What a great little car. Not a contender in our mind-blowing performance car shoot-out this month (TG 195), admittedly, but no less brilliant for it, this facelifted Clio remains at the top of its class. And after driving it for a couple of days, I was as impressed with it as with any of the mega-cars you'll find in later pages. Building a small car this good is no easy task.
The car tested is a Sport Tourer, in Dynamique trim, with the 1.5 dCi diesel engine. If you need an efficient, clean, small runabout, this is it. At £14,770 (£13,220 for the Expression base model) it's not particularly cheap, but a determination to avoid the bargain basement Koreans is probably wise in this category.
The Clio drives exceptionally well, with light, direct steering, a sporty short-throw gearshift and a supple ride. And the way it keeps its little diesel hushed and remote from the cabin is nothing short of astounding - there are BMWs and Benzes at three times the price that don't do it so well.
Glowing review so far? It can't fail to be. The little diesel engine will never make this car fast, but in its own way it's the equal of the new engine in the E250 CDI and Alpina D3 in combining smooth, lag-free torque low in the rev range with a free-revving nature. Like those two units, this is one of the very best four-cylinder diesels anywhere.
Take or leave the estate body shape. It's got 439 litres seats up compared with 288 for the standard hatch if you need the space. But both are utterly great, that's the message.