Renault woos downsizers with new Clio
FLORENCE, Italy -- Renault hopes the larger size of its new Clio will attract compact car owners who are increasingly looking to downsize to subcompact models.
Renault says subcompacts are increasingly becoming the main household car and customers consequently want the vehicle to include all the features associated with cars in higher segments.
"We are seeing a huge increase in people downsizing from compact to subcompact models in Europe," Benoit Bochard, director of product planning for Renault's minicar and subcompact cars said at a press event here.
The latest Clio is 35mm longer and 24mm wider than the car it replaces. The larger size should attract car owners who want the technologies and drivability of a compact model but also seek a slightly smaller and more affordable car, Bochard said.
While 60 percent of subcompact buyers are repeat customers, about 40 percent are newcomers to the segment, either buying a car for the first time, or switching from a minicars or compact models, according to Renault's research. The proportion downsizing from the compact segment has increased by 37 per cent in 10 years, the company says.
In addition to its larger size, Renault hopes that a range of affordable technologies will help the Clio gain market share.
The Clio is the first Renault model to get a new 90-hp, three-cylinder, 900cc turbocharged gasoline engine that delivers the performance of a normally-aspirated 1.4-liter powerplant, according to the automaker. Coupled with a stop-start system, it has fuel economy of 4.3 liters per 100km and CO2 emissions of 99 grams per kilometer.
The Clio's most frugal engine will be a 90-hp 1.5-liter diesel with fuel economy of 3.2 l/100km and CO2 emissions of 83g/km.
Both gasoline and diesel engines will be available with a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
"Fuel economy is one of the main reasons people are changing their cars," Bochard said.
Renault said it has reduced the weight of the Clio by about 100 kg less by using lighter materials and components.
The Clio sits 45mm lower than the outgoing model, giving it a sleeker look.
Renault Chief Designer Laurens van den Ackers said the Clio's design is sufficiently sleek to entice new customers, but with enough design elements of previous-generation Clios to retain existing Clio owners.
"The goal was to keep current Clio drivers and to reach out to other people," Acker said. "The Clio is a mass-market car and needs to appeal to people from Italy to Sweden."
The subcompact market is a key sector for Renault, but the once lucrative segment has become increasingly competitive. More than 25 carmakers offer subcompacts and minicars in Europe, compared with 16 in 2001.
The Clio will be offered as a five-door car only. The hatchback variant is bring rolled out now across Europe. A station wagon variant and a high-performance Clio Renaultsport version will launch in mid-2013.
Base price: 13,700 euros (France).
Platform: Renault-Nissan B
New technology: Renault R-Link dashboard tablet connected to car's own systems and the Internet (available in 2013). Reversing camera. Hill start assist. LED daytime running lights.
Where built: Flins, France, and Bursa, Turkey.
What's good: The Clio's sleek new look helps the car stand out in a crowded segment. Fuel economy is good and the car offers lots of technology.
What's bad: Base price is high compared with the Peugeot 208, which starts at 11,950 euros.
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