a necessity, but if you park your supermini in tight city streets then having this metaphorical pair of eyes in the back of your head could prove a real bonus.

Once you’ve got used to the angle at which the camera looks rearward, and you establish just how close the red line gets you to an object behind, you’ll never mess up a parallel park or a manoeuvre into a bay again.

The overlays on the screen help. There are a set of static lines showing the extremities of the car to the left and right, while two dynamic, swinging lines wave around in a gentle arc to show you you’re projected trajectory.

It’s really useful. Once you’ve got used to the system, you actually look for tricky spots to park in.

Using the on-screen graphic and a couple of glances in the wing mirrors, it becomes very easy to judge turning points, gaps, kerbs and widths very quickly.

Of course, the same is true if you have a pair of eyes and a brain, but any device that can save time and potentially reduce the risk of expensive damage through a minor misjudgement of millimetre proportions is a welcome one in my book.

Report 10, 7 July 2014: keyless entry is a boon in the Clio 

This month, I’ve proved why living with a long-term test car is important. A number of options I checked the boxes for when ordering my Clio have come into their own over the last four weeks.

First of all: the keyless entry system. As you can see from the picture, the keyless Renault comes with a little credit card sized fob with no discernable “blade” key (it’s tucked away inside should you need to use it in an emergency). 

To gain access to the car, you just need this on your person, and it’s a really welcome gadget for when you’ve got your hands full.

From supermarket shopping bags to big boxes and even car parts, it makes it so easy loading the Renault when all you have to do is find the little button just above the bumper and under the boot lid to pop open the load bay.

You don’t have to faff around looking for a fob in your pocket – or a handbag, if that’s where you keep your keys – then try and manipulate the device so you’re thumb desperately squidges the right button as your arms begin to burn under the weight you’re carrying.

The same is true if you’ve got to load the cabin with gear. Just jab the small rubber button on the door handle and you’re in.

While entry is a doddle, there’s another positive, too: exit. If anything, that’s even easier.

I never knew unlocking and locking a car was such a chore…

I joke, but with its “hands-free key card” – a standard fit option on the Dynamique Medianav trim our test car is in – it spoils you.

Getting out, all you have to do is shut the door and walk away. A double bleep from the car tells you its locked once the key card is far enough out of range to signal you won’t be needing to re-enter the cabin for a while.

It might sound slightly strange focusing on what seems like a small point on a car designed to cover so many bases, but it’s these features that make living with a vehicle easy.

Not all premium manufacturers have this technology on sale, so for a 17 grand supermini to boast it – and the gadget actually prove useful and reliable – is something to celebrate, I reckon.

Report 9, 2 July: parsimonious performance from Sean’s Renault Clio

In my last update I said I was going to focus on driving that bit more economically than I have been over the last two weeks or so – a habit that’s all too easy to fall back into.

However, before rationing my diesel once more, I thought I’d actually explore the performance of the Clio. Properly explore it, chucking fuel economy out of the window.

That’s what these long term reports are about – what it’s like to live with a car over an extended period of time exploring every different facet of its personality, so it’d only be right to.

The results? More interesting than you might imagine.

There’s a noticeable difference in and out of the Renault’s Eco mode. By pushing the button down by the handbrake the throttle’s map is changed along with the parameters of the air conditioning to improve efficiency.

In isolation, the car doesn’t feel lethargic by any stretch, but when you revert back to normal you realise what you’ve been missing.

The car revs harder and further – in Eco the little 1.5-litre motor doesn’t want to spin much beyond 2,250rpm, a little LED on the dash changing from green to yellow to orange signifying your right foot is hurting the planet.

The less fuel-efficient ‘normal’ map gives a noticeable boost in performance at part throttle, making the car feel surprisingly keener.

It’s best exemplified when the cruise control is engaged. Two-up and with a good amount of luggage on board, going up a steep-ish motorway incline in Eco mode sees the speed drop as the ECU simply won’t allow enough throttle to sustain your set velocity.

