MELBOURNE was in a feisty mood this week refusing to offer up the blue skies and dry roads preferred for testing a new car to the market.
Instead we were treated to heavy downpours, misty conditions and large puddles, all of which proved an interesting meter against which to measure the Renault Clio GT's challenge.
This latest offering from Renault has arrived on our shores just in time to capitalise on the success being seen in the central Clio range and of course the obvious favour that has seen the Clio RS sold out this year.
Manufactured at Renault's plant in Bursa Turkey, the new Clio GT is, says Renault Australia managing director Justin Hocevar, aimed at customers who want a sporty look, but who are not in the market for a performance RS model.
The interior of the GT is recognisable as a part of the Clio range, modern and easy to use.
Finish is good and materials fairly upmarket with dark grey trim and speckled grey highlights on the dashboard.
The bolstered sport seats (leather in the premium) supportive with a GT embroidered on the headrest.
There are some good storage options for a car of this size, including a handy tray above the glovebox, although the different sized cup holders with struggle with a takeaway coffee.
According to Renault the dash has been inspired by an aircraft wing and although it looks good with eye-catching instruments and most needed buttons close to hand, we struggled a bit to make the connection. The steering wheel is nice to the touch and also sports the GT badge as well as smart looking gear shift paddles.
On the road
The Clio GT is fitted with a TCe 120 1.2-litre direct-injection turbo engine mated to a six-speed dual clutch transmission. The suspension has been tweaked with springs 5% stiffer than the regular Clio range and the dampeners 50% stiffer in the front and 40% at the rear. You have the choice of normal or sport mode accessed by a small button near the handbrake.
Performance is perky without some of the power seen in other warm hatches and despite the wide torque band (90% available from 1500rpm), it is not all plain sailing.
The GT feels nifty in city traffic and can certainly find that burst of speed when needed on the highway but there was still some hesitation up hills and in the curvier stretches with the dual clutch system sometimes feeling ordinary.
There is often no perceptible change between second and third when you are using the paddle shifter and that can be a little frustrating. Yet it remains a nice drive with good poise and balance and is accomplished on the flat.
What do you get?
The Clio GT is not short on equipment with the entry-level model boasting rear parking sensors, keyless entry and start, climate controlled air-con, cruise control with speed limiter, 17-inch alloys, height and reach adjustable steering and a MediaNav entertainment system.
The Premium adds leather seats and trim, R-Link entertainment system, R-Sound Effect application, glass sunroof and rear view camera. The Clio GT has a five-star NCAP (Euro) rating and includes the usual suspects with airbags for the driver and front passenger, ABS brakes with brake assist and EBD, stability control, traction control and hill start assist.
Competition will come from the likes of the Skoda Fabia Monte Carlo ($20,990), Peugeot 208 Allure Sport ($23,990), Citroen DS3 ($30,990), Holden Barina RS ($23,190) and the Suzuki Swift Sport ($26,490).
With its five doors, the Clio GT offers convenience with the styling of a coupe.
There is a fair bit of legroom in the rear, not so much headroom though and the 60:40 seats allow you to extend the use of a good-sized boot. We are not fans of the extra stalk on the steering wheel but that is the French way.
The A-pillars hindered vision during sharp turns which can be a touch hairy. Interestingly you have disengage sport or RS mode if you want to use the cruise control which the manufacturer says is a safety precaution.
Renault claims 5.2 litres/100km on a combined cycle.
We were closer to eight litres/100km during our test drive but we were probably pushing it harder than normal. Warranty is five years unlimited kilometres with free five-year roadside assist.
The GT definitely has a sport look about it. The large diamond takes pride of place in a bold front end design with a steeply raked windscreen and voluptuous curves.
The GT sits proudly with a dynamic stance, a unique front bumper incorporating the LED lights. It is pleasing to the eye and hints at having some go.
Renault is slowly making inroads into a cautious Australian market and are now seeing great interest and extremely promising sales figures. The Clio GT will no doubt help that along especially with professional young women who want a sporty car but prefer an automatic transmission
What matters most
What we liked: Sporty looks, fun drive, good inclusions.
What we'd like to see: Maybe a touch more power.
Warranty and servicing: Renault offers a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty and free five-years roadside assist. Servicing is fixed at $299 per service for the first three years.
Model: Renault Clio GT
Details: Five-door front-wheel drive five-seat compact hatch.
Engine: 1.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol generating maximum power of 88kW @ 4900rpm and peak torque of 190Nm at 2000rpm.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic.
Consumption: 5.2 litres/100km
Bottom line plus on-roads: GT $25,290, Premium $28,790.
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