When the Renault Clio 172 was launched, just before the end of the millennium, it was said that you couldn’t go faster for less. Bought with the Cup chassis (and therefore no frills), the model was a bargain-basement battler of the highest order and put the majority of its bloated peers to shame.

There is a similar car on sale at the moment, but it isn’t a Renault. The Fiesta ST isn’t nearly as practical as the RS Clio, yet it’s substantially cheaper at the entry level. And daintier. And much more fun. And as far as superminis are concerned, that’s all it really needs to be.

Matt Burt

Matt Burt

Executive Editor, Autocar
It's a much more refined and usable car than its predecessors

Even the Peugeot 208 GTI starts at less than the Clio, and although it can’t match the RS’s mid-corner composure, it does feel far quicker in a straight line.

Get busy with options and things inevitably get worse. We tested the top-of-the-range Lux model, and with bigger 18-inch wheels, the Cup chassis and fancy metallic paint the Clio topped out at over £22k – more than the considerably faster and even more practical Ford Focus ST-1.

It's consequently a trim that's worth ignoring; no matter where Renault thinks the Clio ought to be positioned, hot superminis are best appreciated when they’re cheap. If added extras like climate control and auto wipers are that important to you, they can be accessed in the standard line-up far more cheaply than here.

It doesn’t excel in a running cost comparison, either. With CO2 emissions of 144g/km, it may look only very slightly behind its smaller rivals, but the Fiesta ST and 208 GTI are one VED band lower.

The Renault also lags slightly behind in the economy stakes. Despite its 44.8mpg combined claim, we could manage only 36.8mpg on our economy run, compared with 41mpg for the ST.

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