What is it?
It’s Renault’s smash hit, that’s what the Clio is. While not sitting at the top of the sales charts like the Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa, it’s been this French manufacturer’s bread and butter for decades, with 650,000 being sold to British buyers in its 30-year model run.
The latest Clio, introduced in 2019, takes things up a level – bringing more in the way of creature comforts and spaciousness, but with no sacrifice when it comes to style. And now this French supermini has been electrified for the first time, thanks to a new hybrid E-Tech model, but should you consider it?
Renault has been a leader in the EV world for the best part of 10 years, so it’s surprising that it’s taken quite so long for a hybrid to join its range.
But thanks to the Clio’s new platform (known as CMF-B) that was designed with electrification in mind from the outset, the Clio E-Tech is the brand’s first hybrid and features a new powertrain that Renault says takes advantage of the brand’s expertise in Formula 1. A bold claim.
You’ll also find the setup in the Captur, Megane and upcoming Arkana, with small revisions also enabling it to be a plug-in hybrid. Here in the Clio, though, it’s a standard ‘self-charging’ setup.
What’s under the bonnet?
What isn’t under the bonnet might be the greater question here as the E-Tech setup comprises of a 1.6-litre petrol engine mated to two electric motors, the first acting as a traditional e-motor and the second as a starter-generator – ensuring that it will always start-up as an EV.
There’s also a 1.2kWh battery there that can harness electricity and enable the Clio to run on battery power alone for longer than is customary from a standard (e.g non plug-in) hybrid. There’s also a smooth new clutchless automatic gearbox – there’s no dreaded CVT to contend with here.
In total it produces 138bhp – making it the most powerful Clio in the range – and offers a 0-60mph time of 9.7 seconds – while also being the most efficient. Renault says it’ll return 64.2mpg, with CO2 emissions of 99g/km.
What’s it like to drive?
One of the most impressive things about the way the Clio E-Tech drives is just how smooth it is. Regardless of the level of battery charge, it will always start as an EV, and it means it’s always very refined off the line, while the switch between electric and petrol power is hard to notice. It’s also got a great regenerative braking setup – activated by shifting the gearlever to ‘B’ mode – that not only helps to build charge but also means that for the majority of the time you only have to drive it with a single pedal.
Smooth, efficient and only about £500 more than the equivalent petrol model. There’s a lot going for this new Clio E-Tech hybrid. pic.twitter.com/M8KZGULGoL
— Ted Welford (@TedWelford) December 4, 2020
As with the standard Clio, it’s not the most thrilling supermini to drive, but it feels light and nimble and is impressively easy to manoeuvre. One of the few gripes is that under heavy acceleration the engine isn’t the most refined, while the large 17-inch alloys on our R.S.Line-trim test car could be a bit crashy over potholes.
How does it look?
While looks are always subjective, we reckon few will argue against the Clio being one of the best-looking superminis around. From its standard-fit LED lighting at the front and rear to its neat profile and ‘hidden’ rear door handles, it’s a very appealing thing.
If you value looks, you’ll want this R.S.Line grade, which gains a sportier design and larger alloy wheels to make it look even better. It’s also not a hybrid that shouts about it – the only cues to tell on our test car being small ‘E-Tech’ badging on the B-pillars.
What’s it like inside?
Renault seriously upped its game when it came to the look and feel of the cabin on the latest Clio. The quality is great for a small car, while all E-Tech models feature a seven-inch digital dial system which is very simple to use. A large iPad-like 9.3-inch touchscreen system is just as great to use as it is to look at, too.
One of the standard Clio’s greatest assets is its class-leading 391-litre boot, though because of the space taken up by the hybrid’s extra hardware, it shrinks to 301 litres here. Rear seat space also isn’t the most generous, with the bulky sports seats on R.S.Line models eating into the room on offer. A definite case of style over substance.
What’s the spec like?
Renault retains the same trim levels as the standard Clio for the hybrid, with a Play model kicking off the range and coming equipped with a suite of safety kit, cruise control and air conditioning, though misses out on a touchscreen – you’ll need to take a step up to the ‘Iconic’ model for that.
Our test car in high-spec R.S.Line grade also brought a reversing camera, keyless entry and the larger 9.3-inch media display, along with the sportier look.
As for pricing, the E-Tech starts from £19,995 and rises to £22,495 for the R.S.Line trim. It might seem quite steep, but it’s worth considering the efficiency, decent performance and generous standard kit. The E-Tech is also only £500 more expensive than the equivalent petrol automatic model.
On paper, the E-Tech might seem rather complex, but in practice, it just works. Like an iPhone, there’s a huge amount going on behind the scenes to get the required results, but the best technologies are ones that anyone can make the most of, and that feels true with the Clio E-Tech.
It’s brilliantly engineered – smooth, punchy and importantly efficient – while its ability to run largely as an EV around town is a key selling point. Add in the Clio’s great interior, cool styling and the hybrid’s affordability compared to a petrol model and the E-Tech quite comfortably becomes the pick of this supermini’s line-up.
Model: Renault Clio E-Tech
Model as tested: Renault Clio E-Tech 140 EDC R.S.Line
Engine: 1.6-litre petrol with twin electric motors and battery
Torque: 144Nm (engine); 250Nm (electric motors)
Max speed: 112mph
0-60mph: 9.7 seconds
Emissions: 99g/km CO2