LIKE the Volkswagen Polo R-Line and Suzuki’s Swift Sport, Renault’s new Clio GT Line combines go-fast looks with reasonably brisk performance for a lot less money than you’d spend on one of today’s hardcore hot hatches. It’s kind of like yesteryear’s hot hatches, but with today’s comfort levels.
In its latest, facelifted guise, the Clio GT-Line graduates into this warm-performing class, thanks to a bigger and perkier engine that finally does the racy styling some justice.
Indeed, the adventurously-styled fourth-generation Clio has always looked the hot hatch part, even in some of its humblest configurations.
Whereas rivals such the Polo lean towards a smarter and more presentable kind of design austerity, which would suit a wider range of buyers, the Clio is unashamedly youthful and sexy, and does not intend to grow up anytime soon.
The GT-Line takes that a step further, with its own design package that includes a unique front bumper, chrome tailpipe and 17-inch titanium grey alloy wheels, colour-matched by the fog light surrounds, mirrors, door protection strips and diffuser.
Yet unlike the previous Clio GT-Line, the latest version has some go to match the show, ditching the previous 66kW/135kW 898cc three-cylinder turbo-petrol for a 1.2-litre four-pot turbo unit that’s good for 88kW and 205Nm. It’s mated to a smooth-shifting six-speed manual gearbox.
The 1.2 engine provides satisfying performance, with no discernable lag off the mark, brisk acceleration through the rev range and effortless overtaking ability.
Granted, this is not a performance car. Yet unless you have the kind of performance hunger that only an RS-badged hottie could satiate, it’s unlikely that this engine is going to leave you wanting. In fact the GT-Line is one of the fastest cars you can buy for the money, with Renault claiming a nine-second 0-100km/h sprint and 199km/h top speed.
As for fuel appetite, the car sips around 8.2 litres per 100km, in a reasonably brisk mixture of urban and rural driving. If you’re looking to better that, the Clio does offer an Eco button which toys with the engine management to benefit economy, and the infotainment system has an eco coaching function that scores you for acceleration, gearing and anticipation.
The Clio’s suspension is a tad firm, and while its bump-absorption is still on the comfortable side of the equation, it’s not exactly the softest-riding car in its class. It corners neatly, however, with that typical front-wheel-drive understeer at the limit, and the steering provides adequate feedback.
Perhaps underscoring its positioning as a more emotional, rather than rational choice, the Clio is not the most practical hatch in its class when it comes to rear legroom in that an adult or large teen, behind an average driver, will have their knees digging into the front seat. Yet Renault is not exactly targeting family buyers with big kids here and there’s still lots of space in the boot for your junk, 300 litres to be precise, making it among the biggest in its class.
The interior design is also in keeping with the car’s sporty persona. Front occupants sink into a pair of grippy sports seats with bright stripes and GT-Line embroidery. While the huge bolsters provide plenty of support, larger occupants will find them a bit tight to squeeze into comfortably.
Additional GT-Line decor comes in the form of an RS-style leather steering wheel and alloy gear knob as well as a handbrake lever with blue stitching. Most of the interior materials are of a good quality, but overall it’s still more sporty than classy in here and the design is a little fussy.
Like most of the Clio range, your command centre is the 17.8cm MediaNav touch-screen infotainment system, featuring integrated satnav, Bluetooth connectivity and a four-speaker audio system. The GT-Line is also fitted with cruise control, rear park distance control, auto lights and wipers, ESC stability control and four airbags (front and side, but no curtains).
While others in this class are trying to do the growing up thing, losing some charisma in the process, the Clio is hell-bent on keep
ing its cap facing backwards and posting saucy selfies on Instagram. If we’re on that page, the upgraded GT-Line hits a sweet-spot with its racy looks, ample features and lively performance for the R264 900 price tag. –iol.co.za
Fact box: Renault Clio GT Line
Engine: 1.2-litre, four-cylinder turbo-petrol
Gearbox: six-speed manual
Power: 88kW @ 5500rpm
Torque: 205Nm @ 2000rpm
0-100km/h (claimed): 9.0 seconds
Top speed (claimed): 199km/h
Price: R264 900 (in South Africa)
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