At its introduction in 2019, the fifth generation of the Renault Clio looked serious and at the same time roguish. From 2023, the emphasis is even more on its mature character with a modern and confident look. Iconic is the grille with individual elements that all reflect light at slightly different angles and therefore form a fascinating pattern.
From the 2023 model year, a new version called "Esprit Alpine" will be available. This sporty-looking variant is based on the style of Alpine's sports cars. A glossy black line connects the headlights. The test car has a special lower bumper and the frame of the wide-beam headlamps is finished in grey. At the rear bumpers, there are now air intakes that do nothing for the streamline, but make the car look bigger. The blue paint colour is not unique to Esprit Alpine, but suits it best.
As ever, the interior is above-average refined for a compact car. The materials used and finish quality are on par with those of Renault's larger models. With the Esprit Alpine, a touch of exclusivity is added. For instance, a subtle French flag can be found on the right-hand side of the dashboard. The seats are unusually large for a small car, also giving the Clio the seating comfort of a larger car. For the Esprit Alpine, these seats offer extra lateral support.
The length of the seating area and the space between the seats (large adults sit almost shoulder-to-shoulder) still betray that the Clio is a compact car. Despite the large front seats, space in the rear is reasonable. Luggage space is average for a car of this size. Only the door pockets are oddly small and therefore hardly usable.
Good to know: the interior fabric is 60% (65% in the case of the Esprit Alpine) made of Tencel. Instead of animal leather, vegan leather will always be used from now on. These two simple measures significantly reduce emissions during production.
Centrally located on the dashboard is a display screen with a diagonal of 7 or 10 inches. The difference between these displays is more than just readability. With the larger screen comes a "bigger" computer that can display more items at once. In the test car, this is joined by a Bose audio system. This has a woolly, garbled sound that was not perceived as pleasant company, but rather as a disturbance. During the drive, the volume was therefore lowered more and more until finally reaching zero.
The various safety features were perceived as restrained and therefore not distracting during the test drive. Only when absolutely necessary do the electronics warn of danger.
At the time of writing, Renault produces two hybrid engines: a 1.2-litre turbo combined with an electric motor and a 1.6-litre combined with an electric motor. The Clio features the latter, older hybrid. However, for the 2023 model year, the output has been increased from 140 to 145 hp.
What has not changed is the sound. During braking and coasting, kinetic energy is converted into electricity, and a distinct whistling sound is still audible in the process. Moreover, it is clearly audible when the petrol engine takes over from the electric motor. During the test drive, the eco mode was therefore used a lot. Only then, the interplay between the two engines is more harmonious. While performance in eco mode in other cars is sometimes disappointing, the Clio Hybrid still performs fine even in economy mode. Despite a demanding course, the test consumption was significantly lower than when the Clio Hybrid was first introduced: 4.3 litres per 100 km (factory specification: 4.2 litres per 100 km).
A mature character is not complete without refined handling. That is why the Clio has an advanced suspension. Moreover, the Esprit Alpine is on wide tyres with large rims (205/45R17). Therefore, the steering is light yet precise.
Although the Clio is not challenging or sporty, it is noticeable that the limits are very far. This ensures that the Clio steers as capable and refined as a larger car.
Has Renault succeeded in making the Clio even more mature for the 2023 model year? Yes, absolutely. However, existing problems have been ignored by the brand. The hybrid powertrain still produces an annoying high pitch noise and the cooperation between the two engines is less harmonious. Even something as simple as small door compartments have not been adjusted.
The performance, handling and comfort mean that while the Clio is compact, it never makes one want more. The real difference for the 2023 model year is therefore in the styling. The new front makes for a more mature look and the equipment has been modernised. The Esprit Alpine trim even goes a whole step further and provides exclusivity.
- Excellent handling
- Smooth and economical
- Grand and refined like a larger car
- Impractically small door compartments
- Booming, tiresome sound Bose audio system
- Petrol and electric engine do not always work together harmoniously