A quick flick of the button into the regular setting sees the car accelerate back up to and maintain your pre-programmed speed.

I actually like this about the car – it gives you the choice of how you want to drive it. Most of the time, it’s just fine in Eco mode, pootling around and returning over 70mpg. Exactly what it was designed for.

Report 8, 26 June: a reprimand for the Renault driver – Sean’s economy figures decline 

I had to give myself a telling off this week. After the prolonged high-speed (well, relatively…) cruising on the journey to and from France, I’ve got into a bad habit.

Whereas once I was 100% focused on opening the Clio’s throttle as little as possible, anticipating traffic and topography up ahead, and using the middle pedal as little as possible, I’ve become lazy.

Over-zealous inputs on the accelerator and brakes mean I’ve not been maximising what the Clio can potentially get from a tank – which makes it all the more impressive that I’ve still managed to improve my average fuel economy since my cross-channel trip. The Clio is now reporting 69.2mpg.

It’s easy to slip back into the groove of just driving. Just driving and not really thinking about what you’re doing. I said in an earlier report that hypermiling is like going quickly on track – it takes serious concentration. This last week has reinforced that message for me.

So, I need to get back on the wagon. It’s easily doable and – believe it or not – actually quite fun to drive in this way.

That’s because the Clio is a cracker at all speeds. Ok, maybe it would loose some of its composure barreling down a back lane, but I’m not in the habit of doing that in this car.

Part of the fun is it’s so refined. Particularly noticeable on the fast and very smooth French motorways last time out, at speed and therefore with less road noise to drown the engine note, it still only whispers away.

Good aerodynamics to further improve fuel consumption also generates smooth airflow over the body, with only a tiny touch of hissing from around the wing mirrors. Eco tyres help keep the rubber quiet, too.

You might think that this lack of percussion inside the cabin might highlight some other knocks, clonks or rattles you might not otherwise hear. Not in the Clio.

With just over 5,000 miles showing on the clock the cabin feels rock solid – no creaks or groans or annoying buzzes. Just silence. And the extra distance has helped loosen up the powertrain, too, so it’s time I took advantage of it.

Report 7, 18 June: Sean’s Renault Clio returns home 

Thanks to the kind folks at Renault, I had the opportunity to return the Clio to its homeland.

For this year’s Le Mans 24 hour race, my chariot was not a super-unleaded-quaffing sports car – nor a juice-drinking fast but svelte estate like the Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG Shooting Brake I was lucky enough to take last year – but my humble 88.3mpg diesel Clio. And it was fantastic.

The Clio was the perfect camping companion over the five-day trip.

I’ve been getting some incredible fuel economy numbers out of the Renault of late, but with the increased speed limit of French motorways (equivalent to 80mph) a fairly blustery headwind and a car full of luggage, conditions were against me when it came to maintaining economy.

I was travelling in convoy with another car, so 750 miles or so of slipstreaming did help, but after a return trip to and from the motorsport town in northern France the trip computer had dropped to 68.7mpg.

Not bad for constant cruising at elevated speeds from a loaded up supermini with only a 90hp 1.5-litre engine.

Cruise control was a real boon for the seemingly endless, featureless French autoroute, as was the Bluetooth music streaming (you get through a lot of podcasts in that time…), the USB socket for phone charging and the comfy seats. Not one numb bum was reported for the duration of the trip.

Yet another strength of the Clio came to the fore while I was way, too. It’s incredibly practical.

The 300-litre boot is big. That sounds stupid when it’s a given volume, but the space is so useable that it can accommodate loads of stuff – if you’re an OCD packer like me, being able to tessellate your belongings in the boot will bring a strange sense of satisfaction.

It’s 20 litres larger than a five-door Volkswagen Polo, which matters, and although this Clio is a physically larger car, it does at least mean there’s loads of room in the rear, too – in this case for more camping junk, rather than people.

