The latest addition to the local Renault Clio fold offers a self-shifting transmission. Ryan Bubear tests the Renault Clio 1.2T Expression EDC...
Alongside the latest iterations of the Sandero and Duster, the fourth-generation Clio has played a significant role in Renault's seemingly unrelenting local resurgence.
And, almost three years after its arrival on these shores, this sleek B-segment hatchback is still proving popular with South African buyers, helping to drive the brand's unprecedented growth in a declining market.
The latest addition to the local Clio line-up is aimed at consumers who detest cog-swapping, and serves to further broaden the model's appeal.
Yes, the Renault Clio 1.2T Expression EDC makes use of a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, and takes the line-up to seven variants (including the range-topping RS model). For reference, Ford boasts ten Fiesta derivatives and Volkswagen nine Polo hatch products.
This particular model is the first in the Clio range to use the Boulogne-Billancourt-based automaker's new 1.2-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine. In this application, the 1198cc mill is worth 88kW at 4900rpm and 190Nm at 2000rpm, enough for a 9.4-second scamper to three figures.
It's a peppy powerplant with more than enough oomph to propel the 1090kg hatchback around busy city centres, but one that revs at almost 3000rpm at 120km/h in top gear on the highway. Renault claims a combined fuel consumption of just 5.2 litres per 100km, although we ended up on 6.9 (admittedly, without making too much use of the power-sapping Eco mode).
So, is this dual-clutch transmission a match for Volkswagen's familiar seven-speed DSG and Ford's fast-shifting six-speed PowerShift gearbox? Well, not quite. While it's by no means clumsy, it's just not as smooth or indeed as intuitive as the polished self-shifters in the Polo and Fiesta.
That said, this powertrain does feel rather more suited to the Clio than the slightly larger Captur, in which the same transmission displays an annoying hesitancy, particularly off the mark. Thankfully, in the Clio, the double-clutch 'box feels far more sure of itself, and it's not nearly as indecisive when it comes to downshifting to overtake, either.
While it may lag slightly behind the transmissions in the two classy competitors mentioned above, the Clio's gearbox is light-years ahead of that in its other major rival: the Hyundai i20. Yes, the self-shifting version of the Korean hatchback has to make do with an antiquated four-speed torque converter transmission that should see it relegated to the very bottom of most buyers' shortlists.
Of course, one of the Renault Clio's biggest draw-cards is its impressive standard specification level, and the 1.2T Expression EDC variant — which sits near the very top of the local range — certainly doesn't disappoint.
Standard features include a stop-start system, LED daytime running lights, 16-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning, satellite navigation, cruise control, a sound system, Bluetooth, electric windows (only in the front, mind you), and keyless start. Safety, meanwhile, is covered by four airbags, ABS with EBD, brake assist, hill-start assist, traction control, stability control, and IsoFix child-seat anchors.
After the latest round of price increases, this model comes in at R249 900, putting it about on par with the slightly better-equipped Ford Fiesta 1.0T Titanium auto and some R25k cheaper than the Volkswagen Polo 1.2TSI Highline auto.
Of course, Ford also offers its smart dual-clutch 'box in two cheaper Fiesta models (the Ambiente for R218 900 and the Trend for R230 900). And, if it's budget-yet-classy self-shifting you're after, the base Ambiente model is particularly tough to beat.
But the Renault Clio 1.2T Expression EDC featured here shouldn't be counted out. Even if its dual-clutch gearbox isn't quite class leading, it's still a strong offering that serves to broaden the Clio's appeal. Indeed, this model certainly is a viable option for the B-segment buyer looking for an auto-equipped hatchback.
Particularly if that buyer — like so many South Africans over the past few years — has already fallen for the attractive Clio.
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See page two for specs and pricing.