Yet Renault’s latest Clio Eco is certainly fuel-efficient. As we fly around Surrey on our test drive we find the car returns in excess of 70mpg at times – it’s official figure is a massive 78.4mpg (combined) – which is impressive because nobody would rather spend money on fuel than a martini. And in these cash- strapped, environmentally aware times, the fewer visits to any stinking, ugly behemoth petrol stations the better.
Best of all, CO2 emissions have been reduced from 106g/km to a much less city choking 94g/km, which means there’s no road tax (VED) to pay when you buy it. And if you’re a daily City commuter there’s no congestion charge either.
The extra £250 cost of the Eco pack option would easily be recouped by anyone travelling into the congestion charge each day. In fact even people living within the CCZ and eligible for a 90 per cent discount could do the same.
Best of all living with that engine is not quite the compromise I was expecting. The Clio Expression Eco we’re driving uses Renault’s 88hp 1.5-litre, four-cylinder dCi diesel engine. Sure, it makes some noise when it’s idling but is surprisingly refined when underway.
Because of the manner in which it delivers its power, it has more oomph from low speeds. This means the Clio feels brisk and you don’t have to rev it hard to get up some speed, as is so often the case with “eco” versions. Most of the time the engine doesn’t feel overworked or flustered. I was struck time and again by how much it felt like a much bigger car.
Only the light steering was disappointing, though in town I suspect many people would regard this quite an advantage. The ride can be a little firm though and the seats only soak up so much of it.
From the outside, the Clio is handsome enough. The Eco version has had some aerodynamic tweaks to the bodywork, sport front wings improve its economy, and the car looks sharper, helped by some 15-inch wheel trims. Inside, the car is functional. It’s no beauty but then it’s no dullard either.
Renault has sold more than a million Clios in the UK for a reason. There is a lot of plastic, but the styling is pleasant enough, there are satin chrome touches on the dashboard and door handles and charcoal sport upholstery. It’s also surprisingly roomy inside in terms of front and rear legroom, and even the boot is spacious.
There are commuters out there who could chose to run this as their only car. The Clio has always been a generous little car in terms of space and many people could find that it would fit most of what they need in it most of the time.
If you’re into frugal motoring, the Renault Clio Eco is worth a look. It’s not going to set your hair on fire but it won’t burn a hole in your wallet either.
THE FACTS: THE RENAULT CLIO EXPRESSION ECO
TOP SPEED: 113MPH
CO2 G/KM: 94G/KM
MPG COMBINED: 78.4MPG
VALUE FOR MONEY