FOR almost three decades the Clio has been a significant and popular player in the supermini sector, twice being named European car of the year and shifting more than 15 million units to become Renault's biggest seller worldwide.
British buyers took the diminutive French motor to their hearts in the nineties on the back of a successful television advertising campaign relating the exploits of ‘Nicole' and her ‘Papa' before promotional duties were taken over by then Arsenal and France football star Thierry Henry, espousing the model's ‘Va Va Voom'.
Now in its fourth generation, the Clio remains a solid choice in the small hatchback class, maintaining a broad appeal thanks to some sleek and sporty styling, a range of frugal and efficient engines and decent interior space.
Boasting the curvaceous lines we've come to expect from Renault, it is given something of a coupe feel thanks to a low ride height, a pronounced shoulder line above bulging wheel arches, a sharply raked windscreen and tapering windows along the flanks.
As well helping to create and athletic profile, the road-hugging stance also benefits the Clio aerodynamically - contributing to some nimble and agile handling which make this an enjoyable car to drive. It grips the road impressively and remains upright and settled when pushing on through sweeping bends.
Decent body control does not come at the expense of comfort, though, and the supple suspension provides an impressively smooth and comfortable ride for a supermini, while the steering remains light enough in town to make manoeuvring easy before weighting up nicely to offer decent feedback at speed.
Three engine and transmission options are available - TCe 75 or TCe 90 petrol power plants with a five-speed manual transmission or the dCi 90 diesel engine with either the five-speed manual or a six-speed automatic gearbox.
None offer quite the performance to take full advantage of the Clio's sharp dynamic abilities, however, placing the emphasis more on fuel economy instead.
That said, the turbocharged three-cylinder, 0.9-litre TCe 90 we drove proves perky and responsive around town and has more than enough puff to keep up on motorways - you'll just need to work it hard and maybe drop down a gear or two when a swift injection of pace is needed.
On such occasions the characteristic three-pot note becomes slightly intrusive but otherwise it remains impressively refined and delivers a claimed 47.1 miles per gallon under the new, more realistic WLTP (Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure) fuel consumption testing system.
Prices for the range start from a competitive £13,615 and all versions come with decent equipment.
Entry-level Play cars get alloy wheels, digital radio with Bluetooth, cruise control, air conditioning, electrically adjustable and heated wing mirrors, keyless entry and front electric windows.
Stepping up the the Iconic trim adds rear parking sensors, rear privacy glass and a seven-inch touchscreen multimedia system with navigation, while flagship GT Line versions boast added sporty design touches and body kit, automatic lights and wipers and electric windows in the back.
The Clio's interior is one of the roomiest in the supermini segment with decent rear leg room, although those approaching six-feet tall will find head room tight thanks to the swooping roofline.
The 300-litre boot is also one of the biggest in class, with capacity rising to 1,146 litres with the 60/40 split rear seats folded down, while generous cabin storage includes a tray in front of the
gear lever for your phone, an extra tray above the glovebox, two cup holders and good-sized front door bins.