Apart from top-spec Initiale Paris, pre-facelift cars had DRL either side of Renault logo, which made them look like an afterthought - now these are integrated within the headlamp modules

Apart from top-spec Initiale Paris, pre-facelift cars had DRL either side of Renault logo, which made them look like an afterthought - now these are integrated within the headlamp modules

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The changes are subtle but a facelift and a new 110hp diesel engine have played a role in giving the revised Clio a major sales boost in Britain.

No need for the Talisman or Espace (and no Sporter either)

The company has just announced 2016 sales of 85,102 vehicles, a year-on-year gain of 12.5 percent, while the market rose by 2.5 percent. This was the fifth consecutive year of expansion and shows that the importer's decision not to be tempted back into the D hatchback, saloon and wagon segment has had no ill effects. Small and medium family cars, as well as MPVs and SUVs are proving to be the right way to go for Renault GB.

There was certainly a lot of pain for British dealers when the Koleos, Espace and Laguna were withdrawn some years ago, but introducing the Captur in 2013 helped put the brand back on track. The ongoing success of the Kadjar as well as a new generation of the Mégane also helped things along during 2016.

The latest Scénic and Grand Scénic, in dealerships since November, should do their bit during 2017, as should the Koleos SUV and Alaskan pick-up, both of which will be added to the line-up this year.

Clio still Renault UK's number two best seller

The strength of newer nameplates and additional models is obvious to see, but still the Clio remains one of the brand's most popular models, even as competition hots up in the B-hatchback segment.

The Kadjar crossover represented almost a quarter of all Renault car sales in 2016 with 20,869 deliveries but it was outsold by the brand's number one model, the Captur crossover, with registrations of 25,841 vehicles. The Clio, which is now in its fourth year of production, had sales of 23,825 units, which, in that context, is impressive and doubly so for being available in Britain with just one body style.

Manufacturing

The fourth generation of this hatchback and wagon range was launched at the Paris show in September 2012. Like the previous car, it is built in France and Turkey (OYAK-Renault, Bursa). Production may be added at the Ayrton Senna plant in Brazil (Curitiba) later this year.

Flins is the main production location in France, while final assembly for the RS derivative takes place at Dieppe. The Clio Renaultsport 200 Turbo also premiered at the 2012 Paris show. It is powered by a 200hp 1.6-litre forced induction engine.

Body styles, names

The current model was launched as a five-door hatchback and an estate: there is no three-door for this generation. The first cars were delivered in France in October 2012. The RS derivative, as well as the wagon, went on sale in relevant markets during the first half of 2013. The estate, which is not sold in the UK, has several names: in Italy, for example, it is the Clio Sporter. A name change for another market happens in Japan, where the Clio has always been the Renault Lutécia. As for the UK, only the hatchback is sold there.

As well as 26 years of the Clio name's familiarity with British buyers, the car's styling would be one of the main reasons for the success of Generation Four. The front end, especially, has influences from the DeZir, an acclaimed concept which Renault revealed at the Paris show in September 2010.

The looks were not altered too much with the launch of the revised model. This went on sale in Britain during October after a debut at the Paris Mondial de l'Automobile in late September.

There are now full-LED headlights, including C-shaped daytime running lights for certain versions. The grille which houses the Renault diamond has been redesigned, as has the lower part of the car's front. At the rear, the changes are small, with a new valance pretty much it. Of course there are fresh colours and redesigned alloy wheel designs too.

Interior - same handbrake issue as RHD Volvo V40

Renault claims that there are better quality materials inside the Clio, noting that all the upholsteries are new and that special attention has been paid to the tactile and visual quality of the plastics' grain-effect finish. I would agree, though some basic design flaws remain.

While things look and feel a lot better when take your place in the driver's seat, the hand brake and START-STOP ignition button remain on the wrong side for RHD. Better get used to brushing the front passenger's leg every time the ignition needs to be switched on or off.

Multimedia - better news

Better news is the Tom Tom system, which is now first class. I have made no secret of having disliked the R Link infotainment in some Renaults and still in this one, a lot of presses of the touch screen can be needed for what should be simple functions. Yet, full marks to the navi, as it got me around a monster Christmas traffic jam, preventing an estimated hour or more of being gridlocked. The updates were clear and while it seemed as though I was being taken on a very strange route, eventually I crossed over an M4 which was stalled in both directions as far as the eye could see. You cannot put a price on that level of relief and satisfaction.

There are in fact three multimedia system choices: Media Nav Evolution; R-Link Evolution; and a new one, smart R&GO, which is available for all equipment levels. Bose audio is another new offering in a B segment Renault so expect that to become available in the Captur later in 2017 too.

New Alliance diesel

Renault has used the styling refresh to also give the Clio a new diesel engine. The 1.5 dCi 110 (horsepower) is a four-cylinder unit and is mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. Another addition is a six-speed manual transmission for the TCe 120 petrol engine.

Back in 2013, this generation of Clio introduced a new Renault-Nissan Alliance 898cc turbo three-cylinder petrol engine and this is still one of the most popular choices in the car.

More than 90mpg

The new diesel adds to what was already a strong powertrain line-up in the UK market. The press car's 90hp 1.5-litre engine had more than enough torque (220Nm) for what is an admirably light vehicle - 1,071kg in as tested form. The official Combined economy is a theoretical 85.6mpg, with Extra Urban being an even more spectacular 91.1mpg. Who needs EVs? Well, in reality the numbers are not that good but you can certainly see 60+mpg without trying too hard. That's an excellent result, and handy at the moment, with diesel recently reaching its highest pump prices in 18 months. As for CO2, this is 85g/km.

Summary, and what's ahead from the competition

The Clio is an easy car to recommend as one of the better choices in the European B-hatchback segment. Renault was wise not to delay the facelift as this class will see a lot of activity very soon. That includes not just a new VW Polo but also a rebodied Fiesta and a Nissan Micra which will come down the same line at Flins as the Clio and Zoe. Let's not also forget the impact which the just-launched Citroen C3 will have, and there are other models too. That includes the new Kia Rio and Suzuki Swift, a facelifted Fabia, a redesigned Ibiza, plus a replacement for the ancient Fiat Punto, which, as Dave notes, is still popular in the Italian market.

TMC has delayed its next Vitz, which means the Yaris replacement likely won't now appear in Europe until 2018, which wil inevitably see TME's sales sinking this year. The next Opel/Vauxhall Corsa and Peugeot 2018 are also due for release in 2018, which is a year ahead of when we should expect to see BJA, which is the project code for the Clio's successor.

Fifth generation Clio

The next Clio will use the Alliance's CMF-B architecture. The EOLAB, a lightweight concept from the 2014 Paris motor show, will have given some clues about the technology which could be employed, as well as the styling. This includes what Renault calls its future 'Z.E. Hybrid' powertrain. EOLAN was the first vehicle use the Renault-Nissan Alliance's CMF-B architecture.

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