CHANCES are when you think of French car-maker Renault, the model that springs to mind is the peppy and lightweight Clio hatchback.
Sure, an argument can be made for the likes of the Megane, Koleos, Alpine A110 (the old one, not the new), 4CV or 5 Turbo, but the Clio wins out in our mind due to its sheer global popularity.
This year, however, another chapter is added to the Clio story, with the fifth-generation version revealed ahead of an Australian launch expected in late 2019 or early 2020.
Shown ahead of its public unveiling at the Geneva motor show in March, the new Clio will move to a new platform with cutting-edge technologies after the outgoing version began to feel a bit stale after seven years in production.
Now built on the CMF-B platform, which has been developed in conjunction with Alliance partner Nissan, the new-generation Clio will be the first vehicle to feature the architecture.
Other vehicles expected to spin off the platform include the new Nissan Micra, Renault Captur small SUV and maybe even the Mitsubishi Mirage.
For the Clio, though, the new platform changeover actually means a 14mm shorter overall length – now 4039mm – and up to a 30mm lower ride height for a squatter stance.
However, thanks to clever packaging, the new-generation Clio is actually roomier inside for all occupants, while boot capacity also rises from 300 litres to 391L.
Also part of the new architecture is the move to a hybrid powertrain – the first of 12 models from Renault to gain an electrified option – but no details, including whether it will come to Australia, are yet to be made available.
Renault is also touting autonomous technologies, but again the French brand is choosing to remain mum on particulars, but expect to see a boost in safety gear such as autonomous emergency braking, lane-keep assist and maybe even self-parking manoeuvrability.
Outside, the new-gen Clio can be distinguished by its larger front grille, sharper front bumper, LED headlights and C-shaped tail-lights.
Step inside the cabin and keen-eyed fans will spot a new 9.3-inch portrait touchscreen infotainment system, as well as a more ergonomic interior, upmarket materials and a 7.0- or 10.0-inch digital instrument cluster.
Exact powertrain details are yet to be revealed, but expect some carryover engines such as the 66kW/135Nm 0.9-litre three cylinder and 88kW/190Nm 1.2-litre turbocharged unit.
Given its Captur sibling has just been updated with a new 110kW/250Nm 1.3-litre turbo-petrol engine, expect to see that unit migrate to the Clio.
Like with all generations of Clio, expect to see a high-performance flagship pop-up sometime in the future, which could also bring back the peppy 147kW/260Nm 1.6-litre turbo-petrol engine of the current RS 200.
Having been in production from 2012 until now, the fourth-generation Clio was a huge hit for the French brand and continued the nameplate’s strong dynamic character.
Zippy, crisp and genuinely fun, the previous Clio made a strong case for the best handling light hatch on the market, but was sadly let down when its top-spec RS variants were relegated to a dual-clutch automatic transmission only. Boo!
However, the third-generation Clio, available from 2005-2012, featured an RS grade available with a proper manual gearbox, and featured a naturally aspirated 2.0-litre engine producing as much as 150kW/215Nm.
The most iconic hot Clio however, is likely the second-generation-based RS V6, which could output as much as 188kW/300Nm from a 3.0-litre bent-six engine. Yep, a mid-engined, rear-drive French light hatch actually existed, talk about niche!
The model that started it all, however, was the original Clio of 1990 – which replaced the Renault 5 model – and was topped by a Williams-badged version due to the brand’s Formula One tie-up at the time.
Renault’s diminutive Clio has come a long way in the last 29 years, but if the new version can remain true to its roots and deliver on its promise of an agile and fun-to-steer light hatch, it should have no problem replicating its predecessor’s success.