It’s practicality positives run beyond the usual stuff though. When you’re setup in the middle of a field or on the road, you need storage, and there are plenty of nooks and crannies in the Clio in which to loose spare euros, race tickets, keys, phones and passports. Trust me. The glove box is a bit on the cramped side though.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say the Clio was the perfect camping companion over the five-day trip. Best of all, with its French Blue paintwork and Tricolore pack it blended right in.

Locals let me out of side turnings and the Gendarme didn’t even so much as twitch their speed trap holding arms in the Renault’s direction on the motorway. 

Report 6, 6 June 2014: Sean’s relationship with the Clio sours slightly after a sat-nav glitch

Yes, I know I sound like a stuck record, but I’ve been smitten with my Renault Clio since I took delivery of it. Every time I drive it, the more I like it. I was only thinking this on the way into work this morning as I watched the instant fuel economy meter hardly drop below it’s maximum 99.9mpg readout.

However, on the way to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders annual Millbrook test day event the other week, the Renault’s sat-nav system threw a wobbler.

Picking up colleague CJ en route and leading another car to the event, it wasn’t exactly easy to pick my way across Bedfordshire when all I had to prompt me was a useless scrolling wheel on a red and black background.

It’s frustrating, because I’ve praised the Clio’s multimedia interface to anyone and everyone that’d listen. And a few that wouldn’t, too.

In fact, it’s doubly frustrating because even after a full day parked up – time enough for it to reset itself, or so I thought – on re-starting the car I found the problem hadn’t gone away.

This meant performing a full factory reset, which deleted the majority of my settings: radio pre-sets, Bluetooth phone favourites and sat-nav saved destinations.

It’s not a particularly laborious process to re-input all this data, it’s just a pain in the posterior.

The thing is, despite this glitch, I wasn’t even really annoyed at the Renault. But I do hope it doesn’t happen again – I’m off on a road trip to France next week and Baby Blue will be my choice of wheels.

I’ve got a feeling that on French Tarmac, in French Blue with the optional Tricolore pack, I’ll blend right in.

Report 5, 19 May 2014: our Clio shows its eco credentials with 81.4mpg 

This is what I’ve been building up to. This is why I was so looking forward to spending some time in a real eco car.

Our Renault Clio dCi 90 Eco 2 has broken the 80mpg barrier – convincingly, too, with an average of 81.4mpg over the 170 or so miles from Chester to St Albans.

In one of my earlier reports I made mention to Renault’s claimed figures of 88.3mpg combined and that I was sure I could improve my average at the time (around 70mpg) by at least another 10mpg and break the 80mpg barrier.

I wasn’t even really trying hard to achieve that count, either. Granted, there were plenty of 50mph average speed sections, but for the remainder of the journey I simply sat at 70mph on the cruise control and let the car do the work.

To put this into perspective and deliver a tangible result, at an average cost of 135.9p per litre of diesel, that journey cost me just £12.48.

At the minute I’m getting around 650 miles per tank, but the actual possible maximum I’m not entirely sure of. Mainly because I don’t know how much is left in there and the range function goes blank just after it says 100 miles to go.

I reckon over 700 on a tank is easily possible, but I don’t want to run the diesel engine dry for obvious and expensive reasons.

Still, I’m extremely pleased I’ve got within 8% of the manufacturer’s quoted claims. With a bit more of a judicious throttle foot and under the right conditions (headwinds seem to drastically affect fuel consumption, for example) I think I could even push that further.

Let’s see how I get on…

Report 4, 14 May 2014: eco-driving actually makes you faster 

As I alluded to in my first report, I’m not an eco-focused person behind the wheel. That’s not to say I’m one to wantonly burn fuel and produce harmful emissions for pleasure, but I generally prize performance over planet saving. My own failing, I know.

That’s exactly the reason I’m spending some time in the company of this Renault Clio, one of the most economical small cars on sale in the UK today.

