By: Denis Droppa

Paris, France - Having found more than 13 million owners since it was first launched in 1990, the Renault Clio is the best-selling French car of all time. The fourth generation Clio, launched in South Africa in April 2013, has now undergone a midlife update, or phase II as Renault calls it.

The makeover includes exterior and interior updates, along with extended customisation and some new gadgets.

The new wardrobe includes a redesigned grille, new rear lower panel, and new body colours, along with a restyling of the C-shaped front lights that are Renault’s family signature. Full LED headlights are also available while higher end versions have LED daytime running lights.

Inside the car looks more grown-up with an improvement in perceived quality thanks to new door panels and steering wheel, higher quality seat fabrics and new graining for the plastics. A choice of three multimedia systems is offered, the top-of-the-range one being Renault R-Link which comprises a tablet-like 180mm capacitive touchscreen with navigation and voice control. The new Clio is the first B-segment Renault to be available with Bose quality sound.

A suite of driving aids sees a front parking sensor and a reversing camera added to the existing rear parking sensor. Higher-end versions are available with automated parking.

Four models for SA line-up

There will be four petrol versions for South Africa, but the line up won’t include the 1.5 diesel that’s newly added to the range in Europe.

The entry level TC90 (so labelled because of its output in old-fashioned horsepower) will be the first derivative to arrive here in November, powered by the familiar 900cc turbo petrol with outputs of 70kW and 150Nm and claimed economy of 5.1 litres per 100km.

In the first quarter of 2017 it will be followed by the more powerful Clio TC120 with the 88kW/205Nm 1.2 turbo under the hood, and a six-speed manual doing transmission duty. At about the same time the rapid RS 1.6 turbo versions will be launched in two guises: the standard one producing 147kW/240Nm and a Trophy derivative with 162kW and 260Nm.

Each RS variant is mated to a six-speed EDC dual clutch transmission with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifts. With the assistance of launch control the Clio RS Trophy’s able to sprint to 100km/h in just 6.6 seconds and run to a 235km/h top speed, says Renault.

External styling is beefed up with 18 inch alloys, sportier front bumper, a boot spoiler, a rear diffuser and dual exhausts (optionally an Akrapovic system with a rortier sound). A bank of additional LED lights in the front spoiler are shaped like a chequered flag and provide fog and cornering lighting.

Three driving modes

An RS Drive system enables a choice of three driving modes (Normal, Sport and Race), while the suspension, dropped by 20mm at the front, includes rally-developed hydraulic compression bump stops.

Both the suspension and engine power impressed in my stint with the Clio RS Trophy around the Montefortaine test circuit near Paris. The springs were firm enough to prevent wallowing in the corners, but still delivered a compliant, not-too-stiff ride on the bumps. The brakes seemed to take a reasonable amount of punishment without fading too.

The turbocharged power felt appealingly frisky without being intimidating, and it was generally well managed by the six-speed auto transmission. It’s a very entertaining little hot hatch and one that outguns rivals such as the 141kW Polo GTi and 134kW Fiesta ST.

An even more powerful Clio is the RS16, powered by the 201kW two-litre turbo featured in the Megane RS 275 Trophy, and dressed up with a widened body and 19 inch rims.

Renault says it’s just a concept model for now but the one parked at Montefortaine looked pretty production-ready. Watch this space.

Follow Denis Droppa on Twitter @DenisDroppa