NICOLE would be proud at the way her favourite car - the Renault Clio - has grown up.
As the French-built supermini enters its fifth generation the character played by Estelle Skornik in the famous Papa and Nicole television advertising campaign of the 1990s could not fail to be impressed.
And in 1.0-litre turbo petrol guise priced from £15,295 the new Clio is probably the best value-for-money little car around.
The latest Clio is actually slightly shorter than the previous model at a fraction over 13ft 3ins long but is bigger inside and comes with a boot that at 391 litres in capacity can take more than a suitcase more than before.
That's significantly more than can be had in a Ford Fiesta. Drop the rear seats and there's 1,069 litres of space to be had in the new Clio.
The 12 model line up actually starts from £14,295 and tops out at £20,295 for a high specification R.S. Line version powered by a 1.3-litre TCe engine developing 130bhp complete with a seven-speed electronic auto box.
From a design perspective the new Clio builds on the good looks of the Mark 4 version but has more mature lines with a sportier profile taking in chrome finishes around the windows and above the sill while at the rear its looks are embellished by smart LED tail light clusters.
Ultra bright LED headlights are fitted to all versions and so is air conditioning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warnings and a traffic sign recognition system.
On all but the basic model Renault's Easy Link multimedia set up is included offering sat nav and full smartphone connectivity with a seven-inch display screen and the option to upgrade that to a portrait style 9.3-inch screen for Â£400 on Iconic trim models.
Higher grade versions get the bigger screen as standard as well as having a seven-inch TFT information panel in the instrument cluster while come next year the Clio will have the option of Renault's fully digitised 10-inch multi-mode display panel.
But its how the latest Clio drives and handles which impresses most and the new car is both agile and very refined on the road.
It also exhibits a huge amount of grip, inspiring a feeling of safety and larger car robustness at all times.
We tried two versions of the new Clio - a 1.0-litre TCe developing 100bhp in bottom-but-one Iconic trim and a 1.3-litre in top R.S. Line specification with 130bhp on tap.
Performance data is 0 to 60 in 11.8 seconds for the 1.0-litre and nine seconds for the 1.3 with top speeds of 116 and 124mph respectively.
Surprisingly though it is the smaller engine which suits the Clio best and that's probably down to the weight of the car which is some 70kg lighter.
Both perform very nicely but the 1.0-litre exhibited quite sporty characteristics when it came to handling and its suspension set up coped with the worst British roads have to offer in handsome fashion.
Fuel economy is rated officially at 54.3 and 49.6mpg respectively with emissions of 99 and 118g/km and on our runs we managed to average 50.9 and 47.1 to the gallon over similar routes.
In fact the economy of the 1.0-litre Clio is bettered only by the single diesel model in the line up - an 85bhp 1.5 version which is priced from Â£17,295 and rated at 67.2 to the gallon but by no means as nippy as its petrol counterpart.
The interior of the new Clio is a class act in the supermini sector with a smart looking - and easy to use - dashboard and while the Iconic version came with a conventionally styled seven-inch touchscreen it was more than adequate in operation.
The larger screen on the R.S. Line car was the finishing touch to the interior and created something of a ‘big car' feel to the layout.
Since it first arrived back in 1990 the Clio has gone on to become the top-selling French car in the world, notching up some 15 million sales in the process.
That's a sales rate of almost one a minute and that clamour to get hold of a Clio is sure not to wane as the new one comes on the scene.
At the moment it's the best all round supermini on the market.