And in a bid to get as close to the Clio’s 88.3mpg quoted average as possible, I’ve been doing my best to eek out every last little drop of fuel. And I’ve actually uncovered that hypermiling has an unusual number of similarities to driving quickly.

For one, preparation. To go quickly on a circuit you need to set the car by getting your braking and gear changing done early, anticipating the line you’ll need to carry the maximum speed through a corner.

It’s the same for eco-driving, except the end result is you don’t mash the throttle on the other side of a bend, you just tickle it. The basic premise of carrying momentum is the same.

And it actually means that despite saving fuel, you end up travelling quite quickly, too.

The brake pedal is the enemy. Do not touch it at all costs. This means – within the speed limits, obviously – you enter corners and roundabouts quicker, carrying your momentum so you don’t then have to accelerate again and waste fuel, becoming extremely adept at anticipating road and traffic conditions.

It’s good fun. For someone who likes to work at going quickly on track and really think about their driving, it’s another challenge that needs to be mastered. Yes I am sad.

Report 3, 8 May 2014: Our Renault Clio shows its hidden depths 

If you’ve read the two previous entries in my Clio diary, you’ll be well aware I’m rather taken with the little Renault.

I pine for the Clio when I’m not in it and driving another press car, I fear how my non-eco conditioned colleagues will treat her – I meant it – when I hand over the keys, and I judge every other supermini I see on the roads. Obsessed much?

It’s nice to really be enthused by a car, and the more time I spend in it, the more I like it; the more it reveals its talents.

Take the multimedia interface. This car’s Dynamique Medianav trim brings with it a seven-inch colour touchscreen that handles the satellite navigation, stereo and other connectivity functions – including Renault’s R-Link system.

It’s very slick indeed, and so intuitive to use. By comparison to the tiny porthole-sized screen and awkward array of buttons you get to use it in a Ford Fiesta, it’s so open and simple.

The heater controls feel premium as well and, integrated into the large piano black tablet-style centre console, everything works well together.

In fact, it’s surprising how grown up the Clio feels. The milometer is now registering over 3,500, with plenty of long distance cruises helping rack up a healthy total so far.

It’s telling that I look forward to a long journey in the Clio, too. Apart from a great opportunity to improve my average fuel consumption, with the powerful Bass Reflex speakers, cruise control, loads of space and comfortable seats, it really is a delight to trek along the motorway in.

It’s the Clio’s hidden depths that are one of the biggest surprises. There’s loads of room in the back – much more than a VW Polo, say – and at 300 litres, the boot is 89 litres larger than a Suzuki Swift. Despite this, it still feels compact and wieldy. Like you can throw it into a roundabout with confidence.

More on that subject next time…

Report 2, 29 April 2014: our Renault Clio breaks the 70mpg mark 

In less than a week I’d already managed to improve the Clio’s economy from just over 50mpg to around 60mpg. And, amazingly, a run up to Newcastle last weekend saw me average 70.2mpg over the 240-mile road journey. That’s a good hike over where it was.

This prompted a number of questions: one, I know the car was new when it was delivered, with a little under 1,000 miles on the clock, but what was the delivery driver doing to achieve such poor economy?

I’m a firm believer of cars loosening up with a few miles, but I don’t think freshness explains a 20mpg difference. Do you?

And two, if I’m now managing to achieve more than 70mpg just over 1,000 miles from new, just how close could I get to Renault 88.3mpg claims in the future?

I reckon I can easily improve my average for a long motorway run to above 80mpg. Some 50mph average speed sections on the way up the M1 to the Northeast helped lower my fuel burn rate (I’ve never been so pleased to go so slow in all my life) while the rest of the journey was completed at a constant 70mph. Trogging with the trucks at 60mph I’m sure this will improve.

At the minute, I’m so fixated by the figures that I’m yet to fully explore the depths of the multimedia system, or the upper reaches of the engine and the chassis’ capability.

