REVIEW DATE: 23 May 2007
Renault's latest attempt to drum up more sales for its Clio supermini is the TomTom special edition. Steve Walker reports.
Over the space of just a few years, satellite navigation has risen from an expensive curiosity reserved for high-end luxury vehicles to become the ultimate must-have accessory for buyers of mainstream cars. If you can't afford the manufacturer's integrated system, there are neat aftermarket alternatives and if you can't summon-up the finances for one of those, you can always get one for free with a Renault Clio TomTom special edition. The days of the dog-eared road atlas could be numbered.
How we managed before sat nav became available to the masses is anyone's guess. The nation's ring roads and one-way systems must have been jammed with tormented souls condemned to endless orbits in fruitless search of the right exit. Lay-bys and roadside verges must have resembled battlegrounds as distressed motorists wrestled with the folds of their billowing OS maps. At least, that's the conclusion that one could reasonably draw following the dramatic uptake of satellite navigation in the UK - the technology's rapid spread suggesting that there must have been a big void there for it to fill. In reality, most motorists managed quite adequately without the dulcet tones of a sat nav box chiming in at regular intervals but even the most ardent technophobe would admit that there are many situations where a bit of automated route guidance can be invaluable.
Sat nav is now so accessible that they're giving it away with £9,000 superminis. The Renault Clio TomTom comes complete with a portable TomTom ONE system - it's made by industry-leading manufacturer TomTom, just in case you hadn't already twigged. It's one of these compact units that you'll doubtless have observed stuck to the dash or windscreen of cars you pass on the motorway. The box can be removed from the car and used while you're on foot or simply taken inside so you can programme it with your next route at your leisure. These removable systems have become a big target for opportunist thieves and the advice is to remove it from the car completely when you park up. It also pays to take the mounting kit with you as the criminal element will often break into a car where the bracket is left on show to see if the unit itself has been hidden in the glovebox or under a seat. You have been warned.
"The Clio TomTom is one of the cheapest ways to get satellite navigation on a new car"
The Clio TomTom is based on the Extreme trim level and aside from the sat nav equipment, it also features that staple of special editions everywhere, the leather steering wheel and gearknob ensemble. The door handles, both inside and out, are finished in satin chrome, as are the instrument surrounds while there are blue inserts to enliven the dash and centre console. TomTom badging rounds off the Clio TomTom package which is available for £9,260 in 1.2-litre petrol guise or for £10,230 with the superior 1.5-litre dCi 68 diesel engine.
Both of the available engines are very strong in terms of economy and emissions but might disappoint buyers who like their small hatchbacks to come with a bit of poke. The 1.2-litre petrol can return an average economy figure of 47.9mpg and 139g/km CO2 emissions but its 13.4s 0-60mph acceleration is less than brisk. The more expensive dCi 68 engine is slower still with a laborious 15.2s required to reach 60mph. This doesn't quite tell the whole story, however, because the oil-burner's powerful mid-range torque ensures that it feels faster than the figures suggest under normal driving conditions. Then there's the 63mpg average economy and 120g/km emissions that make this Clio one of the most environmentally-friendly cars on the road.
You wouldn't call the Clio's styling adventurous, at least not in comparison to some of Renault's other recent designs, but it's an appealing shape that's rendered more dynamic in three-door form and the Renault DNA is always evident. This TomTom derivative manages not to betray its entry-level status too readily with only the wheel trims dropping the clanger that this is the bargain basement option.
Inside, the Clio reveals its party piece - one of the roomiest interiors in the class. There's plenty of capacity for a full complement of four adults to get in and access to the rear is dignified even in this three-door car. The facia design is relatively unadventurous and the materials quality in the Freeway is noticeably inferior to derivatives further up the Clio ladder but it's all solidly assembled and, the rather small stereo buttons notwithstanding, easy to use.
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). Other options insclude electronic stability programme (ESP) incorporating ASR traction control, understeer control and MSR engine torque overrun regulation.
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 TomTom One sat nav system that Renault have thrown in with their Clio TomTom is available for £179 in the shops so it's unlikely to attract many buyers who didn't have their heart set on a Clio anyway. For the money, buyers receive a fine-handling and spacious supermini with a good quota of equipment given the price point. The two engine choices are amongst the most economical you'll find anywhere and with the TomTom sat nav's input, you should never get lost again, thus saving you even more fuel. The Clio TomTom is one of the cheapest ways to get satellite navigation on a new car and that's enough to make it a worthwhile addition to the range.
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