It’s time to say “bon anniversaire, Clio” as Renault’s supermini turns 25 today.
It hit our shores a quarter of a century ago, accompanied by one of the best-remembered ad campaigns of all time. If the words “Papa?” and “Nicole?” mean nothing to you then you’re obviously offensively young.
Promising to bring big car feel to a small car, the Clio was a more refined, better equipped replacement for the much-loved Renault 5 and raised the bar for rivals. It was an instant hit, winning European Car of the Year and selling more than 20,000 units in its first nine months in the UK.
Since then it’s gone on to sell some 13 million units, 1.2m of which have found homes here in the UK.
Over the years the Clio has gone from a fairly plain and boxy affair through a bubbly, curvy phase to today’s sharp and swooping look.
It’s got bigger, safer and better equipped - from the early days where a single airbag sufficed and top-end kit extended to remote locking to the keyless entry, sat nav and five-star Euro NCAP-toting vehicles of today.
And in each of its four generations it has fulfilled many roles, from sensible first wheels for a new driver to handy second family car and highly tuned track weapon.
While the bread and butter of the Clio range has always been small, economical engines, from the very beginning there’s been a hot-headed relation. The first generation gave the world the iconic Clio Williams with its 150bhp 2.0-litre engine and unmistakable blue paint and gold alloys. Today we’ve progressed to the 220bhp Renaultsport Trophy.
But whether it’s a fire-breathing track car or a clean and comfy family runabout that’ll do 80mpg, the Clio seems destined to carry on leading the supermini way for years to come.
Papa would be proud.