THE latest generation of the best selling French car ever will take to British roads this month,
Some 30 years after the original's conception and with worldwide sales of more than 15 million cars the fifth generation Renault Clio is now available in the UK.
The newcomer is wider, sleeker, more hi-tech and more upmarket than its predecessor while at the same time boasting more space for both passengers and luggage.
And while the Clio Mk5 is 100 per cent new inside and out the French car maker has been at pains to ensure it's still instantly recognisable as a Clio.
As with all great models that boast longevity the subtle changes to the exterior have been evolutionary rather than revolutionary with the radical new design cues saved for the inside.
And with prices starting from £14,295 for the entry level 72bhp model and three-year/30,000 mile service packages available for £499 Renault has thrown down the gauntlet to all rival supermini producers.
Initially the new Clio is available with a choice of three engines, two petrol (a 100bhp and a 130bhp) and one diesel (85bhp) while the entry level model will be available by the end of the year.
There will also be a hybrid version of the Clio but not until the middle of next year.
The best seller is expected to be the 1.0-litre, three cylinder turbocharged 100bhp in Iconic trim at £16,295, and that was one of two models I tried before the first UK customers get their hands on them.
As soon as you hit the road you can see why it's expected to be the most popular because, despite its diminutive engine it punches well above its weight and never feels lacking. Keep the revs up and it buzzes with power and is eager to please.
And the nice thing about this car is just how quiet and civilised the cabin is. There's a five rather than six-speed manual gearbox but it suits this engine perfectly and delivers average fuel consumption of just over 62mpg.
There's a top speed of 116 mph and a respectable 0-62mph acceleration time of 11.8 seconds.
If that's not quick enough for you then the 1.3-litre, 130bhp model will probably appeal as it reduces the acceleration time to 9.0 seconds and pushes the top speed up to 124mph while still averaging 53mpg.
I sampled one with a CVT automatic gearbox in the top-of-the-range sporty R.S. Line trim, a model which delivers smooth refined power but with good acceleration on kick down.
There are paddles behind the steering wheel if you want to change gear manually and on this model you have a choice of sport or eco driving modes as well as the option to key in individual driving preferences.
The ride on both models is impressive, soft enough to offer comfort but firm enough to ensure good sporty handling when you need it.
While lower spec models have a smart centrally mounted 7-inch touch screen the higher spec ones come with a classy new 9.3-inch portrait shaped i-Pad-style infotainment screen as well as a 10-inch TFT digital instrument binnacle in front of the driver.
The latter allows you to change the format of the dials or even introduce the satellite navigation map between them when on a long drive. And that's just one aspect of a car packed with new hi-tech features, including a 360 degree rear view camera to simplify reversing.
Renault has made the interior far more sophisticated with the introduction of 25 per cent more soft touch surfaces and more comfortable seats which are narrower to increase rear passengers space.
Boot space jumps from 330 litres on the outgoing model to 391 litres on the new one and it's more useable space with less obstructions. In addition there's another 26 litres of storage space inside the car.
Externally the new Clio loosely retains the sleek profile of its predecessor yet is more dynamic thanks to an 8mm reduction in the roof line. The front end is more athletic with a bigger grille and sculptured ribs in the bonnet while tucking the windscreen wipers under the edge of the bonnet gives it a cleaner look.
The whole range gets full LED headlights and the signature C-shaped daytime running lights make the Clio easy to spot.
Add the awarding of the top five-star Euro NCAP safety award to the new Clio and I thinks it's fairly safe to assume that the little car's 30-year reign is set to continue for a long time to come.