Clio has a new exterior that is dominated by the front end. Renault's corporate identity is very clear, with a prominent diamond emblem at the centre of Clio's nose. Available only as a five-door, the supermini features cool, semi-hidden rear door handles, much like those we first saw in 1997 on the Alfa Romeo 156.

Sitting lower on the road than the outgoing Clio (-45mm), the cute hatchback sits a little wider on its front and rear track too, giving new Clio a more purposeful stance.

The exterior styling is curvy and friendly, without even a hint of aggression. Renault says it paid a lot of attention to not only the wheel-to-vehicle ratio, but also the glass area (DLO) proportions to deliver a very handsome machine.

Inside the cabin there is seating for five but, unlike the Peugeot 208, the front passenger's dash area isn't recessed to free up more interior space, making Clio's interior pretty conventional. The dash area features a centre console with a multi-touch, seven-inch screen (except on the entry version) that, aside from the stereo's steering column controls, lets you set up and adjust the stereo/USB/iPod and navigation. The driver gets a pod of dials with a dominant digital speed read-out at its centre.

One annoying and distracting feature on my test car was the very stylish-looking chrome 'surrounds' on the main instrument dials. After a couple of dull (weather) days' testing the sun actually shone and the resulting dazzle from the light reflecting off the curved chrome surround into my eyes was simply unacceptable (see picture taken by passenger).

In crash testing at Euro NCAP, Clio scored an excellent five stars. Boot capacity is good at 300 litres. If you need more space a good-looking estate is on the way with up to 1380 litres of cargo space. Note that under the boot lining in my test car was just an inflation kit – not a spare wheel. Clio's tyres are not 'runflats', so if you get a puncture in (or close to) the sidewall of the tyre you'll be stuck until the breakdown truck arrives.

Engines available include diesel and petrol units. The entry engine is a petrol, 1.2-litre 16 valve with 75bhp. A 90bhp, TCe three-cylinder petrol engine is Renault's first three-pot 'Energy' engine. Clio's 90bhp, diesel dCi engine is economical and green, pushing out just 83g CO/2. My diesel test car proved to be an entertaining and spirited machine when provoked. It also delivered exceptional fuel economy when driven normally. The 1.5-litre dCi was well able to pull the little Clio along like a train.

Three trim levels are available: Expression, Dynamic and R-Link. Expression comes with cruise control/limiter, Bluetooth/USB, hill start assist, ISOFIX (on the outer two rear seats) and ESP with ASR (anti-skid control) as standard. Dynamic adds colour coding, uprated stereo, 16-inch alloys, front fogs, variable speed wipers, leather steering wheel and tinted windows. R-Link adds an R-Link media tablet with seven-inch touch screen, internet connectivity and an up-rated sound system, among other extras.

Over 12 million Clios have been sold since 1990, when the car was first launched. Clio is an attractive machine that ticks a lot of boxes. With an entry price of €14,990, Clio isn't cheap to buy, but the Renault Finance offer of €149 per month certainly makes it more appealing.

Michael Sheridan