In this country at least, we've almost become brainwashed into thinking that if we want to cut down on the costs of running a car, we need a diesel engine. You'll have seen the astronomical fuel consumption figures that seem to promise a whole week's driving before you need to fill the tank again, but as with many things that seem to good to be true, there are often holes in the story. And so it is with diesel engines, especially when they're fitted to small cars like the Renault Clio.
The fact of the matter is that if you bought and ran a Clio for, say, three years, I'd be willing to wager that unless you covered huge mileages, you'd be far better off with an engine like the three-cylinder TCe 899cc unit that we're looking at here. The bonus? It makes the Clio even better fun to drive.
Renault isn't alone in offering a downsized petrol engine. Many of its rivals are at it and you can get a sub-litre engine in the Peugeot 208 and the Ford Fiesta and very good they are too. Of the three though, it's hard to look past the Renault Clio TCe. For a start, it makes 90PS, which is way better than the Peugeot 208 1.0's 68PS and also beats the Ford Fiesta 1.0's 80PS power output. It's a fun engine to drive as well due in no small part to the fact that it weighs so little.
The first three-cylinder powerplant ever produced by Renault, this turbocharged engine features an ultra low-inertia turbo that whistles into action from low engine speeds.
DESIGN AND BUILD
The Clio's front end design features a prominent Renault logo, set bold and upright to a gloss black background. The sporty silhouette is achieved by integrated rear door handles concealed close to the rear quarter lights and cleverly disguised shut lines. With a lower ride height, wider tracks, wheels pushed out wide within the arches and a reduction in the gap between the wheels and wheel arches, the Clio looks hunkered down and purposeful.
The interior is an even bigger step onwards. The dashboard is sculpted in the shape of an aircraft wing, with a multimedia system on the centre console, a wide range of colour options, a digital speedometer, striking seats and chrome and gloss-black trim highlights.
COST OF OWNERSHIP
The TCe petrol engine makes some very interesting figures. The standard model will return 62.8mpg on the combined cycle and the economy version of the Energy TCe 90 can squeeze 65.7 miles from a gallon of unleaded. That's a 21 per cent improvement in miles per gallon compared to the old TCe 100 powerplant. But what of the diesel model? That gets 83.1mpg so it has to be a better buy, right? Not necessarily. In order to recoup that back in terms of fuel economy, you'd need to drive a heck of a long way.
Emissions are 104g/km for the standard models and 99g/km for the ECO variants. A driving style monitor (green, yellow or orange) and a Gear Change Indicator (GCI) on the dashboard help drivers improve driving style to reduce fuel consumption.
Buying a supermini these days isn't always as simple as it appears. There are a number of very good cars to choose from as well as a few duffers to avoid. Renault has just made the whole process a good deal easier with its Clio TCe 90 models. If you plan on doing typical supermini mileages, that is less than about 12,000 miles per year, go and buy one. You'll be rewarded with great fuel economy, low emissions, a car that's fun to drive, can seat five and is well built and equipped. It's hard to go wrong.