2006 Renault Clio III

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The last all-new Clio was introduced in 2001 and went on to garner great reviews--particularly the 2.0 16V performance model. Renault hopes to keep the good vibes vibrating with the larger and roomier third-generation, available in both three- and five-door configurations. Both are fairly attractive, if a bit bland, and will initially be available with one of four trim levels, all with names rooted in that grand French tradition, pretentiousness.

The Authentique- and Expression-edition Clios are the most simple, with the Dynamique and Privilge trim levels ratcheting up the luxury a bit. Later on, they will be joined by Initiale and Renaultsport versions. The Initiale will be the most hedonistic, with loads of chrome, wood, and leather as well as bespoke sixteen-inch wheels, up from the standard fifteens. The high-performance Renaultsport (also known as the 2.0 16V) is presaged by another Frankfurt debut, the Clio Renaultsport Concept, the production version of which is scheduled to hit dealerships during the first half of 2006.

At launch, power for the Clio will be provided by one of six four-cylinder engines--three gasoline and three diesel. The gasoline engines displace 1.2, 1.4, and 1.6 liters, producing 75, 100, and 110 hp, respectively. The three oil-burners--all 1.5 liters--will pump out 70, 85, and 105 hp. (The Renaultsport will get a 2.0-liter four expected to produce more than 175 hp.) To bring those prodigious powerplants to life, buyers can opt for a keyless start system on all Clios except the base models. The catalyst for the system is what Renault calls a "hands-free card." In addition to authorizing ignition, the card enables the driver to unlock the doors merely by grabbing the handle--so long as they have it in their possession. While the technology isn't ground-breaking--rather, it's been a major trend of late--it is noteworthy that it is being offered on such a small and inexpensive car. Other upscale upgrades available on the Clio include a navigation system, parking assist, rain-sensing wipers, and an MP3-enabled audio system.

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