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Renault Clio IV and R-Link Android console hands-on preview

Behind the wheel with the Google-based in-car system

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To say Renault needs the new Clio to be a hit is an understatement. With its non-’leccy UK range now pared back to just Twingo, Clio, Megane and Scenic, Renault needs the new Mk. IV Clio to sell in greater numbers than the MK. III, which if not a bad car was a little vin ordinaire.

Even after just 48 hours of charging around the Italian countryside, the new Clio is quite clearly a very fine motor car. From looks to build to perceived quality, Renault has made a massive leap forward.

Renault Clio

A massive leap forward for the Clio?

Unusually, the new Clio will only be available as a five-door. That’s not a problem because it looks so much like a three-door that I spent a fruitless five minutes looking for the lever to move the front seat so I could retrieve my camera from the back before the coin dropped. In fact, the huge Renault logo on the nose aside, I think it the best looking car in the segment and by some margin.

As small cars go, it’s both comfortable and spacious. Frugal too, thanks to a refined and willing new 900cc turbo three-cylinder petrol engine that can deliver 88mpg and emits only 83g of CO2 per km. It also handles very nicely, and thankfully sees the back of the cheap and nasty indicator alert noise that has bugged me in new Renaults for several years.

Renault Clio

Only available in five-door form

If you prefer to drive an oil burner, the new dCi 90 is a superb example of the breed. Refined, powerful and with a torque band the width of the Pacific you can drive around in third gear all day if the mood takes you.

But good though the new Clio is, it wasn’t the car that I was primarily interested in. No, I want to see the Android-based R-Link connected command and control system which is debuting on the Clio before it also appears in the cabin of the electric Zoe early in 2013.

I should point out that R-Link isn’t wholly up and running yet. I got to play with it on a fixed demo stand and in a parked Clio. Neither rig was fully operational so I only got a taste rather than a three-course meal with apéritif and coffee.

Renault Clio

Lots of detail on the side

Renault is calling the 7in touchscreen front end of R-Link a tablet. This is a bad idea. R-Link may be based on Android, but it is not a Nexus 7 glued to the dash. With a resistive screen and a resolution of I’d guess at around 800 x 480, R-Link looks and feels like pretty much any other in-car satnav touchscreen interface. So much for PR hyperbole.

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