Ever since the late 1940s, Renault’s range has featured an unbroken line of interesting small cars, of which the Clio has been one of the most successful.

More than 12 million have found homes and, along the way, the Clio has found and enjoyed a youthful, vibrant image. 

Earlier variants of the Clio deserved that rep, too: being agile, neatly designed, compact, engineered for some dynamism and intelligently marketed.

But – and Renault wasn’t alone in this – during the mid 2000s, when the Clio III arrived, some of that purity was lost. The Clio became bigger and heavier, and went searching – with honourable intent – for more refinement and class, growing up with its customers. 

With the extra refinement it found, however, it lost something, as did several of its peers during the past decade. Out went a bit of what Renault used to dub the ‘va-va-voom’. 

Which brings us to Clio IV: it’s notably leaner and cleaner than its predecessor. It is also offered with a range of engines, including a frugal 0.9-litre three-cylinder TCe petrol engine and a 1.5-litre dCi diesel, and a decent range of kit.

Question is, has all of that reintroduced some of the joie de vivre? Let’s find out.

Top 5 Superminis

  • Ford Fiesta
    Fiestas sold in Europe are ostensibly the same as those sold in America and Asia

    Ford Fiesta

    1
  • Mini Cooper
    Its various improvements make the new Mini more desirable and practical than ever before

    Mini Cooper

    2
  • The Mazda 2
    The Mazda 2 name dates back to 2002. This latest version showcases the firm's Skyactiv technology and 'Kodo' styling

    Mazda 2

    3
  • Volkswagen Polo
    The Polo is a polished, mature-feeling, spacious supermini

    Volkswagen Polo

    4
  • Renault Clio
    Distinctive styling details are taken from the showstopping Renault Dezir concept car

    Renault Clio

    5

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • 2016 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron UK review
    First Drive
    29 September 2016
    First UK drive finds the facelifted A3 Sportback e-tron remains a first-rate plug-in hybrid that is packed with tech if a little short on driver appeal
  • Citroen C11.2 Puretech 82 Furio
    First Drive
    29 September 2016
    Citroën's city car gets a new sporty-looking trim level, adding visual adornments, but no premium for the 1.2-litre Puretech triple we're driving
  • Mercedes C350e Sport
    First Drive
    28 September 2016
    Petrol-electric C-Class is a surprisingly well-priced alternative to a diesel but not the greatest example of the new ‘PHEV’ breed
  • Car review
    23 September 2016
    Aston kicks off its ‘second century plan’ with an all-new turbo V12 grand tourer
  • Ford Ka+ 1.2 Ti-VCT 85
    First Drive
    22 September 2016
    A rounded, refined and well-sorted bargain supermini – once you’re used to the confusing role redefinition imposed on the once-cheeky Ka