Renault Clio hatchback

£11,145 - £18,275

The Renault Clio has always been a byword for style, no more so than in its present form. Its attractive, curvaceous lines stand out in a field dominated by fairly conservative rivals, among them the Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Polo and Vauxhall Corsa. True, the model could be accused of placing style over substance (it's cramped in the back, cabin quality could be better and it's not the most fun supermini to drive), but it's good value (the price includes a four-year warranty) and boasts a couple of extremely efficient engines.

It used to come in a choice of three or five-door body styles, but today's Clio is available in five-door form only. Not that you'd know it: the rear doors are so well integrated that, from a distance, it looks like a sporty three-door. Talking of which, there's a super-sporty Renaultsport version, which we've reviewed separately.

Here, we're concerned with the mainstream versions powered by a choice of three petrol engines – a rather underwhelming 1.2-litre, an economical 0.9-litre turbo and a powerful 1.2-litre automatic – and one diesel. This last engine is a 1.5-litre that's capable of 83.1mpg and is exempt from road tax. However, the 0.9-litre petrol is pretty frugal, too. In ECO form, it's capable of 65.7mpg and again costs nothing to tax. Even the non-ECO version does 62.8mpg for just £20-a-year tax.

The 0.9-litre petrol is great for point-and-shoot town driving, but feels a little breathless on the motorway. The diesel is the more rounded engine: responsive in town, but also ideal for relaxed, long-distance cruising. It costs more than the petrol, so as always in these comparisons, you need to be sure your mileage is high enough (over 15,000 a year) to justify the extra outlay.

Given the choice, and assuming we only occasionally ventured on the motorway, we'd plump for the 0.9-litre petrol. The manual gearbox that's fitted as standard to the Clio isn't the smoothest, so the automatic that's available with the diesel and more powerful 1.2-litre petrol could be worth a try. It's heavy, though, and blunts the Clio's handling as a result.

The Clio is available in five trim levels: Expression, Expression+, Dynamique Nav, Dynamique S Nav and GT-Line. Our vote goes to Dthe ynamique Nav for its good balance of specification (sat nav, an uprated sound system, air-conditioning and a seven-inch touchscreen and a reasonable price. The higher-spec Dynamique S Nav brings extras such as automatic climate control, larger alloy wheels and rear parking sensors, but even so, its higher price is hard to justify.

Fortunately, whichever trim level you choose, excellent safety comes as standard, with highlights including a full complement of airbags, tyre-pressure monitoring and ISOFIX child-seat mounts on the outer rear seats. In addition, the car achieved five stars in its Euro NCAP crash tests.

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