What do you think is the best-selling supermini in Europe? Here in the UK, if we want maturity in a manageably proportioned package, we tend to look to the Volkswagen Polo. And if we want something genuinely good to drive, of late it is the Ford Fiesta, which is nothing short of a sales phenomenon and easily the class dynamic benchmark.
But it wasn’t always so. Renault’s track record for delivering hatchbacks that are fun and characterful despite puny horsepower figures stretches back decades and only recently has it been knocked out of the limelight.
And then only in the UK, at least commercially, because taking Europe as a whole, the last Clio outsold both of those rivals, even last year, when the world knew an all-new model was imminent.
That model – the fifth Clio since the pudgy but likeable original was introduced at the 1990 Paris motor show – is now here, bringing with it a new platform and the potential for a twin-motor electric powertrain along with level two ‘hands-off’ autonomy hitherto unseen in the segment. In fact, Renault has, despite the Clio’s familiar design, comprehensively overhauled this car at a time when the very notion of the low-riding fleet-of-foot hatchback faces an existential threat from crossovers, which now account for almost half of all European sales.
It’s why the new Clio looks so attractive and why the interior has been reimagined with an emphasis on perceived quality. There is also now a far more impressive array of multimedia technologies, and yet the price still sits beneath that of the Ford, and far beneath the Volkswagen. And, of course, below any rival crossovers.