Volkswagen followed a similar strategy by using a detuned Golf GTI engine in the recently launched Polo GTI.
The other key advancement is autonomous technology, not often found in this segment. The Clio is due to feature level one and level two autonomy, shared with vehicles from partner brand Nissan (and demonstrated in the Symbioz concept, pictured below).
Level one means it will have the latest safety systems such as adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist, increasingly popular in larger cars, but level two is the biggest step change: the Clio will have hands-off capability (although using it remains illegal), being able to park and keep in lane by itself.
Although UK consumers continue to buy far more Fiestas than Clios, the Clio is easily the best-selling supermini in Europe, despite being six years old. According to figures from analyst firm Jato, it sold 327,395 units last year, compared with the 272,061 units of the second-placed Polo. Globally, the Clio is in fourth place, beaten by the Polo, Fiesta and Suzuki Swift, mainly due to more modest sales outside Europe.
That can be partially explained by the popularity in developing markets such as Latin America and India of its cheaper sibling, the Dacia Sandero, which is fifth globally.
Although Clio sales have held strong and the broader supermini market is still growing, its biggest threat comes from compact SUVs. With the arrival to the segment of VW Group brands such as Seat, Skoda and VW, as well as Hyundai and Kia, there will be increasingly more small SUV sales, which, in turn, will stall those of superminis.
The new Clio is due to be revealed at the Paris motor show in October and go on sale next year. Prices are expected to rise over the current model, which kicks off at £12,450, but remain cheaper than the Fiesta, which starts at £13,715.
Old rivals, new battle lines:
The battle between the previous-generation Fiesta, replaced last year, and the outgoing Clio was always closely fought. Not least because of the Clio’s ability to transition from comfy cruiser to enjoyably adept back-road steer.
Ford has recently updated the Fiesta and improved the recipe in several areas. How should Renault respond? When launched, the current Clio was unusually refined for its class and Renault would do well to prioritise the development of that particular characteristic.
But surpassing the Fiesta as an all-round package would almost certainly involve firming up the suspension.