Renault Clio

Did you know that the Renault Clio is the best-selling French car of all time?

You did? I didn’t. I thought that honour would have gone to something as iconic as the Citroen 2CV, or the enchanting Renault 4.

Still, I suppose that cars like these were sold in an age when most people thought they were lucky to be able to afford a car, rather than take a bus like everyone else.

These days some people are lucky just to be able to catch a bus. There’s a stop in my village but it may as well be a memorial to a forgotten past. The service here was axed years ago.

It’s not surprising. Everybody has at least two cars, while families who still live together usually have four cars. Where are they supposed to park them? On the pavement of course.

It can’t go on. The pollution and damage caused by the relentless rise of the car is killing the planet.

At least an electric revolution is on the way and it becomes clear when you look at the price list for the new Renault Clio, which is on sale now, with first deliveries in “late October”.

What’s the first thing you read about the 16 new models, in four trim levels?

Well it sure isn’t price. True to tradition, that comes last.

No, the first thing you’re told is the emission levels of each car, and despite the huge range of choice and three engines they range from 94 to 118g/km of CO2. That’s pretty good. For now, anyway.

Prices start at £14,295 for an entry level Play SCe 75. Standard kit includes LED headlights, air-con, cruise control with speed limiter, a DAB 2-inch multimedia screen with Bluetooth, USB, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and 4G connectivity, electric front windows, height adjustable driver’s seat and the usual suite of ghastly driver assistance systems such as lane departure warning, lane keep assist and autonomous emergency braking.

At the other end of the scale, £20,295 gets you the top spec R.S. Line.

As well as an upgraded interior it includes climate control, sat nav, keyless entry and start, 17-inch alloys, rear-view camera with front and rear parking sensors, Premium Bose speaker and a 9.3in touch screen multi media interface, which can be upgraded to 10in.

Choose from two petrol engines, a three cylinder, 72hp, 1.0-litre, or a 1.3-litre with power ranging from 75 to 130hp. The 130hp Clio hits 0-62mph in 9.0s on its way to 124mph.

A 1.5-litre dC85 diesel returns an impressive 74mpg, along with 85hp and 220Nm (163lb) of torque at 1750rpm. Top speed is 110mph but 0-62mph takes a ponderous 14.7s.

Not before time, a hybrid will be available in mid-2020. It combines a 1.6 litre petrol engine with a multi-mode gearbox and a pair of electric motors that are powered by a 1.2 kWh lithium ion battery.

Combined with the high recharging capacity of the batteries, it will be possible to drive around town and at low speeds in all-electric mode for around 80% of the time.

As a result, say Renault: “During the urban cycle there is up to a 40% improvement in fuel consumption compared with a conventional internal-combustion petrol engine.”

Should be quieter, too.