New Renault Clio 1.5 turbodiesel surprises on several fronts
Deserving diesel The Renault Clio 1.5T dCi is even more frugal than a hybrid.ST PHOTOS: AZIZ HUSSIN

Renault claims that its new 1.5-litre turbodiesel Clio can cover 100km on 3.7 litres of fuel. In the light of the Volkswagen scandal, I decided to put this audacious claim to the test.

The car actually achieves that remarkable figure - but only when it is driven exclusively on expressways (during off-peak hours), with its Eco mode switched on (which dulls throttle response and hastens gear changes), and the air-con is set at no lower than 24 deg C.

Otherwise, the car does 5 litres/100km, which is still an impressive figure. Of course, I am talking about a 1.15-tonne hatch that is just slightly larger than a VW Polo.

Even so, I cannot recall a non- hybrid car that is so economical in real life.

The French model stands out for a few other things. Roominess, for instance, is better than what you would expect of a car its size. Two adults will fit snugly in the second row.

The boot has 300 litres of storage space, but looks bigger because it is rather deep. Like many European carmakers today, Renault has opted for a tyre repair kit instead of a spare wheel.

For $99,999, the car is well equipped. You get keyless access and ignition, cruise control with easy-to-use steering-mounted switches; navigation and voice control; automatic wipers; automatic lights with daytime-running LEDs incorporated into its smart-looking grille; Eco trip computer; anti-glare rear-view mirror; and a slew of passive and active safety features that help it attain a five-star rating in the European New Car Assessment Programme.

It is also arrestingly beautiful, with a sporty, wind-chiselled profile and fluid lines that converge in front to form a smart-looking face that is elaborate yet fuss-free.

It definitely looks more interesting than its peers, which are either too bubble-like, stiff or plain.

Inside, the Clio is aesthetically pleasing in front, with a dynamically designed cockpit and a level of trim that almost matches what you will find in a Polo.

Nothing about it says "entry level". Except for the rear, where the seats seem rather austere.

But overall, the cabin is cheerful, a disposition reinforced by the car's driving behaviour.

The little Renault is zippy and eager to please. At the wheel, you would not believe that it has only 88bhp and 220Nm to its name, or a stated century sprint of nearly 13 seconds. It is thoroughly driveable, even in Eco mode, which is surprising for a small diesel.

Like most small hatches, the Clio is entertaining when driven with verve. You can throw it carelessly around a bend and you will be fine, even if it raises a ruckus as the tyres squeal in mock protest.

Interestingly, you do not have to drive it like you are racing to have a good time. The Clio is just as enjoyable when you drive like granny. For a small car, it has a pretty decent ride and a tolerable level of noise intrusion.

Despite the cloud hanging over diesel cars now, this car deserves a thumbs up.

CAR INFORMATION

Renault Clio Diesel 1.5T dCi LWB (A)

Price

:$98,000

Engine Type

:

4-cylinder in-line Turbocharged

Engine Cap

:

1,461 cc

Horsepower

:

90 bhp / 4,000 rpm

Torque

:

200 Nm / 1,750 rpm

Transmission

:

6-speed (A) EDC

Acceleration

:

12.9 sec (0-100 km/h)

Top Speed

:

176 km/h