Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Renault Clio - the latest model behind a spellbinding drive

HARRY POTTER has led me to some of the best roads in the British Isles.

Well, the makers of the films – and my other half’s love of tracking down their locations of choice – did. Head to Hogsmeade railway station (which I’m reliably informed appeared in the first film) and you have to go there via some of the North Yorkshire Moors’ more stunning roads. Equally magical for wizard watchers is Malham Cove, which apparently popped up in the first instalment of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – and meant I had an excuse to drive across the Yorkshire Dales in an MX-5.

It’s weird. A movie franchise best known for flying Ford Anglias appears to have been filmed entirely in places car fans love. Which is how I ended up driving along Ireland’s further-flung bits of coastline in a rented Renault Clio last week.

I already knew the destination would be pretty spectacular – if the Cliffs of Moher are dramatic enough to appear in a cinema near you, chances are they’ll be even more imposing in real life – but two things left a big impression on the way there.

The first is discovering there’s a road that threads its way along the Atlantic coastline for mile after mile before twisting and turning through what feels like an eternity of hairpins on its way up to the clifftop – and that it was virtually deserted. It’s a bit of Ireland that’s wonderfully removed from our rush hour madness, but stick your car on the Liverpool ferry to Dublin tonight and you could be driving it tomorrow afternoon.

Yet the real surprise was the car – that rented Clio. It might have an interior lined with cheap feeling, scratchy plastics but there was nothing low-rent about the way it clung on in tight corners. It just got on with the job with no fuss – track day fans might look elsewhere but in supermini terms I’ve driven far worse.

It looks good too – gone are the blobby proportions of the old Clio and in are some neat bits of detailing – like those Alfa 156-esque hidden rear door handles. In fact, the only thing I could really fault it on was the lack of oomph from the 1.2-litre petrol engine – 75bhp was more than enough for Galway’s tight streets, but it definitely felt like it was made for a smaller stage than Ireland’s trickiest roads.

I suspect there Ford’s Fiesta would have been more fun, but give me the right deal and I’d be more than happy to be chucked the keys to the French offering. Renault was clearly on a roll when it reinvented the Clio.


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