What is it?:
The model that's most likely to be the best-seller in the new Renault Clio 4 line-up. The Clio dCi 90 gets the latest version of the firm's familiar 1.5-litre turbodiesel dCi engine, now with more torque, better economy and lower CO2 emissions than ever before.
The 1461cc direct-injection unit has headline figures of 89bhp at 4000rpm and 162lb ft at 1750rpm, some 15lb ft before than before. Economy is up by 12.5mpg over the engine in the Clio 3 to 83.1mpg, while CO2 emissions are down by 16g/km to 90g/km.
And next year there'll be an even more frugal 'ECO' version of the engine, which produces the same power and torque, but delivers class-leading economy and CO2 figures of 88.3mpg and 83g/km respectively, achieved without any electrical assistance.
The engine is tested here in Dynamique MediaNav trim, which is tipped to take up the largest proportion of Clio 4 sales. Included on this trim level are 16in alloys and an exterior styling pack, with a 7in touchscreen infotainment system with sat-nav among the interior's standard kit list.
What's it like?:
A very well rounded package. The commonly used diesel engine has always impressed with its refinement and drivability, and those two traits are only enhanced in its most up-to-date application in the Clio 4.
It's certainly punchier than ever. Acceleration feels quicker than the claimed 0-62mph of 11.9sec suggests. The engine is predictably at its noisiest under hard acceleration, but so quiet and refined is it under normal loads that you'd struggle to tell that it's fuelled from the black pump.
It spins at around 2000rpm at motorway speeds, and it's also a tractable engine — much more so than the 0.9 petrol — with a wide torque band, meaning you won't be forever reaching for the slick five-speed manual gearbox.
If the 0.9-litre three-cylinder petrol engine is the powerplant with fun and character, then the diesel is the more mature, more sensible performer, something that's reflected in its handling. The diesel adds 62kg to the kerb weight over the zesty petrol model, and it feels less agile as a result, although the steering and responses are still sharp enough. Just don't expect to have a big grin on your face to match the Clio's front-end styling when you feel in the mood to push on.
It was hard to gauge what the real-world economy of the car was on the demanding roads of a 100-mile test route around a torrentially wet Florence, but a figure of just over 50mpg in those conditions suggests at least 60mpg ought to be achievable in more favourable everyday conditions.
Should I buy one?:
The new Clio should certainly be near the top of your supermini shopping list based on these positive first impressions. Of the two models we've tested, the new Clio 4's initial range gives you a very clear choice: fun with the three-cylinder petrol model and refinement with the diesel.
What you get with them both is the same characterful looks and funky interior, so it really comes down to how many miles you do and whether the diesel is worth the extra £1100 outlay over the petrol in the same desirable Dynamique MediaNav trim.
Us? We'd go for the petrol. You'd normally expect to pay a premium for choosing the model with the fun factor, but in this case you save a not inconsiderable amount of money for doing so.
Renault Clio dCi 90 Dynamique MediaNav
Price £15,095; 0-62mph 11.9sec; Top speed 112mph; Kerb weight 1134kg; CO2 90g/km; Economy 83.1mpg; Engine 1461cc, 4cyl, turbodiesel; Power 89bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 162lb ft at 1750rpm; Gearbox 5-spd manual