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Before I start, I need to make it perfectly clear that I am not a car buff, I don't know all the 'techy' words for the different specifications and I have no intention of going into horse power (or whatever it's called) or any other of those terms that would make me sound as if I knew what a cam belt really did. What I am going to do is share my experience of driving my '95 Renault Clio 1.2 Oasis and why I picked this particular car when I was looking for a small second-hand car for getting around town.
Why the Clio?
When my partner and I decided to look for a second car neither of us exactly knew what we should be looking for, but I did have a few ideas. I wanted a smallish hatchback with a fairly small engine, I really didn't want to go above 1.4 because I know this means my insurance is going to cost quite a lot less, the tax would be cheaper and petrol consumption would hopefully be lower. We also had quite a small budget so we knew that we wouldn't be able to afford anything released in the last 10 years or so. So when we saw a '95 Renault Clio advertised for a very reasonable £350 with 4 brand new tyres, 6 months tax and 10 months MOT, that it was definitely one to look at.
My particular Clio (now named Tony) is a 3 door petrol model in racing green, it has a sunroof (which is handy for summer), the windows are all manual, there is no power steering, in other words it is very basic, there are no fancy extras at all (not even air bags). But the paintwork was in very good condition with no rust at all, which is amazing considering it's age and I fell in love with Tony at first sight. The test drive did nothing to dampen my feelings, I've driven cars both with and without power steering, and to be honest Tony was a little harder to steer than cars with power steering. But not that much, I found he was easy to manoeuvre, in both forward and reverse gears, the engine sounded good when I revved it, the clutch was responsive and the brakes were very effective. And so we decided to take the plunge and became Tony's proud new owners.
Getting Tony On The Road
Obviously before I could drive Tony I needed to get him insured. Now I'm not sure of which group he's in, but as a 37 year old woman with 5 years no claims, I can tell you that it cost me less than £130 to insure him at fully comprehensive level for a year, which I feel is very reasonable and am sure is at the lower end of insurance premiums. As I've already said Tony was taxed when we bought him, but when it does come to re-taxing him in the next month, he does fall into the lower band and will cost us £125/year at today's prices.
Although I don't know very much about car maintenance, I do know how to check the oil, water, and tyre pressure and how important it is to do this regularly. It's easy to find the dipstick and therefore check the oil, I have owned cars where finding the dipstick is like looking for a needle in a haystack. It was similarly easy to find where to add more oil and water, what did take a little longer was finding where to add screen wash as that was hidden under a plastic grill.
Out And About
Now I'm very short (5'1) and have to push the driving seat almost to it's most forward position no matter what car I'm driving and there have been times when even with the seat as forward as it'll go I still can't comfortably reach the pedals. No such problem with Tony, I have no trouble reaching the pedals and there's still a gap between me and the steering wheel. Being a very basic model means the wing mirrors all have to be adjusted manually, but as I'm the only person to drive Tony this wasn't really a problem after I'd got them right the first time. The steering column is also fixed but again this doesn't actually bother me that much, it would be nice to raise it a little but it's perfectly usable where it is. I would say that my driving position is quite low and there are occasions when I'm blinded by cars coming in the other direction, especially when going down a hill. Comfort wise, for the short distances that I drive (upto 30 miles at a time), I guess it's ok, but I think that I'd need breaks in any journey longer than that to stop my bum going numb.
Tony starts first time, every time, there are other (much newer) cars in the same car park that stutter before they start, but not Tony, one turn on the ignition key and he comes to life. All the controls are logically set out, with windscreen wipers on the right side (unlike Nissans) and indicators and lights on the left. The hazard lights are easy to find, as is the rear windscreen heater, the fans and heaters work extremely well, cooling the car in hot weather and when set to warm the clear a misted windscreen within minutes. I do have a niggle with the wipers, in that if there is a setting for intermittent then I can't find it, but it is possible to get the wipers to operate just the once by putting a small amount of pressure on the control. I also find the horn to be in a less than ergonomic position and have occasionally hit the middle of my steering wheel instead of pushing the light control in.
