New 2012 Renault Clio Expression Eco first drive
Driving down the cost of motoring by making fewer visits to the fuel pumps and reducing CO2 emissions is the goal for all mainstream car manufacturers in the current economic climate.
It's an approach Renault has taken with its most popular model, the Clio.
In 20 years 10 million Clios have been sold in over 100 countries, one million of them in the UK. Those figures have been helped by a wide variety of options. Both three and five door bodystyles are available in conjunction with low capacity petrol and diesel engines; enough to make 30 different Clio versions available across six different trim levels.
Officially the Clio is into the second phase of its third generation alongside the usual styling and trim updates.
Prices range £10,405 to £19,995 but the heartland versions cost around £12,000.
Highlights of the latest range is the introduction of the tax busting 1.5-litre dCi 88 diesel Expression Eco 94g/km model, available in either three or five door bodystyles. The three door model costs £12,450 and the more user friendly five door £13,050. Both have manual five speed gearboxes.
At the heart of the Eco friendly Clio is Renault's (in partnership with Nissan) fuel-efficient and refined 1.5-litre dCi common rail direct injection diesel engine.
Performance details and emissions
Power output is just 88hp but it is the maximum torque of 200Nm (147lb ft) at 1,900rpm which gives the Clio responsive performance from very low engine speeds and good fuel efficiency.
With the new unit, plus a few aerodynamic tweaks to the bodywork, the combined cycle fuel consumption and CO2 emissions performance figures improve to 78.4 mpg and 94 g/km respectively, while it comes with a top speed of 113 mph and it sprints from standstill to 62mph in 11 seconds.
My short test drive returned a best of 72.7mpg and an average 67.3mpg for driving along town and rural routes, but it's the torque - in combination with its efficiency - that makes the engine stand out.
There's no need for high revving to get the car moving , just use the torque for minimal gear changes once underway and relaxed travel at low or cruising speeds.
Better news is that the low emissions put it in Group A for VED road tax which for now means a zero cost in the First Year rate and then £20 per annum after that. Insurance is not high either with a 13E rating.
The specification is functional, good enough for daily commuting and includes electrically operated front windows and mirrors, front fog lights, 60/40 split folding rear seat, a good radio/CD/Aux-in sound system, remote central locking and on-board computer. Manual air conditioning is a £575 option, alloy wheels could be a choice but will cost an extra £520 and most important for me would be the extra cost spare wheel at £50.
So the price starts to mount up, yes you save on fuel and tax but this model is £2,000 more expensive than the 1.2-litre 75hp petrol version, before a fairly basic range of options are added.
The petrol model officially does 48.7mpg but the insurance is lower at 8E.
These days customers need to clearly know what their annual mileage will be; petrol is cheaper to buy but tax is more. A calculator is a must but if the head follows the headlines this new Eco Clio diesel is an interesting proposition.
Renault Clio Expression Eco dCi 88 5-Door
Engine/transmission: 1.5-litre, direct common-rail injection turbodiesel, 88hp, 200Nm (147lb ft) of torque from 1,900rpm, 5-speed manual.
Performance: 113mph, 0-62mph 11 seconds, 78.4mpg, (67.3mpg on test), CO2 94g/km VED road tax £0 first year rate then £20 per annum, BIK company car tax 13%.
Insurance group: 13E.
For: Excellent fuel economy, low taxes, flexible and responsive power delivery.
Against: Higher purchase price will put off some low mileage customers, popular options add even more cost.