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This is probably the best thing Renault has made, in terms of an engineering standpoint.
The power train in this car is simply brilliant. Considering it comes with a DCT (Dual clutch transmission), it surprisingly feels very good in traffic, in fact it did not jerk during shifts at all, which was rather surprising considering that the VW DSG occasionally does that, even on the non GTI/R Line models.
Considering this a compact car, it is very easy to park and move about in the city. Good visibility and mirrors help as you move about in our rather heavy traffic.
On the highway, the engine in this is really a gem, it just pulls and pulls like no tomorrow. In fact, the pickup is rather naughty in this car, especially when RS Drive is on, where it revs to the maximum RPM before redline, and burps as it shifts to the next gear.
Speaking of RS Drive, it is a rather nifty system, as it does have a pretty good effect on the car. In normal mode, the car is nice to drive in the city, but to really enjoy this, you should (not must) engage RS Mode which sharpens up the throttle response and gear shifts.
As for creature comforts, it is very well equipped, with all the safety, plus keyless entry and start, and even a decent TomTom satnav and climate control. The satnav, RS Monitor, is actually very responsive and easy to use. Even the voice command works really well too. The entertainment system is pretty decent for the price.
As part of the RS Monitor, you do get the various sound effect that you can engage to make your Clio sound like a GTR from the inside, which is nice, but it is just a party trick. The engine sound nice enough on its own.
The suspension and ride quality is shockingly good. As I went through rather rough potholes and speed humps (the big ones which are built near construction sites), it shockingly rode well, and did not crash into the holes despite me taking the bumps at about 60kmh. At the same time, when you do drive it hard, body control is excellent,and feels really planted. I felt very confident taking a really sharp turn at about 110 kmh, without much drama too.
Turbo lag is a bit of an issue. Considering the turbo boost kicks in at about over 1700 rpm in city traffic, it doesn't feel as powerful as it should, it just feels like a 1.6 compact car. It is probably a good thing too, if not it would be rather difficult to drive in stop and go traffic too.
Space in the rear seat is very limited. The tiny rear glass makes the rear a bit claustrophobic, aided by the black interior trim. It would be OK for short journeys if there is a tall driver, but if not, it should be ok for regular or smaller sized people. The front seats are body hugging, and are a bit tight, especially for slightly larger people, making it a bit uncomfortable.
Warranty is only for 3 years, which is a bit disappointing, considering the industry is moving to 5 year warranty. No free service is provided too, so that is a bit disappointing too. More so is that there are not many Renault service centres yet in Malaysia, so that too could potentially be an issue.
The RS Sound Effects which give you the various sounds is a bit comical and once the novelty wears off, it gets a bit annoying and distracting. It's not a deal breaker, but I'd rather they used the money to develop it on something else.
The paddle shifters are on the steering column and not on the wheel. Being used to using German cars with them on the steering wheel, I did find them a bit of a reach to get, but is something I can get used to. The same is for the steering wheel audio controls, which in French fashion is on a stalk behind the wheel, making it difficult to read, again this I could get used to, but it would take time.
Lastly, it is the styling. It does not look as racy as the Fiesta ST or the Polo GTI, but it is nice that it is a bit understated. Some may find the Renault "nose" a bit funny but I am OK with it. Its too bad that xenons are not available globally on the Clio, which is a bit sad since the Fiesta and Polo have them.
First off, it would be nice to have a nicer warranty with free service, considering the price is even more than the Polo GTi.
I would also prefer if they would bring xenons with adaptive front lights as a feature in the Clio facelift in the near future, as that would make this car almost perfect.
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