New 2019 Renault Clio arrives with a focus on tech and quality

Wraps come off the new Mk5 Renault Clio supermini ahead of Geneva, with an evolutionary look outside but big changes inside

This is the all-new Renault Clio, revealed in official images ahead of its public debut at the Geneva Motor Show in March. The fifth generation of the supermini is 100 per cent new and every body panel is different.

But the model’s exterior design is clearly an evolution of what’s gone before, because many Mk4 Clio buyers cited the car’s design as a primary reason for purchase. The Clio is, in fact, Europe’s best-selling supermini – and the fourth generation of the French model actually increased its sales every year since its launch in 2012, with 450,000 units shifted in 2018 alone.

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“We had so much to build on with the Mk5 Clio,” Renault’s design chief Laurens Van den Acker told Auto Express. “It would have been a shame to throw it away. So we’ve focused on keeping what is good and changing what needed to be changed.

“So the exterior design is an evolution, but the interior is where we can make the most progress, so it’s a revolution. It’s the start of our interior design revolution.”

The exterior is a mature development of the Mk4. Renault’s prominent ‘face’ remains, albeit with full LED headlights that are standard across the range. The bonnet is a complex pressing, incorporating a central ‘rib’ that runs up from the badge, but the side surfacing is less fussy, with a subtle ‘gill’ that blends into a pair of creases running back from the front wheelarch.

The rear door handles continue to be integrated into the C-pillars, in an attempt to give the five-door-only Clio the look of a three-door. At the rear, meanwhile, the Mk4’s prominent shoulders are more neatly integrated, and there’s a sharper crease on the hatchback panel.

The Clio has what Van den Acker calls a “more athletic, sporty interior” which should feel more spacious and airy, despite the fact that the Mk5 Clio is around a centimetre shorter than the vehicle it replaces. This has been achieved by trimming away millimetres from interior components. “As an example, we have a smaller steering wheel and a smaller steering wheel column,” Van den Acker explained. “This helps to free up a bit more knee room for the driver.”

There’s a useful gain in boot size, too; the Clio gets a variable-height floor so you can prioritise a low load lip or capacity, but the space on offer ranges from 330 litres up to 391 litres – figures ahead of many family hatchbacks from the class above.

Expect a major step up in quality for the new model, with cushioned plastics in a number of key areas to give the car a much more premium feel. Renault is also likely to ramp up the personalisation options, with a wider availability of leather upholstery across the range. The dashboard, in fact, is divided into three distinct areas: a padded upper panel, a lower section incorporating the glovebox, and a middle strip that is ripe for customisation by buyers.

At the heart of the Clio’s front cabin is its new infotainment system. There are likely to be a couple of different options in this area, but the largest available display, which measures 9.3 inches, is huge by supermini standards. It’s angled towards the driver and is also slightly curved.

Renault’s newcomer also switches to a digital instrument display, with either a seven-inch or 10-inch panel being offered. The larger version is capable of showing navigation information in between the virtual dials.

The Clio’s design team has retained conventional rotary controls for the air-conditioning and heating, however. They’re sited at the bottom of the central dashboard stack, beneath some neat ‘piano key’ buttons that operate the hazard lights and other functions.

“Some companies have made a mistake by putting the HVAC [heating and ventilation] controls in the screen,” Van den Acker told us, clearly referencing the brand’s French rival PSA Peugeot-Citroen. “There’s nothing quite so simple as a button that allows you to change the temperature even with your eyes closed.”

Renault hasn’t revealed any technical data on the new car – it’s believed to be saving that for Geneva – but as Auto Express outlined last year, it’s the first model to move on to Renault-Nissan’s new CMF-B platform.

The engine line-up will focus on petrol, with an evolution of the current car’s 0.9-litre unit, in various power outputs, joined by a 1.3-litre motor that’s shared with the likes of the Mercedes A-Class and Nissan Qashqai. Renault’s 1.5-litre dCi engine is also likely to feature in the line-up – in contrast to some rivals, like the Skoda Fabia, which have dropped diesel.

Renault announced at 2018’s Paris Motor Show that the Clio will feature hybrid tech, comprising a normally aspirated 1.6-litre petrol engine and two electric motors working at different speeds. Expect the hybrid in 2020.

The Clio is less likely to follow the Peugeot 208 in offering full electrification, but Renault is lining up a new generation of its ‘bespoke EV supermini’, the ZOE, to fulfil that brief.

The new Clio is due on sale in the autumn. There’s no word on pricing, but we’d expect a slight increase over the current car, to reflect the improved cabin and extra kit. That should give it a starting figure of around £14,000. 

Renault Clio: how it’s evolved Renault Clio I (1990-1998)

The original Clio was a watershed moment for Renault, replacing the much-loved 5 and also kick-starting the switch to names instead of numbers for the brand’s mainstream line-up. Helped by clever Nicole and Papa marketing, the car was a regular feature in the UK best-sellers list. 

Renault Clio II (1998-2005)

Codenamed X65, the second-generation Clio majored on comfort and space – but did little to really improve the interior quality. Bulbous design incorporated plastic panels in a few key areas. The wildest roadgoing Clio ever, the bonkers rear-drive, mid-engined V6, was based on this generation. 

Renault Clio III (2005-2012)

The Clio grew up for its third iteration – in both size and weight, because it tipped the scales around 130kg heavier than the car it replaced. It shared parts with the Nissan Note and Micra, and also introduced the estate body style to the Clio name. It was the last of the breed to be offered as a three-door, too. 

Renault Clio IV (2012-2019)

The biggest Clio ever – and it’ll remain so for at least the next seven years – the Mk4 has scored on its emotional exterior design, but fallen down against rivals on cabin quality. Despite this, its sales have grown every year since launch, and it was the second best-selling car in Europe in 2018.

Do you think the new Mk5 Renault Clio is the best looking Clio yet? Let us know your thoughts below…

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