PARIS – The third version of the Renault Clio, to go on sale in France Sept. 16, is larger and heavier than its predecessor, although similar to the Volkswagen Golf or the Peugeot 206, two cars that frequently have topped Europe's best-seller list.

Compared with the Clio II, the new model grows more than 2.0 ins. (about 7.0 cm) in height and width, giving about 1.2 ins. (3.0 cm) of that to interior space and using the rest to beef up crash safety performance.

Renault Clio III

Overall length increases 8.3 ins. (21.1 cm), making the car nearly 157.5 ins. (4.0 m) long. Wheelbase grows by 4.1 ins. (10.5 cm), and the average weight jumps 243 lbs. (110 kg).

Patrick Blain, the new executive vice president-sales and marketing under new Renault SA President Carlos Ghosn, says the Clio is designed to emphasize interior comfort and safety.

It is aimed at conservative, traditional customers, while the Modus, which preceded the Clio on the Renault-Nissan Platform B, emphasizes innovation.

Both cars are well equipped. While prices won't be announced until the second half of August, the Clio is unlikely to be priced much below the Modus, which with a 1.4L gasoline engine starts at €14,650 ($17,768) in France.

Originally, Renault intended to price the Modus above the Clio, but the strategy may have changed after it decided to bring the larger Dacia Logan to Western Europe, priced at about €9,500 ($11,521).

For small-car buyers, Renault has the Twingo, which starts at €9,000 ($10,916) and is scheduled for replacement in 2006 after introduction at the next Paris auto show.

The Modus, introduced last year, has beefed up Renault's penetration in the supermini segment, which Renault calls segment B. The Clio, alone, had 9.9% of the B-segment in Western Europe in first-quarter 2004, and the Clio and Modus together controlled 12.3% of the sector. Blain would not provide a sales forecast for the Clio III, but says Renault does not expect to lose any share.

Worldwide, Renault sold 4 million of the first Clio, introduced in 1990, and 4.7 million of the Clio II that arrived in 1998.

Although the new Clio is closer in size to the Megane than to the Clio II, Blaine says it is not likely to cannibalize the C-segment Megane, because the "segment buyers are different."

How Clio III Compares
Model Length Height Width Wheel-
base
Clio II 377.5 142.0 164.0 247.0
Micra 371.5 154.0 166.0 243.0
Clio III 398.6 149.3 170.7 257.5
Megane II 421.0 145.5 177.5 262.5

Note: Measurements in centimeters.

The Megane, at 165.7 ins. (421.0 cm), is only 8.8 ins. (22.4 cm) longer than the Clio III, and they share many engines. The Clio is even taller than the Megane.

Although the Clio III and the Nissan Micra both use Platform B, they share only 20% of their parts in number and 40% in value. The Clio III is much larger than the Micra.

"The idea of a platform is broader than the parts involved," says a Renault spokesman. "It also includes shared processes."

In addition, developers are oriented to sharing components across platforms more than sharing a physical platform. Front and rear axles on the Clio III, for example, are slightly modified versions of those on the Megane, and the Clio uses the hands-free key card used in larger Renaults. The Modus employs a different variation of the Megane axles.

Elements shared across the platform include some chassis parts, such as the air conditioning compressor; diesel engines and, beginning next year, a new 2.0L, 140-hp gasoline engine being developed by Renault and Nissan.

At the start, the Clio III will be offered with 1.2L, 1.4L and 1.6L gasoline engines, and a 1.5L diesel tuned to deliver 68 hp, 86 hp or 106 hp. Current Micras use the Renault diesel, but employ Nissan gasoline engines.

Because it uses the processes and key modules of Platform B, Renault developed the Clio III in 28 months, compared with 49 months for the Clio II. Three Renault factories will build the car: Flins, France, with a capacity of 1,300 cars per day; Dieppe, France, which will build about 30 Renault Sport models daily; and Bursa, Turkey, which will start production next year. (See related story: Renault to Add Clio III at Turkish JV)

Renault would not detail plans, but Bursa likely will build a sedan version of the Clio with a trunk, similar to the current Clio Symbol, for Eastern Europe markets, as well as hatchbacks to fill any shortfalls at Flins.

A Clio coupe-cabriolet is expected next year, with Flins the probable production site.

The Clio II also was built in Spain and Slovenia. The Spanish factory at Valladolid has been dedicated to producing only the Modus, sales of which are running behind Renault's earlier expectations. The third shift was eliminated at the end of May, and in July production will be trimmed from 900 per day to 700 daily. (See related story: Renault Lowers Modus Output on Weak Sales)

The Novo Mesto factory in Slovenia, which has a capacity of 150,000 units, will be devoted to the Twingo II, to be presented at the Paris auto show in 2006. The current Twingo is built in Flins.

Investment for the Clio III can't be compared directly with that for the Clio II, which cost €1.14 billion ($1.38 billion), because the new model shares a platform and Renault won't reveal engineering costs for the Modus or the Platform B.

Tooling for the Modus was €540 million ($655 million), but Renault never revealed the engineering cost. Tooling for the new Clio cost €630 million ($765 million), and its engineering cost €323 million ($392 million).

Renault presented the Clio III last week, in static format, to the press simultaneously in 16 European countries, in an approach that may be used again.

Former Renault product presentations involved bringing 500 European journalists to one place, with expenses for travel, hotels and translators. The Clio III presentations reached 1,200 journalists and were made in local languages.

The car will have its public debut at the Frankfurt auto show in September.