by Chris Adamson
Financial restraints mean that today all drivers want better value motoring for their money – but without necessarily having to compromise on the type of car that they drive.
Cutting fuel economy to reduce fuel bills and lowering emissions to save on road tax used to mean changing to a totally new type of vehicle, perhaps downsizing or reducing the engine capacity, while cutting pollution means lots of complex and often expensive technology.
Well, this isn’t necessarily the case as French car maker Renault adequately demonstrates with its latest Clio Eco line-up.
Take a standard 88bhp 1.5 litre common rail direct injection diesel powered hatchback out of the showroom and do a few simple things such as fit 15inch wheels with ultra-low rolling resistance tyres, modify the bodywork to include aerodynamic front wings and fit a body coloured rear spoiler.
FACTFILE: Renault Clio Expression Eco 5dr
Hey presto, you have a standard average family hatchback that will now, according to its makers, return close on 80 miles to the gallon and slash its emissions to below 100 g/km – which means it’s free from Vehicle Excise Duty and is exempt from the London Congestion Charge for those who wish to venture into the Capital.
And all this for just an additional £250 over the standard price of the same model without the modifications. These simple changes see CO2 fall by 12 g/km over the standard dCi 88 Clio and fuel consumption reduced from the normal 70.6mpg.
But, perhaps, the best news is that owners don’t have to switch to a hybrid engine, accept a lower powered car or shrink the size of car they drive.
Eco Clios handle and drive just like any other Clio and have the same assured, predictable and refined ride quality, while offering owners a good five-seat package with a useable, if not class leading, 288 litre boot that can be enlarged to a more versatile 1,038 litres with the rear seats folded.
The variable assistance electric power steering means it is easy to manoeuvre at low speeds, a real boon when parking in tight confines and then firms up at increased speed for cross-country work or motorway travelling.
Sitting on a well tried and tested chassis that has seen Renault through many generations and models, the MacPherson front and Torsion beam rear suspension provides for a comfortable and forgiving ride quality.
Performance using the five-speed manual transmission isn’t startling and 62mph in 11 seconds these days is very average but this is not what these fuel sipping models are about. If you want head snapping performance then Renault has plenty of go faster Clios to choose from including the very enjoyable 128bhp Clio Gordini or the Renaultsport versions and there is a 106bhp Eco alternative if you want a little more grunt without going over board on fuel consumption.
The Eco package is available on all four Clio trim grades in both three and five door body styles with prices starting at £12,450 for the three-door Expression or the more accessible five-door alternatives at £13,050.
But, if you want the best returns you are going to have to opt for the entry level Expression equipment specification as these models are the only ones to dip below the magic 100 g/km barrier and top 78mpg.
Although the Expression is the starter grade in the Clio line-up, it is still well equipped and includes items such as remote central locking, multi-function trip computer, tinted windows, height adjustable steering wheel, deadlocking and engine immobiliser.
Safety features here are; ABS braking with Electronic Brake Distribution, Brake Assist and automatic door locking over five mpg.
The Eco versions then contribute a few extra items including sporting 15inch wheel trims, See Me Home headlights, 60/40 split folding rear seats, electrically adjusted and heated door mirrors, Sport cloth upholstery, radio CD player with remote controls and electric front windows.
Available cost options include alloy wheels, metallic paint, Electronic Stability Control, Carminat Tom Tom navigation, air conditioning and an electronic panoramic sunroof.
Renault also sells the Clio Eco in i-Music, the most popular Dynamique Tom Tom (that’s with integrated satellite navigation) and GT Line Tom Tom specifications but the added kit increases the CO2 emissions to 106 g/km which means they just miss out on some of the cost saving benefits.
The Renault Clio Eco comes with a three year / 60,000 mile warranty and has recommended service intervals of 13,000 miles or two years – Renault offers a Fixed Service Plan for three years or 30,000 miles priced at £199.
The extra purchase cost of the Eco model is well worth considering when you factor in the long term cost saving benefits of fewer visits to the filling station and less of that hard earned money going out of your pocket into the coffers of the Treasury.