2015 Renault Clio “Sports Tourer” dCi road test

I have a bit of a soft spot for small estate cars. DTW has tested the popular Renault Clio “Sports Tourer” dCI which is a small estate car. What was revealed in the course of 361 kilometres? What??

2015 Renault Clio dCi in the DTW garage.
2015 Renault Clio dCi in the DTW garage.

The Renault Clio has proved to be a successful entrant in the small car market and the estate version is as numerous (to judge by its ubiquity) as the “standard” five door body. Is there a difference? Yes, one you can measure and feel. The estate´s maximum boot volume is 439 litres compared to the 300 litres of the normal car. Both models have the same wheel base. With the rear seats folded down, the volume rises from 1038 litres of the standard car to 1277 litres in the “sports tourer” or station wagon. You can see why people are

2015 Renault Clio interior
2015 Renault Clio interior

opting in large numbers for the “sports tourer”, as Renault dub it. The version we tested was the 1.5 litre diesel dCi in mid-range specification. Note that Renault allow much more daring colours inside (see the image below) and out than those shown here. Their on-line configurator is bad at showing these though.

Silver is boring but easy to photograph.
Silver is boring but easy to photograph.

The interior of the “sports tourer” has been thoughtfully designed. The front seats are supportive and comfortable over a long distance. The rear seats are alright too – not brilliant- but decent for this class of car. Even small passengers have a pleasant enough time since the waistline is not as high as on other vehicles we have tested recently. Autocar and others have quibbled about the hard plastics inside the car. I agree there are hard plastics such as the dash top but this is really unimportant. The only time you notice that the plastic is hard is when you tap it to check. The rest of the interior trim was well fitted and neatly finished. What you touch is of good quality and has some imaginative textures.

A usefully big boot as standard. Enough room to hold a very big hat.
A usefully big boot as standard. Enough room to hold a very big hat.

The dashboard has a pleasing shape at first glance with more than few interesting flourishes such as the wantonly sculptural chrome oblongs that outline the main instruments. There is also a bright frame around the control panel on the centre console though this feature can annoy in strong sunshine as it is highly reflective and causes glare. Having disliked the “floating” console on first viewing, I came to accept it and even admire its form, which is slightly asymmetrical. The audio controls work well enough, vastly better than those on the Megane we reviewed last week. And the ergonomics of the HVAC controls are first rate: easy to use and with a nice, smooth, buttery action. The dials (hooray!) are right next to your hand as it rests on the gear lever. This might not be true of higher spec-versions of this car, note. They have a more complex interface.

Those seats fold down 60:40.
Those seats fold down 60:40.

I find myself at odds with Autocar over the diesel engine and the ride. I found the motor noisy but more than adequate in terms of performance. They thought the reverse. Overtaking was easy and stress-free. From 1300 rpm the car had plenty of urge and on two occasions during the test I found that 100 mph was achieved with no bother and I could imagine being able to hammer the car on a long autobahn trip for extended periods. It felt stable and secure and devoid of wind-noise. The passengers did not notice the speed.

2015 Renault Clio rear three quarter garageThe main gripe I have with this car is the ride quality which is not terribly good. (Autocar thinks it´s fine). Even my passenger who knows next to nothing about cars, observed the poor quality of the ride on ordinary roads. You feel as well as hear the thumps and crashes of imperfections at the road surface. In other regards, the Clio does well. It´s got good grip, unnoticeable body roll and adjusts itself according to throttle inputs meaning narrow roads and roundabouts provide opportunities for silly micro-hoons. I tested the car on my “forest stage” track and it performed well, being easy to guide and it dealt with the bucking road surface quite well. The “gravel section” was also well handled, as the car can float (as did the Megane)  over the rough, unmetalled surface. Which is odd, as when driving over fairly ordinary roads the Clio is jittery and unsettled.

2015 Renault Clio garage front three qI found the steering nicer than the Megane, being less wooden and requiring less effort. Turn-in was direct though not very communicative. It had a blank neutrality to it. I suppose this is the best we can expect from most cars these days. One of the nice aspects of having a small, cheap car is that you are not forced to accept a six –speed gearbox. The Clio´s five are well-judged and easy to access. You know where you are. The one thing I noticed, which may be down to my lack of experience with the car, is that on slow, sharp bends you can find yourself wishing there was a gear between first and second. First was too low and second too high sometimes, so I ran into a flat spot before the engine speed rose enough for the car to take off out of the corner again.

Outward visibility can be described as good all round and, to compare again, much better than the Megane.  Junctions proved to be effortless to deal with thanks to the glazing and placement of the pillars.

