Unless you are an advocate of easy, clutch-free driving, though, the manual Clio might prove to be more of a town car. Otherwise, save the $5,000 it costs for the automatic gearbox
Clio's gearbox is not an automatic choice CLIO 1.4 AUTO

THE merger of COE categories has diminished the number of super-minis around town, even though they are perfect for our island roads.

So much so, I had forgotten how nice it is to squeeze into a tight parking spot with nary a bead of perspiration. That is, until I took the new 1.4-litre Clio automatic out for a spin.

The manual version, on sale earlier, gave me much pleasure when it came to urban driving. Negotiating city roads was a zippy affair in this cherubic French chariot, with its 98 bhp.

Other than the addition of an automatic gearbox option, the latest Clio features minor cosmetic changes, including updated front headlights and an interior that has been toned down from its previous zesty dual patterned fabric.

Comparing gearboxes, the automatic Clio is pretty similar to the manual version. The former still boasts great handling prowess and responsive steering. However, there is a snag to the driving enjoyment.

Between the automatic and manual, it is the former which proves the lesser transmission, especially when it comes to performance.

Much of the engine's power is accessible only at high rpms, so when accelerating from a standstill, there is a noticeable lag in response from the car.

That is a distinct disadvantage when zinging into gaps in heavy traffic.

Downshifts show the unrefined side of the gearbox, too, with abrupt, jerky changes that cause the car to shudder when slowing down.

But when driven at a gentle pace, the gear changes from the four-speed auto gearbox feel crisp and precise.

Unless you are an advocate of easy, clutch-free driving, though, the manual Clio might prove to be more of a town car. Otherwise, save the $5,000 it costs for the automatic gearbox.

SPECS

CLIO 1.4 AUTO

Price: $76,900 with COE

Engine: 1,390 cc 16-valve, in line four cylinder

Gearbox: Four-speed automatic

Torque: 127 Nm at 3,750 rpm

Power: 98 bhp at 6,000 rpm

Top speed: 181 kmh

0-100 kmh: 12.9 seconds

For details: Call Exklusiv Auto on 474-1111