First Drive: 2017 Renault Clio GT-Line

First Drive: 2017 Renault Clio GT-Line

First launched back in 1990, the Clio has become a shining star in Renault’s lineup.

Over the past 27 years this vehicle alone has has notched up sales in excess of 13 million units worldwide – while at the same time picking up the coveted European Car of the Year title in both 2001 and 2006.

And while the majority of these sales have obviously been in Europe, many motorists in South Africa have also taken a shine to the vehicle with the latest generation Clio 4 finding a home in over 20 000 households since its launch in 2013.

Impressive indeed for a brand that for so long struggled to shake off some rather unflattering labels. Looking back, some may have been warranted, others less so.

Last week saw the extension of the Clio range – which currently consists of the Authentique, Expression and Dynamique models – with the introduction of the 5-door GT-Line.

Definitely more sporty-looking than its siblings, the GT-Line has a number of design refreshments that give it a distinctive look.

The front bumper now has pronounced scoops while at the rear there is a sporty rear diffuser and chrome tail pipe. Added to this are full LED lights along with a new grille, attractive 17-inch titanium grey alloys coupled with matching door mirrors and distinctive fog light surrorunds.

The interior also has a number of stand-out features – some actually borrowed from the RS which is headed our way later this year.

Expect to find a rather chunky steering wheel and sport front seats while the leather gear lever and handbrake are embossed with GT-Line emblems along with the liberal use of distinctive blue stitching.

Overall there is a feeling of quality in the materials used – from the soft-touch dashboard to the side door panels. Mind you, a sprinkling of brushed aluminium would provide a nice contrast to the overall black hue.

But it is under the bonnet that lies the most impressive feature – the 1.2-litre direct injection turbo engine.

When Renault launch a vehicle, must is often made of the fact that they incorporate F1 technology into the mechanics of their cars. Sometimes I’ve taken that with a pinch of salt, but with the GT-Line it is quite believable.

Tuned for 88kW and 205Nm it is definitely one of the more responsive and sweet-revving engines around.

At the moment only a 6-speed manual box is available, although, depending on demand, an auto box may be introduced at a later stage. That said, this 6-speed manual is a peach to operate.

Changes are short, sharp and clinical. There is no fiddling about finding the correct gear and with the torque kicking in at low revs, it just provides for a very nice driving experience.

While some manufacturers prefer to offer a base vehicle and let you add on comfort features depending on how deep your pockets are, Renault have equipped the GT-Line with a comprehensive range of goodies.

Start/stop technology is just one feature that helped us achieve a commendable 7.2l/100km on our test route – in spite of some rather spirited driving.

Safety-wise four airbags, ABS, EBC (electronic brake distribution) and ESC (electronic stability control) all contribute to a valuable 5-star Euro NCAP rating.

Other features that will help make your driving experience that little more comfortable are electric windows (front and rear), cruise control with speed limiter, climate control, park distance control, auto-on wipers and lights and a 7-inch touchscreen that encompasses a navigation system, audio streaming, Bluetooth and an Eco application that provides you with a comprehensive read-out of fuel consumption.

There is no denying that Renault is riding a wave of success at the moment. Contributing to this is a strong lineup of vehicles – from the excellent Sandero to the versatile Duster and now the expanded Clio range.

And while the latest Naamsa figures show the overall new passenger car market for the first quarter of 2017 grew at a sluggish 0.9% compared to the corresponding period last year, Renault is up a massive 13.4%.

That figure alone proves they are definitely on the right track. – Bruce Fraser

Fast Facts: Renault Clio GT-Line

Engine: 1197cc four-cylinder petrol
Power: 88kW at 5500rpm
Torque: 205Nm at 2000rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
0-100km/h: 9.0 seconds
Top speed: 199km/h
Fuel: 5.3l/100km (combined)
CO2: 118g/km
Price: R264 900 (includes a 3-year/45 000km service plan and a 5-year/150 000km mechanical warranty)