2015 Renualt clio garage graffitiThe Clio returned 49 mpg over the test route. The fuel tank holds 10 gallons which means you can expect 490 miles between fills. On the standard  DTW Calais-Cap Ferrat route, you will stop for petrol between Grenoble and Marseille and have half a tank left when you reach Cap Ferrat.

Turning to the boot again: the raw statistics were given qualitative meaning when the car took all the falderal we threw at it with aplomb, without having to put the seats down. It´s a genuinely useful boot for such a small car. It´s well shaped, with a low sill and there are

2015 Renault Clio Dynamiue. Note the HVAC controls which look less user friendly than the bog-standard model tested here.
2015 Renault Clio Dynamiue. Note the HVAC controls which look less user friendly than the bog-standard model tested here.

curry hooks on the left and right to allow shopping bags to be hung up. This means you don´t have to use the rear footwells to secure groceries, for example.  The load bay is almost flat when the seats are down, which is a feature I like.  Renault have only fitted one interior light, on the left side of the boot, which is a pity. I´d pay extra for two. The tonneau cover had a nicely sprung clip to make fitting and removal a painless task.

The other emerits amount to trivial matters. Every car should have a good central roof light. Anyone who has to buckle children into a child seat at night or look for things in the extended load bay will curse the absence of light on those occasions.  The rear exterior door handles are not well positioned for left hand use. Half the time you will find you are using the wrong hand to open them or need to put whatever you are holding down. The rear of the front seats are finished with a nice-looking matte plastic material. But it shows up dirt immediately. The old-fashioned choice of vinyl may not look so lovely but it was incredibly practical for a car like this where small children will quickly find ways to make foot impressions on the interior.

Conclusion.

I would ask why anyone would choose the “standard” car over the “sports tourer”. In days gone by the estate version of a car was a variant derived from the standard car and felt and looked as such. In the case of the Clio, it seems almost as if it is the five-door hatch that is the unnecessary deviation from the standard estate. Put another way, the standard car seems unnecessary.You could view the “sports tourer” as the standard and the five-door hatch as a version which does less for no real gain. I don´t even think it looks better than the “sports tourer”.

Secondarily, the Clio is in many ways a nicer and better car than the Megane. Declining Megane sales are probably not only a function of its age relative to its peers in the same class but also that some sales are being captured by the comfortable and competent Clio. If only the Clio rode as well as the Megane, it would be perfect. The existence of the Clio´s very good HVAC controls (on certain models) also makes me wonder why Renault did not re-design the Megane some time ago to use the same system. A Megane with the same controls as the Clio would be an excellent, slightly bigger car.

In summary, the Clio dCI Sports Tourer is one of the better cars I have driven lately. It has a lot to commend it and even the jittery ride is not enough to put me off assessing this as a very fine addition to the pantheon of useful, fun and nice-looking small estates. Do check what HVAC controls are fitted to any model you are considering. The higher spec-version, which I have not tried could be a deal breaker.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

19 thoughts on “2015 Renault Clio “Sports Tourer” dCi road test”

  1. Well, i am spoiled by driving myself a car with hydropneumatic suspension, but the harsh ride of the Clio Grandtour ( i was passenger several times in the 2012 petrol version) mades it absolutely impossible for me to buy one.
    Sad to say this, because i really like his design. Maybe the Captur has a better suspension, but he has a silly high loading lip outside and inside – like most of the small SUVs or Crossovers (Cactus, Mokka etc.).

    So i would prefer a Peugeot 2008, especially with one of the new PSA-3-cylinders-petrol-engines. As a Crossover he should be better in terms of resale than a small Estate Car too. ..

    1. BX? I was very impressed with the Ford Focus’ ride quality which was in many ways as good as my XM. On the downside the Ford is visually disppointing.

    2. I looked at the 2008. The appearance inside and out is off-putting. It’s neither Franco-Italian elegance nor any kind of rational. It’s expressivec in Tourette’s syndrome way. What about a Ford Ecosport? They will ride well and look acceptable (to my eyes)?

    3. Careful what you say here. From memory, most reviews mentioned a poor ride in their verdict on the Ecosport. It’s a car that’s built at low cost, primarily for developing countries. Didn’t we discuss this on this pages not so long ago?

    4. The Focus’ ride and handling compromise is still one of the best in the business, despite Ford softening it a tad too much for the current model.

