IT’S hard to believe that the first Renault Clios burst onto the scene, helped along by “Nicole” and her “Papa” in the TV adverts, 30 years ago.
And just look what that distinctive little supermini has become now. It’s the most mature, grown-up Clio yet and it packs in some very interesting new technology and a premium feel.
Borrowing heavily from its bigger sibling, the Megane, the styling is more about evolution than revolution. The shape of the new Clio is very similar to the out-going version and, although it might look a bit bigger, it’s actually 12mm shorter.
It is a touch wider than its predecessor, but the optical illusion tricking you into thinking this is a much bigger car is probably more down to the obvious similarities with the much larger Megane.
Happily, though, it doesn’t feel any smaller inside. In fact, it feels noticeably more spacious than the last Clio. It still has the signature hidden handles on the rear doors, and the space in the back seats is more generous, despite the sweeping window-line making it feel less airy.
It’s in the boot and up front where the clever packaging really makes a difference though. Overall it feels more roomy, and there’s some nice, grown-up touches to the cabin. Renault’s thrown a lot of new toys at the latest Clio and it all adds up to make it feel far more prestigious. It’s come a long way.
Dominating the dashboard is a large touch-screen display which packs in Tomtom sat nav and endless personalisation options. It’s a good unit, although so many screens with so much information does feel a tad distracting at times. The layout beyond this is simple and attractive, though.
As for engine choices, there’s a hybrid on its way but a strong selection of engines, largely offering petrol-flavoured propulsion.
The range kicks off with a pair of 1.0-litre, three-cylinder petrol engines with 70 and 98bhp, a pokey and characterful 1.3-litre 128bhp four-cylinder petrol and a 1.5, 83bhp diesel for the number-chasers.
The Tce 130 four-pot in my test car was an absolute gem. Very willing and punchy enough for most conditions, it was married to a surprisingly lethargic automatic gearbox that performed well under load, but was clumsy around town.
Manual gearboxes are available for the smaller engines, but the seven-speed dual-clutch system in mine had, I assumed, been given a rough ride and was in need of a service. I’ve used the same ‘box in other Renaults and it’s been fine.
In sporty RS-line spec the ride was firm but forgiving and handling sweet enough, if not overly exciting. We need to wait for the RS version to see what the chassis is really capable of in the latest Clio, but it’s off to a promising start, let’s leave it at that.
The Clio, if specced up appropriately, packs in a lot of safety kit, and plenty of options you’d usually find in bigger cars.
It’s not really fair to call it a supermini now, either. Its sophisticated, roomy interior and “big car” looks help it feel bigger than it actually is.
So it’s a great all-rounder.
I like to imagine Nicole, who helped to convince so many of us to buy the original Clio, might still be a fan of Renault’s big-seller. And I’d like to think that, in her advancing years, the new Clio would suit her just as well.
Wherever she is, I’m sure the years have been kind to her. Just as they have with her choice of wheels. The Clio has matured very nicely indeed.