FEW cars can match the sales success of Renault’s cuddly Clio. Launched more than 20 years ago, it is the only car to be voted Car of the Year twice: first in 1991 at the time of its launch, and again in 2006, when the second generation Clio received the honour.
Now the Clio is keen to show off its green credentials with a model that escapes paying both road tax and the London Congestion Charge.
Those tax-avoiding qualities come partly from the tweaks made to Renault’s fuel-efficient old favourite, the 1.5 dCi common rail direct injection diesel engine. Combined with aerodynamic aids, it can deliver fuel consumption which is claimed to top 78 mpg.
Over 180 miles of rush-hour travel, I managed an average 58mpg, according to the onboard computer, while a 250-mile trip on dual carriageway, motorway and country roads delivered a healthy 60mpg.
All this combines to earn the Clio Expression an ‘Eco’ badge, but it is achieved without any of the fuss and bells and whistles that other ‘green’ cars bear.
So there is no stop-start engine technology, no hi-tech displays and no baffling array of glowing dials monitoring every aspect of engine performance.
What you get is a straightforward five-seat, versatile hatchback, with plenty of head, shoulder and kneeroom, along with decent luggage and cabin storage space.
Like its predecessors, the Clio delivers a good ride, decent handling and comfort, but above all it is fun to drive. Despite the ‘eco’ badging, if you play the five-speed manual gearbox properly, the engine’s spritely 88 horsepower can provide rapid progress.
The only nod to ‘eco’ driving is a green dashboard icon that gently suggests when to shift up and down gears to maximise fuel economy.
While economy is the main focus of this model, safety is also a priority with anti-lock brakes and brake assist fitted as standard, and electronic stability control an option. The Clio is equipped with up to eight airbags as standard; Isofix anchorage points for child seats are built into the outer rear seats and the front passenger airbag can also be deactivated for the safe installation of a child seat.
Revised exterior styling draws front end cues from the new Mégane including air intake and front lights, along with new front and rear bumpers and facelifted rear lights, fog lights and reversing lights.
The interior has been smartened up and all models now have a soft-touch dashboard. Standard equipment across all models includes 4x20W radio/CD audio system, with controls mounted on the steering column, electric front windows and electric door mirrors, aux input for portable music players and a trip computer.
Prices in the Clio range start from about £11,600, with a choice of 20 versions across three trim levels.
In the past 20 years, Clios have been sold in more than 100 countries around the world, with more than one million taking to the roads in the UK alone. Almost 10 million people worldwide can’t be wrong.