Clio a cracking warm

supermini

Renault Clio, front action 2
Renault Clio, front action 1
Renault Clio, front static 2
Renault Clio, action side
Renault Clio, action rear
Renault Clio, dashboard
Renault Clio, rear seats
Renault Clio, boot

THE latest Renault Clio might look very much the same as the lovely sleek five door it replaces.

But in fact, with some clever packaging, the exterior dimensions are slightly smaller, while there is more space inside.

Amazing what these designers can do isn't it?

The sweeping lines of the old model are retained - and quite right too - they are great to look at, with the hidden rear door handles adding a coupe-like touch.

Inside, the instrument binnacle is now all digital - and very good looking as well as being perfectly functional, with a sweep tachometer surrounding a large figure speed readout.

It also includes the speed limit for wherever you happen to find yourself and above the centre console, there's a nine inch touch screen for phone link, sat nav and DAB radio, which also has aux in lower in the dash.

Android Auto and Apple Carplay are standard, and phones will link automatically via Bluetooth once set up.

The climate controls are sensibly kept separate in the lower centre console, which is far better than having them incorporated into the screen because they're easier to operate on the move.

And of course, on the column behind the leather covered steering wheel is Renault's signature stereo control stalk, which is still the best remote control on the market as far as I'm concerned.

I drove the sporting RS-Line model powered by a 1.3-litre turbo petrol engine.This power unit is hugely impressive in a number of ways, but despite my normal interest in performance, it's class-leading attribute is refinement and quietude.

At speeds above 50 miles an hour, tar and chipping surfaces cause more noise than the engine at high revs.

And most of the time, it is completely inaudible, which is really right up there with the very best small - and some large - cars.

This helps to make it very relaxing to drive and to live with - apart of course, from that tyre noise.

But since most longer journeys these days are on smoother Tarmac and not the country roads I prefer, the refinement on the move will be superb for most people.

The turbo four cylinder engine produces a healthy 130bhp and drives the front wheels through Renault's excellent seven-speed twin clutch automatic gearbox first used in the Renaultsport Clio.

The changes are very quick and smooth even when pressing on and using the revs and, although there are paddles behind the wheel to change gear manually, I hardly bothered because the automatic did it so well.

Acceleration is brilliant from any speed, with the gearbox kicking down a gear or two in a split second at the behest of a heavier right foot.

This makes overtaking an absolute snip on even quite short stretches of clear road and pulling through and out of corners becomes huge fun once again.

Of course, this is also due to the very impressive handling and wonderful balance.

The steering has just the right amount of feel in mid-corner at slower speeds as it does at high speed on the motorway.

And the suspension absorbs bumps mid-corner without affecting the grip, even when I was going much faster than most owners are ever likely to.

This all adds up to a superbly set up car that is so safe it will usually save you if you make a mistake.

Equipment includes active emergency brake assist, lane keeping assist, lane departure warning, traffic sign recognition, cruise, stability control, automatic emergency assist and loads of airbags.

It also has an alarm, 17-inch alloys, special RS-Line badging, bumpers, exhaust and leather upholstery, polished aluminium pedals and rear parking sensors.

And the keyless entry and starting system is marvellous - so good it's second to none.

As long as the key is in your pocket or handbag, the doors lock automatically when you walk away from the car, and open again - complete with handle lights - when your hand reaches for the door.

All in all, this Clio is a delightful supermini with plenty of performance and the most marvellous feel in every situation.

FAST FACTS

Clio a cracking warm supermini

Price:£20,295

Mechanical:130bhp, 1,330cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving front wheel 7-speed automatic gearbox

Max Speed:124mph

0-62mph: 9 seconds

Combined MPG: 49.6

Insurance Group: 16

C02 emissions: 118g/km

Bik rating: 27%

Warranty: 5yrs/100,000 miles

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