When actually driving Tony he can be deceptively nippy on level or downhill roads, there are times when I've shocked myself when glancing at the speedometer and realising I'm doing 10 over the limit. Talking of the speedometer, it's not exactly accurate at under 35mph as the needle tends to 'wobble' when between 25 and 35mph. Where Tony does struggle is going uphill, he can't take any but the gentlest of slopes in 5th and occasionally struggles in 4th, with a noticeable drop in speed. He does, however, handle very well and seems to grip the road very well even when taking quite sharp bends at speed. I've not noticed any instability is higher winds either. He is also easy to park, reverse round corners and do 'three point turns' with, the clutch is responsive without being overly touchy and it's easy to find biting point.
Not That Spacious
There's no denying that Tony is a small car, although there enough seatbelts for 4 passengers (plus the driver) I would say that only 3 very small passengers will fit in the back. Two is more realistic, and whether they have enough leg room depends on how far back the front seats are. Anyone sitting behind me has loads of leg room, but there's a lot less behind my partner. Due to the fact that Tony only has 3 doors it can be quite awkward fitting a car seat in the back, they do fit, but when I need to use one in 6 months time I won't be removing it between journeys if I can help it.
There isn't an awful lot of room for luggage in the (hatchback) boot either, a folded down pram will fit but then there's not a lot of room for anything else. The boot certainly isn't big enough to hold anything but the smallest dog, so it's not suitable if you like to take your dog on car rides. I can, however, fit all my shopping in the boot as long as it doesn't contain anything else, and I have taken Tony to boot sales as the back seats can be lain flat, doubling the available space.
Tony isn't a particularly hungry car, it only costs just under £40 to fill him right up and then he doesn't need filling again for ages. As I said earlier. Tony is a second car and is really only used for fairly short journeys around town. The maximum journey made in him is a 32 mile round trip, so he doesn't really get long runs where the fuel efficiency is better. Even so in the last couple of days I've made that 32 mile journey twice and used less than ¼ of a tank, so Tony works out pretty cheap to run, certainly cheaper than if I'd used public transport.
When Tony Got Sick
About a month after buying Tony, he developed a very noisy and annoying problem. He was fine in the morning, but by the afternoon the engine became very noisy and he was taking a long time to pick up speed, especially after changing gears. Although I don't know much about cars, I knew enough to realise that there was something wrong with the clutch and that Tony was very ill indeed. On taking him to a garage I was in for a very big shock, even though a new clutch would only cost £70, it would take them 6 hours to change it and I was quoted £500. Apparently this was due to the fact that the clutch was 'boxed in' and they had to virtually take the car apart to get at it. Thinking that the garage had seen me coming I refused to let them do the work and it was eventually done by a friend of a friend, but yes it did take that amount of work and I still ended up forking out £300 including labour.
The Renault Clio Oasis is a fairly reasonable car, especially for the price I paid for it. It runs fairly well, is mostly reliable and is cheap to run and insure. While not the most comfortable car I've ever driven, it's not the most uncomfortable either. Although not really suitable for longer journeys or as a first car for larger families, it suits the purpose for which we bought if perfectly. As a small second car to allow me to get round town, making shortish journeys it does exactly what I need. I would also say this would make a great car for someone that's recently passed their test and isn't looking for anything too fancy as it is fairly cheap to insure. The only thing I would say is watch out for the clutch because if it goes it does cost an awful lot to replace.
Tony sounds a useful 'guy' to know! ;-) I totally agree with your attitude that a car being used for short, local journeys just needs to be safe, realiable and economical to run. SO many people use big, fancy gas guzzlers for this job!
jesi 22.11.2009 13:46
I've never had a Clio . . . how upright can you put the front passenger seat?
. . . ♥ jesi ♥
Collingwood21 31.10.2009 15:47
I have had two Clio 1.2s (a '95 and a '03) and loved them both. :-)