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Supermini chases greater maturity in its latest iteration but at what cost to driver fun?

It's a surprise to find that the Renault Clio is the best-selling supermini in Europe? Despite the Renault 's success, 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.

The Mk5 Clio has very un-French primary ergonomics: a low-set seat, upright wheel with plenty of reach adjustment, well-placed pedals and a perfectly located gearlever. It’s a very welcome development.

And then only in the UK, at least commercially, because taking Europe as a whole, the last Renault 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.

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It’s why the new Renault 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.

However, arguably the most enticing element for Autocar readers is that this new Clio is lighter than its predecessor, as well as stiffer. If it can pair all of the above with the rewarding driving experience of Clios gone by, it could be the new class leader.

The Renault Clio range at a glance

The new Clio comes with a choice of three petrol engines and a solitary diesel. The SCe 75 and TCe 100 engines have a five-speed manual as standard, although the TCe 100 can also be had with a CVT. The TCe 130 comes exclusively with a seven-speed dual-clutch ’box and the Blue dCi diesel has a six-speed manual.

Play is the entry-level trim and the range progresses through Iconic and S Edition to range-topping RS Line. A Renault Sport model may follow. As is the trend with modern superminis, the Mk5 Clio is available as a five-door only.

Price £16,295 Power 99bhp Torque 118lb ft 0-60mph 11.6sec 30-70mph in fourth 19.1sec Fuel economy 46.0mpg CO2 emissions 99g/km 70-0mph 60.4m


Renault Clio First drives