I have noticed a few comments proclaiming the Clio gutless. Granted, I’ve not yet explored its full performance, but for general motoring to and from work and the supermarket – as well as motorway journeys – it’s got more than enough poke to keep up with traffic.

To answer some doubters, with 169lb ft around-town acceleration is swift enough

This is not an eco car you’ll find at the head of a queue holding everyone up. And that’s even in the switchable Eco mode, which softens throttle response, cuts engine power and reduces the air conditioning system’s draw. A brief foray in the normal setting suggests the engine is punchier there.

Besides, the figures bely its performance – 0-62mph might not be that strong at 12.0 seconds dead, but how often do you do that? No, 162lb ft of torque is a decent amount and means the frequent 30-60mph accelerations are swift enough.

I’m still extremely pleased with it and buoyed by its progress when it comes to fuel economy – the whole point of our time with the car. For a brief moment I thought mid-60s might be it, but the efficient motor proved me wrong.

I’m looking forward to the next few weeks and an opportunity to really (not) stretch its legs. Is 80mpg achievable? What do you think?

Report 1, 24 April 2014: Bonjour, Renault Clio

Welcome to the newest addition to the fleet: the Renault Clio Dynamique Medianav dCi 90 Eco2 Stop & Start. And breathe.

Once you’ve got over what is possibly one of the longest model names ever and dig a bit deeper, you’ll find that the nomenclature actually helps to decipher exactly what we have here.

Renault and Clio are the easy part – it’s a new fourth-generation version of the French firm’s famous supermini. Dynamique Medianav is the trim, which denotes the 16-inch alloys (black finish optional on our car), upgraded multimedia system with Bluetooth, USB input, standard-fit Bass Reflex Sound system, keyless entry and go, and seven-inch colour touchscreen with sat-nav.

On top of that I’ve gone for a reversing camera with rear parking sensors, Renault’s R-Link multimedia upgrade pack and automatic climate control.

The real point of my time with the Clio, however, is to investigate the super-frugal 90hp 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel engine – that’s what the “dCi 90 Eco2 Stop & Start” bit means.

It’s the most frugal motor in the Clio range, returning a claimed 88.3mpg with just 83g/km CO2, making it road tax free.

I’m going to put the very French-looking (thanks to its French Blue hue and Tricolore interior pack) Renault through its paces and scrutinise just how economical both it and I can be.

The car came to me showing just over 50mpg after around 900 miles, so it’s only just run in. But I’ve already managed to improve that to around 60mpg, so things are looking good so far.

With the handy Eco function giving you a summary of every trip and rating your driving for acceleration, gear changing and anticipation, giving you a score out of 100, having a digital hypermiling coach alongside me could give me some useful tips.

We’ll be seeing whether 90hp is still adequate enough to carry this relatively light 1,071kg car around day-to-day, as well as if the Eco mode is suitable for more strenuous tasks such as the motorway cruise, all the while keeping one eye on that trip meter. Initial impressions suggest the blue baby and me are going to get on like a house on fire. From the moment it turned into the car park I felt a sense of attachment – a few short drives and it already has me smitten.

Is it wrong that I get excited about driving the Clio every time I think about it?

Need to know: Renault Clio Dynamique Medianav dCi 90 Eco2 Stop & Start

On fleet since: April 2014
Official combined mpg / CO2: 88.3 / 83
Actual mpg: 76.8
Costs: N/A
Engine: 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel
Trim: Dynamique Medianav
Performance: 0-62mph 12.0 seconds, 112mph top speed
Power / torque: 90hp / 162lb ft
Insurance group: 13E
List price: £15,545
Options fitted: 15-inch spare wheel (£95), automatic climate control (£410), Renault R-Link multimedia system with Bluetooth, USB connectivity and Bass Reflex stereo (£450), Renault ID French Blue paint (£225), rear parking camera (£350), Tricolore interior design pack (£125)
Price as tested: £17,200