Renault Clio 1.2 TCe Dynamique 5dr
List price 12,970
It's strange how an engine can transform your outlook on a car. When the current Clio came along, we felt it was okay roomy, refined and smartly furnished in the more upmarket of the two trim styles but nothing to get too excited about.
Then Renault slipped in a 1.2-litre turbo engine and we sat up and took notice. The Clio got a second wind, and has now gained added momentum with a smart styling update.
With Renault's 1.2-litre engine, the sensation is not one of being twanged from a catapult but of having a medium-sized, torquey, naturally aspirated unit. The Clio might be one of the most powerful cars in this group, but it still has only a modest 99bhp and its peak torque of 107lb ft doesn't arrive until 3000rpm, whereas the 1.4-litre turbos from other supermini rivals give their all below 2000rpm.
What the Clio 1.2 delivers is a sweet, gentle surge, with sufficient flexibility to minimise the need for gearchanging once you're free of the confines of city life. All very French.
1149cc, 4cyl, turbo
99bhp @ 5500rpm
107lb ft @ 3000rpm
You can imagine the Clio loping along the gently undulating rural roads of France, where suppleness and roadholding matter more than sharp steering messages or Fiesta-like body control. The remarkable thing is that it also drives really well in the very different conditions found in the UK.
Dynamique trim brings you the posher of the two Clio interiors, with softer dashboard plastics and nicer fittings, although with slightly Gallic disorder. Can't they just hire a German to sort it out?
There aren't too many gaps in the equipment list you even get automatic lights and wipers but stability control is one essential that's missing, and Renault, like Ford, has been quick to react to the impact of exchange rate fluctuations, with the result that the Clio is now touching the hem of 13,000.
That's not good in a car that will shed 64% of its showroom price over three years. Best make sure you get every penny of the 1700 discounts available.