2015 Renault Clio “Sport Tourer” – Second Thoughts

A few weeks ago I tested the Renault Clio dCi “Sport Tourer.” Today I had another chance to sample the exact same model. This time I noticed something else, something about the steering. Something unwelcome. 

Renault Clio Sport Tourer. Not very sporty. Not bad but not sporty: www.renault.dk
Renault Clio Sport Tourer. Not very sporty. Not bad but not sporty: http://www.renault.dk

I observed this: sudden inputs to the steering around the straight ahead don’t result in sudden changes of direction. If you jerk the wheel left the car doesn’t suddenly point left. The car changes direction smoothly after a small, smooth delay. The jerkiness of the input is smothered. It’s not as if the car understeers (in a noticeable way). And it’s not as if there is play in the steering around the straight ahead: every bit of a degree of turning of the wheel encounters resistance. This means that when you turn the wheel you must make an effort but the effort does not turn into a change of direction.

What the Clio is not is that it is not in any way darty. Renault have concealed a rather dull steering set-up with artificial resistance. In the old days (whenever that was) resistance in the steering signalled resistance at the road. And if you dialled in a change in direction you got real feedback and a change in direction. If a manufacturer wanted to dial out feedback you ended up with play around the straight-ahead which I encountered in the Volvo 340 and the Opel Corsa B (1993-2001) and some US cars. The aim there was to insulate the driver from unwanted vibrations and kickback from the steering. The other effect was imprecise steering.

What I think has happened is that the Clio has insulated steering that feels “meaty” but does a lot less than you think it does. If you want to suddenly play with the car’s direction and try toying with the steering, nothing much happens at first. Which makes the car rather anaesthetic in that regard. I missed that in my first assessment.

 

Author: richard herriott

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

2 thoughts on “2015 Renault Clio “Sport Tourer” – Second Thoughts”

  1. Modern cars are more egalitarian, I guess. They make poor drivers better by smothering their incompetence with aids. This is of course a good thing – up to a point. The point being that poor drivers never get the chance to improve by learning from their mistakes. The other downside is that the modern car is optimised to be driven by the mediocre driver – even it seems many of those cars deemed as ‘driver’s’ cars. This is sensible for car companies, since they don’t see too many of their products stuffed into hedges. The inevitable downside is that, if you are (real or imagined) a more skilled driver, your definite intentions are misread by the car as bad driving and compensated for. It knows better.

    For years the debate has raged that ‘real’ cars have to be rear driven. In the world of three letter acronyms, this is becoming less and less relevant. Drive a Twingo and you’d take ages, maybe forever, to notice which wheels are driven or where the engine is. After years of being slagged off, Alfa Romeo are finally making a comeback with rear driven cars. Logic suggests that their engineers will capitalise on this and produce something that is fun to drive, but logic is in short supply at FCA and it might well be that the gain is negligible in the fear that it would put off anyone wanting to swap over from an Audi.

  2. I found the steering annoying when I finally noticed what sort of a trick had been played upon me. Yes, the drive is smooth. The downside is that there is not much entertainment to be had. It would be good if Renault had an option to switch off the dead steering effect or offered a version with a more communicative rack. As it is, it´s a bit patronising.

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