Renault Clio Dynamique 1.5 dCi 86

Has recent a facelift taken established French baby to the top?

Compared to the Polo, the Clio is a mere upstart!

But while the Renault has only been in production since 1990, the firm has a rich supermini heritage that stretches back to the pioneering 5 of 1972.

Make no mistake, the French company knows a thing or two about small cars, and has now sold more than one million Clios in the UK.

The latest version has been here for four years, making it the oldest model in this group. Yet recent revisions have ensured it can still cut it with newer rivals.

The mid-life makeover was subtle, but included a new nose and fresh rear-end styling, as well as some minor detail changes.

At the front the Clio takes its lead from the latest Mégane, with bold headlights and a smooth, faired-in snout. It won’t appeal to everyone, although to our eyes it gives the baby Renault a distinctive appearance.

At the back the updates are harder to distinguish, with new light clusters and a bumper design that sharpens the car’s looks.

Get inside and the Clio is as spacious, well built and comfortable as ever.

Our test model was fitted with the firm’s optional hands-free keycard system (£300), but all variants from Dynamique trim upwards feature an attractive and high-quality soft-touch dash.

And despite slightly fiddly audio controls, the cabin is easy to get along with.

It’s in the rear where the Renault really scores. Making full use of its 2,575mm wheelbase – the longest in this test – it has a comfortable bench and the most head and legroom. The Clio is also capable of transporting nearly 300 litres of luggage; drop the back seats and boot space rises to an impressive 1,028 litres.

Turn the ignition key and the 1.5-litre diesel’s refinement is instantly apparent. It’s punchy and smooth, and while it could not match the performance of the Mazda and Ford at the test track, it never feels underpowered or sluggish like the Polo.

The little hatch is particularly impressive on the motorway, where its ample torque provides responsive in-gear performance.

And with the best fuel economy here, the appeal of the diesel Clio is obvious. On the road its supple suspension impresses, but the trade-off is a chassis that fails to match the involvement offered by the Ford or Mazda.

It also suffers from a notchy gearchange and artificial weighting to the electric power-steering. Even so, it grips keenly and is surprisingly agile.

At £13,920, the Clio is more expensive than all its rivals here, except the Fiesta.

However, it does get a lot of kit as standard, such as stability control, curtain airbags and 16-inch alloys.

Thanks to the latest changes, the comfortable, refined and economical Renault is still vying for class honours four years after first hitting the road.

Details

Chart position: 2WHY: The Clio has a new face and is an accomplished diesel choice. It blends space and comfort with strong pace.

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