With its cute and dinky dimensions, the Renault Clio is the most popular small car right now

The Clio comes in a choice of bright colours, with chunky wheel arches and split LED headlights, for sporty styling

Words by Erin Baker, Editorial Director at Auto-Trader

Every year, the British top 10 best-selling cars list is dominated by the Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa. It remains a constant mystery why the Renault Clio, which is the the  with 15 million sales, doesn’t make it into the UK’s top 10. Who can forget the “Nicole, Papa” TV ads of the Nineties, that showcased this cheeky little French runaround, with its natty styling, energetic handling and dinky dimensions? The Clio deserves some serious love.

Style

The new Clio comes in a choice of bright colours (we love the orange and pastel blue), with chunky wheel arches and split LED headlights, for sporty styling. The rear doors have hidden handles by the windows, and the boot handle is also hidden in the top of the bumper. The result is smooth, moulded surfaces all the way along the car’s flanks and at the rear, where competitors just leave everything exposed. It looks joyous, soft, flowing and expensive.

Inside, it’s worth spending a bit more money so you can choose lighter interior fabrics with splashes of colour all round the car, which really transforms this small hatchback. The trim levels are, from cheapest upwards: Play, Iconic, S Edition and RS Line.

Tech

You get two very different interiors depending on the trim level. The base spec, Play, gives you DAB, Bluetooth, a USB socket and smartphone cradle. It has cruise control, automatic folding door mirrors and a start-stop engine. The safety equipment is more generous, with emergency braking, lane departure warning, land keep assets, tyre pressure warning light and seatbelt reminder as standard.

Move to Iconic and you get a small touchscreen, another USB point, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and rear parking sensors.

S Edition is the one you really want, because the touchscreen grows to 9.3 inches which is more like a tablet, and you get a funky digital set of dials behind the steering wheel. You also gain automatic lints and windscreen wipers and a reversing camera. RS Line, the top level, is really just for those who want hot-hatch styling, with lots of motorsport-related stripes and badging, plus leather and aluminium, all over the shop.

Comfort

I took my kids out for a long drive in it; one of them is still on a booster seat. There was plenty of room for his little legs to stick straight out behind my seat, and the boot swallowed our weekend luggage. Up front the cup holders and wide door bins swallow most child-related, snack-based rubbish.

For a small, relatively cheap car, the Clio is quiet on the move, although the way the waistline of the car sweeps up from the rear windows to the boot means my son struggled to see much out of his window.

Renault Clio

Getty Images

Power

You get a choice from three petrol and one diesel engines, and a hybrid joins the range in 2020, followed by plug-in hybrids.We drove the mid-powered petrol, the TCe 100 (which means 100 horsepower), in Iconic trim. While you’d want S Edition if you could afford it, this sweet petrol engine is fine, balancing the need to sip petrol with the need to get shifting. We rattled round Cotswold country lanes at a cracking pace: you’d only need the 130 horsepower engine if you regularly did motorway journeys. We wouldn’t bother with the diesel, especially now that Bristol, for reasons known only to itself, has joined other cities in banning new, clean diesels. If you do no more than 10 or 20 miles a day, wait for the plug-in hybrid next year, and you should be able to do the vast majority of journeys on electric power only, which makes sense in a car this small and cute.

Price

Play, the base trim level, starts at £14,295 on the road. All engines other than the 130 horsepower petrol are available in Play. Iconic starts at £15,295, S Edition is a jump to £17,295 (but with a similar jump in tech and interior design), and R.S Line comes in at £17,795. You can buy various packs for each trim level other than Play, such as Comfort Pack, Parking, Techno and Storage Packs, all of which are under £500 each. And you may well want the Bose speakers for £350.

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