Is Nicole's chic back in fashion?
The Clio has always traded on its sensuality; can the latest model entice Campbell Spray to love Renault again?
The Renault Clio has always been a massive seller for the French company.
First launched in 1990 to replace the R5, it was European Car of the Year in 1991 and again in 2006.
Last year it was again revised and my colleague Geraldine Herbert hailed it as "fun to drive, stylish, modern and brimming with joie de vivre". From the start the car has pushed itself as a car for romance.
Its most memorable campaign featured the flirty Nicole and rather dim-witted Papa; another featured James Brown's song "Get Up (Sex Machine)."
The theme continues: Renault's latest Clio is "designed with seduction in mind. It has inspired a story all about passion… sensuous curves, an expressive front end and sporty rear…"
So perhaps it was not surprising that I chose the car to get reacquainted with Renault, which over the years I think has had more duds than not, but these days has a lot of class-leading vehicles.
My experiences with the marque go back many years - to the very early 1960s, when aged 10, I crashed a rear-engined Renault Dauphine Gordini into a holly bush when my father was, perhaps stupidly, trying to teach me to drive.
The issue obviously runs in our family, since nearly 50 years later my youngest son lost control of a Micra - from Nissan, now Renault's major partner - when I was trying to instruct him at Christmas on the small estate we were renting near Weston Airport. At least he was 19 at the time, but really it was my fault.
I have owned one Renault, - the boxy, very student-like R4, back in the early 1970s.
It didn't have the same elan as the Citroen 2CV, with which it was meant to compete, but I had a lot fun in it.
It bounced around a lot, wasn't that stable or confident (though it was the company's first front-wheel drive car), and the sliding windows eventually fell out due to rust.
So there was a lot of history when I picked up the new Clio, but I was struck immediately by the looks. It is quite stunning, with the appearance of a bigger car. Indeed the luggage space is fairly massive for a small, urban car, and the front is pretty good too. Only the rear space really suffers, especially in headroom, but, as the doors open wide, dog Sam was happy - his ramp fitted straight on.
I drove the top-of-the-range Dynamique S Nav TCe 90 which had lovely black alloys, almost every spec upgrade you can think of, leather upholstery, a good satnav and connectivity, a sharp-looking metallic paint, sensors front and rear, a reversing camera and lovely speakers among them.
Maybe it's a bit too bordello, maybe a bit quantity-over-quality, but I rather loved the pampering compared to a lot of small cars. Safety features were behind those of many rivals though.
The test model's price was a good €3.5K above the Clio's starting price of two lattes under €16,000; with even more extras the price heads towards €22,000. There is a five-year warranty, which really should be the industry standard. Be aware, though, Renault resale values are likely to be pretty poor compared to cars like Hyundai. Ford and Toyota.
Beyond all the spec I really enjoyed the rather high-pitched sound of the turbo petrol car. It was fun to drive. Though not as engaging as my recent experience in the new Fiesta. I felt safe - even bombing down the motorway to the point where my partner told me I had better slow down.
Fuel consumption looked really good and the massive boot was a bonus, even if the rear seats don't fold enough to make a totally flat floor.
My flirty days are over - these days I'm more Grandpapa to the Nicole generation - but I really enjoyed my week in the Clio.
I am worried about the cost and resale values, but it is a very stylish and, dare I say, chic car.