Renault 14 1-2

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Keywords: Renault 14 1-2
Description: Renault has rediscovered its form with a loveable car in a class that lacks them

Renault appears to have at last remembered why people buy its small cars: their styling. The new Clio 4 is thus as fresh and interesting as the old one was forgettable and dreary. The firm’s known this for a while, which is why it bought in new designer Laurens van den Acker to overhaul its styling department – the Clio 4 is the first car he’s designed from scratch.

Look closely, too. Spot the rear doors? Thought not: they’ve been cleverly disguised, so much so that Renault is only selling the Clio 4 in five-door guise. With its low roof line, sculpted tail and shallow side glass, the firm is hoping styling indeed sells – but it’s thrown new engines and new interior features at it too, so the substance is also there.

An aged 1.2-litre engine opens the batting for the Clio but it’s the 0.9-litre three-cylinder turbo that’s more interesting. Designed for economy, forced induction means it’s still nippy enough in town and sounds sweet when worked hard in the country. Just don’t expect big car performance on the open road. For that, you’ll need the forthcoming 120bhp 1.2-litre turbo. Renault’s also revised the familiar 1.5-litre dCi diesel, which is a fine alternative if you can afford it.

Pleasingly, Renault has also remembered something else that used to make its superminis great – how they handled. This steers keenly, doesn’t fall into understeer and lets you feel what the back wheels are up to near the limit. It’s all nicely interactive and although the body does also roll a bit too, the pay-off here is soft and supple suspension, another old-style Renault trait that’s most welcome.

As with the outside, Renault’s styled a cheery interior that looks much more interesting and better quality than before. The latter is partly an illusion as the plastics are a bit hard and hollow, but the sheer amount of equipment helps you overlook this. On half the range, there’s even a touchscreen tablet in the middle of the dash, which will eventually offer downloadable apps.

To the promise of class-leading safety and entertainment gadgetry, Renault is also bigging up the Clio’s sheer value. All get six airbags, ESP, Bluetooth and keyless go, with the best-selling Dynamic MediaNav getting, yes, sat nav. The TCe 90 does 65.7mpg, the dCi does up to 88.3mpg and Renault reckons it’s cheaper than today’s car despite all the extra kit. Va va boom.

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