Also got the Canon 50mm f1.8 lens for Christmas. Love it!

Christmas present from me to me: a new car! You might remember that the original Oppo Clio was wrecked while it was parked, last summer. Well, with the insurance money and the help of me finding a job, I decided to go ahead a replace it.

From experience, I reasoned that I wouldn’t be able to find a much better car than a Clio 2 for my tiny budget of €2,000 here in France. But while the OG Oppo Clio was a Phase 1 car (pre-facelift), I wanted a Phase 2 this time. Not for style or anything, but the revised Clio is a much quieter and more refined car. A surprising bump in comfort in only a couple of years.

Alloy wheels and discs all round!

So after a couple of weeks of browsing used car ads, I found this one that seemed a little too good to be true: an Initiale Paris edition, which is the absolute top of the range, loaded with stuff. It had a leather/Alcantara interior, the bigger 1.6 16V engine, auto headlights/AC/wipers, and even stuff I had no idea existed for a Clio in 2003, like cruise control and... a GPS! Mileage wasn’t too high either, clocking in at about 166,000 km, or about 100,000 miles. I joked around with my dad that this was the Rolls-Royce of Clios. It was far from perfect but mechanically spot on and worked with my budget, so I bought it.

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Last week I drove around for the usual Christmas family gatherings, racking in about 1,000km (600 miles). And the more I drive it, the happier I am about this purchase.

Fancy schmancy

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So let’s start with explaining why it was cheap: it’s full of niggles and rashes, inside and out. The front-left fender has a slit in the middle, the driver seat is pretty worn out and so is the steering wheel. The cruise control doesn’t work (although it might be a simple fix), and the GPS would if the CD it uses wasn’t in such a bad shape. The headlights are also a bit faded.

Leather and real wood in a 2003 Renault Clio!

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The good stuff is that it’s extremely comfortable. The seats are miles better than the ones in my old car, with better bolstering for example. It is surprisingly quiet, even with the bigger 1.6L engine. Great engine too: at 110hp it’s around 20hp more powerful than the 1.4 I had, but more importantly it’s also more torquey. All the major stuff has just been done to it, the gearbox feels about 100.000km newer than the one from the OG Clio, and all the automatic stuff is great, especially the xenon headlights.

The worn thumb inserts are an easy fix

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Most of the stuff that’s broken seems to be either easily fixable (new thumbs inserts for the steering wheel are 15€ on eBay, for example) or just inconsequential. The only thing I don’t like is the steering, which if I’m not mistaken was Renault’s first attempt at electric assistance. It’s just plain terrible, feels like a rubber band and has no feedback whatsoever. But I can live with that.

My first reaction was to try to touch it. Dumb me, this is 2003, touch screens are still science fiction!

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I also love that behind the boring facade hides a quite rare car, all things considered, and one loaded with things you just wouldn’t imagine for an econobox from 2003. The fully integrated GPS screen still blows my mind. I want to get it working just to see what it would be like!

Love these seats. Although you still do sit a little too high.

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Overall, quite happy with this purchase. I don’t plan on keeping it 7 years like I did with the old one, seeing as I’m starting to get jobs and stuff. Ideally, there might be a Lexus LS400 down the line in a couple of years, but they are very rare here in France and seem to be climbing in value these days. We’ll see! In the meantime, I guess I’ll have to take it to the Ring to see what this monster 110hp engine can do...