  2. Nice review, thanks, very comprehensive. I saw a number of these on my recent French trip – in fact I think I saw more than the standard 5-door hatch – and thought it a fine looking thing. It loses out to the new Fabia Estate in boot-space terms, but is a more easy on the eye design than that car, which is rational and hard-edged to the point of looking “spiky”. There is something almost (nice) Alfa-like about the rear 3/4 view, with the blacked-out pillars, incliding the rearmost, working very well (for once – Jaguar, take note). There are similarities from this angle with the incoming Mazda CX-3, of which I think (ahem) I’ve mentioned my liking before …

  3. I very much like the styling; it reminds me of a Civic Tourer with a superior front end. One can mourn the passing of the more diminutive Clios, but in reality the sizing of the current generation is probably just about right for most people’s needs. A high power diesel or even RenaultSport version would be tempting indeed. Or indeed any version at all, the Clio Sports Tourer inexplicably being unavailable in the UK.

  4. This saturday, I caught sight of an all-new Espace with French number plates. I’ll probably be grilled for this, but I rather liked it. The SUV stance was extremely subtle, and its violet colour worked very well with the lashings of chrome. Like the van den Acker concept cars I appreciate a lot, the Espace in this spec exuded a sense of cheek that was a very nice contrast to the prevailing sense of earnestness of other ‘executive’ cars. I certainly wish the new Espace well.

    1. I have moaned about Laurens van den Acker here on several occasions. I even devoted an entire piece sneering at his footwear obsession. The general non-response of the respected company I keep on these pages means that I should probably reassess my prejudice. My disapproval of the new Espace is probably just its name. Had it been introduced as a competitor to the DS5, say, I’d probably not have minded. Even though I haven’t owned one for 15 years, I just miss the ‘proper’ Espace, a car with great all round visibility and lots of headroom. As they say, Renault, the clue was in the name. But I realise that such cars are deeply unfashionable. I think that the contemporary buyer doesn’t actually feel safe unless cocooned and my views on such things are becoming increasingly anachronistic – rather like the old geezer in my youth lamenting that a 60’s Morris Oxford (so low, sleek and sporty) didn’t match up to the tall Morris 10 he owned in 1935. And I do think there should be more violet cars.

    2. Fair enough, Sean.

      I liked all the previous generations of Espace, the third one excepted, and adored the last one. But the are a-changing – albeit unfortunately so, in certain cases – and Renault, rightfully, I believe, assume that a classic Espace would sell like fermented Marmite. So while you and I would certainly appreciate an Espace V in the traditional mould, it’s actually more a case of ‘adapt or die’. And the kind of adaptation Renault has pursued is not without its merits, at least in my humble opinion. The SUV factor is clearly a case of eyewash, but the concept of an ‘executive’ car with space for larger families – a considerable factor in fertile France – and an airy ambience, which the new car still provides, if not in quite as opulent a manner as its predecessors, is worthwhile.
      Consider the new Espace as more of a French R-class, rather than the successor to a much-loved tent pole model, and I’m convinced your view of it will mellow.

  5. Indeed: I stand corrected. The Ecosport, as Sam noted, is not one of Ford’s well suspended cars. Whoops! If I ever read that I forgot. Autocar gives it a bad review. So do AutoExpress and What Car. And Car. It’s a turkey.

  6. The Kuga rides very well. I find that one of the primary benefits of the soft roader is that the larger dead cat holes allow for more suspension travel. Indeed, at a decent clip, the wife’s CX5 positively lopes over poorly made country roads. Perhaps the inverse of that is why Audis always crash over every manhole cover.

  7. To my mind the Clio is one of the few Renaults of recent times for which no excuses are required. No equivocations of “Well it was cheap” or “I had to lease it through work”. It’s just a nice car, full stop, end of.

  8. Going back to the Espace, I agree with the thought that it should not be called an “Espace”. My own view is that MPVs will yet make a come-back a few years down the line. In which case, why not withdraw the name for now (as the new car has different priorities) and bring it back when there’s a truly new MPV to be marketed? I think the new “Espace” is a decent looking thing, especially in the metal. I did not think LvdA did a great job at Mazda, higlighted by the dramatic improvement since his departure, but I like the Captur, Clio and Espace, if not so much the Kadjar (but it’s OK). There is an over-complexity of some of the surfacing, but they are modern and attractive.

  9. I´ve been wondering how to characterise Renault´s styling. Techno-organic? Sometimes as in the Scenic it seems molten. There is enough structure in the Clio to avoid that hazard and the graphics are simple but strong.

    1. For me, the current Scenic is a previous generation – pre LvdA, although he may have been involved in the last facelift (which has the new Renault “nose”). I’m hooked enough to be looking forward to seeing the impending Megane and Laguna. Given many components, and the basic platforms, are shared with the current Nissans, you’d have thought underlying quality should be there. So, there are signs of a potential renaissance here.

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