Renault Clio van


Renault is confident it will take the small car-derived van market by storm with its new Clio Van, combining competitive pricing and high specification with workhorse practicalities.

The manufacturer expects to sell 900 Clio Vans in 1999 and more than 1,200 sales next year - ambitious targets in a market which currently only amounts to about 7,500 annually.

Take the Ford Fiesta Van out of the equation, with its 3,000 sales, and the market becomes even smaller.

Renault, however, is confident that its aggressive pricing and chic image retention will make inroads. It maintains that most of the small car-derived van market is controlled by two or three large utility companies, and whoever wins those contracts has the sales.

At £7,850 (ex VAT), the Clio is certainly priced competitively - less than both the Fiesta Van 35 (£7,860) and Corsa Van (£7,940).

It also betters them both on payload, taking a huge 550kg compared to the Fiesta's 394kg and Corsa's 470kg.

This high payload capability gives the vehicle a distinct driving and handling advantage over many rivals, performing well at a load of 300kg - only just over half its limit - while other marques are labouring near maximum payload.

And filling the vehicle shouldn't be too tough: its 651mm loading height is the lowest in its class.

The shape of the loading area, with minimal wheelarch intrusion and the bulging back windscreen, gives plenty of room for manoeuvre with larger items.

Specification is high.

Standard features include power steering, driver's airbag, seatbelt pretensioners, side-impact bars, fingertip remote control stereo while items on the options list include ABS, passenger airbag and electric front windows.

Another standard item is a removable rigid parcel shelf, which stretches the length of the rear of the van, providing added security for any items stored.

On the security side, there are anti-drill door locks, free rotating lock barrels, shielded latches, remote control door locking, engine immobiliser and visible VIN and window etching.

The quiet and low vibration performance of the 1.9-litre direct injection turbodiesel engine is almost identical to that of the car variant, as is the whole ride and drive experience.

The class-leading 65bhp gives the Clio Van plenty of power, backed by a good amount of torque.

And, for chic appeal, I think the Clio Van will do very well and should meet its 1,000-plus target for next year in the utility company, courier firm and small business areas - not least because both the Fiesta and Corsa rivals are now looking old and the new Peugeot 206 van is not on sale until late this year.

The rugged feel, car-like handling, payload and look of the Clio Van all add up to a tidy little package but probably the biggest dilemma now facing fleet managers is whether to go for the car-derived van at all.

If a van is needed, then why not go for a van?

There are now options such as the Renault Kangoo and Citroen Berlingo which provide a good degree of comfort with far more van-like features.

Higher payloads and extra volume, and very little extra cost, is sure to leave some operators wondering which way to go.

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.