Experiences: 14 long days with the Clio station wagon
Small cars with weak engines are about as attractive to me as sexually transmitted diseases. For many years now, I have been successfully avoiding them, metaphorically and literally, on the way out of the curve, when I catch up with them on the highway. And then I needed a rental car...
How it came about in the first place is a separate story, but it boils down to the fact that I sold my beloved Mondeo, and due to a shortage of chips and bureaucracy, I had to wait about two weeks for a new car. Anyone who knows me knows that I would have endured that time more easily without both kidneys than without some form of transportation, even if it was a small French lethargic diesel station wagon.
Of course, there was also the option to bridge that period with something a little more inspiring, however, and considering the current prices of car rental services, then I would really be broke and only to cover the amount of the deposit. Other options included the Fiesta, which I know very well, and the Fabia, which I have an unusual appreciation for in that price range. That's why, ready for an adventure, with a smile on my face I took over the silver "Klić" with all its 75 horses in, for that model, unusually high "limited" equipment and I crawled happily into the sunset. What happened in the next two weeks was it can only be described as a catharsis and the collapse of the strong prejudices I had, because the "germ" got under the skin of all family members, and even me, although I am very reluctant to admit it. So what tricks did the miniature caravan pull out of its sleeve:
Maneuvering in the city
After two decades of driving exclusively D and E segment cars, one learns to squeeze in, squeeze in and park wherever it is physically possible. With an accent on "achievable". The little Clio suddenly makes everything possible, and even more. Narrow parking spaces designed at the time of Zastava 128? No problem! Tight space for a 180 degree turn? Easy! Parallel parking on the crowded Dorćol that gave Mondeo nightmares? No problems! Clio is a master of navigating the city, with an incredibly light steering wheel and excellent turning radius, and a somewhat agile engine that successfully moves the small body, at least in the first few gears.
Comfort for the whole family
One of the reasons why I have never bought a car shorter than four and a half meters is that I attach great importance to comfort and comfort in general. Anyone who understands cars at all knows that these things depend a lot on the wheelbase, that is, that no suspension will be able to compensate for the short distance between the front and rear wheels. However, from its 4.2, the Clio offers as much as 2.6 meters between the axles, and this, with slightly softer shock absorbers, is very noticeable. In addition, there is significantly more space for passengers than I expected and than it appears from the outside. The trunk with its 440 liters is not big compared to what I'm used to, but it is infinitely larger than the one in the regular, hatchback variant.
Spends like a lighter
An old Serbian phrase, popular when selling cars or bragging in a pub, gets a new meaning here. I have the impression that in the 14 days that I took the soul out of this little guy, I did everything to break the fuel consumption record. This was particularly evident in my attempts to follow the Belgrade traffic, with realignments, passing, overtaking and everything that requires the car to show some kind of initiative or at least a sign that it is alive. Then the gas pedal was firmly pressed against the floor mat, sometimes for a couple of minutes, with the expected minimal effect. After driving 400 kilometers exclusively in the city, the fuel gauge still showed 2/3 of the tank, and a precise measurement from cap to cap showed 5.6 liters faster per 100 kilometers. At the same time, I never pressed the magic ECO button, fearing that the already comatose car would give up completely. If that's not impressive, I don't know what is.
Unfortunately, everything is far from so great and fabulous, so besides the weak engine, there are a whole bunch of other things that bothered me, some of which definitely stand out:
Manual five-speed gearbox
No, it's not a problem that it only has five gears - and that's a lot for it. The problem is that the gear lever is as precise as the attack of our football team. It was easier for me to stick the sunshade in the pebbles of the Montenegrin beaches, than in first gear or, God forbid, reverse on this Renault. And the problem is not the clutch, nor the sticking of this example from 2018, it is simply the cheapest gearbox from Renault that goes only to the weakest vehicles of the Renault-Nissan-Dacia alliance and not the slightest effort was made to hide that fact. That also killed the little desire in me to drive that car even with inspiration.
(In)quality of workmanship
Cheapness is the leitmotif of this vehicle and it is most noticeable inside, where the materials that the driver and passengers touch most often are processed enough to not cut anyone, which cannot be said for other surfaces, finishing and fitting of components. At the same time, we are talking about the fancy "limited" model, and I shudder to think that, right as I write this, people are driving variants with basic equipment. The icing on the cake is certainly the infotainment system, which reacts to touch and commands with agility equal to the dCi engine under the hood. Every time I wanted to change the song on the radio, I later wished I hadn't wanted to change the song on the radio.
(In)rigidity of the chassis
This might be something that most normal people wouldn't even notice, but it really bothered me and I wouldn't have the confidence to push a car like this any more seriously, even if the weak engine offered the possibility. So, when getting off the sidewalk or crossing a serious bump in the road, the whole car would shake and the sound of the body twisting would be heard, which is not on my list of top 10 soothing sounds. The impression is that the station wagon version is made from a solidly designed hatchback without investing anything in additional strengthening of a significantly longer body. As bad as some of these things may sound, they are not specific to our "germ", but are symptomatic of the entire B segment, once so popular in Europe. Although I would rather be a vegan than own a little one like this, I absolutely see its utility value and admit that I made a mistake about it by taking it as the standard of a disastrous choice when buying a city car. If you have a limited budget and unlimited time to get somewhere, save both kidneys and buy a Renault Clio, and I'll avoid you on the way out of the curve - I promise!