REVIEW DATE: 23 May 2007
In sporty Rip Curl trim, Renault's special edition Clio should appeal to the young at heart. Steve Ghosley reports
Renault has joined forces with the renowned surf and activity clothing specialist Rip Curl to produce a special edition Clio that should appeal to the younger car buyer with an active lifestyle. The manufacturer has been shrewd enough to choose a partner with which their target market can readily identify and packaged the car in a way that will appeal to the younger driver on a limited budget.
This sporty, yet affordable, model is probably Renault's attempt to address the perception that the Clio III has become a little 'middle aged' when compared to its predecessor. The latest, facelifted Clio III is undoubtedly a more competent all-round proposition than the previous car but this only makes it a better platform for producing targeted models like the Clio Rip Curl. Based on the Dynamique trim level, the Rip Curl Special Edition offers a well-equipped car in both three and five-door form. With sensible engine options, it looks to provide economical motoring with a bit of style and panache.
Three engines are offered in Rip Curl trim. The first is a 1.2-litre 16-valve petrol unit, priced from £10,315 in 3-door form, which cranks out 75bhp. This sixteen-valve powerplant represents the entry-level Rip Curl and is good for 104mph and a sprint to 60mph in 13.4 seconds. These figures may not be not earth shattering but are respectable enough to offer an exciting drive without being outrageously dangerous. A low insurance rating of just 2E proves the point. Next up is the 1.2-litre, 16-valve ethanol option.
"With sensible engine options, it looks to provide economical motoring with a bit of style and panache"
The diesel engine available in the Clio Rip Curl line-up is the 1.5-litre dCi common-rail diesel, priced at £11,965 for the 3-door. This unit develops 86bhp but where it really stars is on low emissions and parsimonious fuel consumption.
So what does the Clio Rip Curl offer by way equipment? It is well-suited to younger drivers who put music at the top of their agenda. The Rip Curl features a 2x15W radio CD MP3 compatible player with two speakers, two tweeters and fingertip remote controls with multi-function TunePoint. The TunePoint's anchorage connection point is concealed in the glove box and allows MP3 players such as iPods to be plugged in and played.
Specific Rip Curl graphics are featured on the tailgate, side mouldings, door sills, inserts on the dashboard, centre console and upholstery as well as Rip Curl tags on the front headrests making the Clio Rip Curl unique and ensures that the fashion conscious Clio drivers stand out from the crowd. Other features that normally come with the standard Dynamique trim level are body-coloured electric heated door mirrors, a leather steering wheel, a leather gearknob, electric front windows with driver one touch control, 'see me home' headlamps, 60:40 split folding rear seats, three rear headrests and 15" 'Mahonia' alloy wheels.
The Clio Rip Curl is also offered with five value-for-money option packs including the City Pack Plus which at £1,200 includes automatic lights and automatic windscreen wipers, parking proximity sensors and the Carminat 'Turn by Turn' satellite navigation system.
Comfortably bigger than the outgoing model, this Clio is a strong design. Renault have been able to take a leaf out of General Motors' book and allow their more practically-orientated small cars (like the Modus) to concentrate on family duties, freeing the Clio up - as Vauxhall has done with its Astra - to be a bit sassier than before. Therefore the lines are sharper and sleeker than the rather bulbous previous two generations and there's greater production emphasis on the sportier three-door model, a car which is expected to account for over 75 per cent of UK sales and which works well with the Rip Curl branding.
At 3.99m long, the Clio III is a full 174mm longer than its predecessor and despite those elegant lines, 45mm of extra height has been slyly grafted in. The result is a car that's a far more spacious proposition without appearing frumpy or gawky. Peugeot tried this and failed with the 307 and SEAT only just managed it with the Leon but Renault has worked the compromise between space and styling better than both.
One of the biggest factors in many supermini buying decisions is safety and the Clio II set quite a benchmark. The Clio III has excellent neutral weight distribution and some serious brakes to prevent an accident happening in the first instance. It is delivered as standard with Generation 8 Bosch ABS plus electronic brake force distribution (EBD) and emergency brake assist (EBA).
Along with the Modus, the Clio III is the first car in its segment to offer additional beam cornering headlamps, while double distance xenon headlamps are also available for enhanced night visibility. The Clio III's structure includes a number of programmed deformation zones and has been designed to function with Renault's third-generation System for Restraint and Protection. This includes up to eight airbags, incorporating two adaptive front airbags complete with load limiter and double pretensioners for the front seats. If you must crash, at least have the foresight to do it in a Clio III.
The Clio Rip Curl Special Edition is a product aimed at a very specific market, namely the young motorist. As a package, Renault would appear to have got the balance of performance, equipment and price just about right. The Clio has a history of appealing to the young and with the Rip Curl Special Edition version, Renault could be about to extend this love affair for a little longer.
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