Renault is introducing its first electrified option to the Clio, as part of a new hybrid push. Ted Welford puts it to the test.
WHAT IS IT?
The Clio is a car that needs little introduction - this has been Renault’s bestseller for 30 years and continues to be one of the most popular cars across Europe.
Now in its fifth-generation - which arrived with petrol and diesel engines in 2019 - this supermini has taken a turn upmarket with a fantastic new interior and sharp, premium looks.
It also sits on a new platform known as CMF-B (Common Module Family for B-segment vehicles, if you want to know), which means the Clio is ready to accept an electrified powertrain for the first time.
Renault was one of the earliest manufacturers to jump into the EV market nearly a decade ago, with its commercial models and popular Zoe hatchback.
But despite having all this expertise with electric models, it’s taken up until now to offer a hybrid (most manufacturers tend to do this the opposite way around).
Known as E-Tech, Renault says its new hybrid technology is inspired by the firm’s experience in F1, and there’s a huge amount of innovation going on underneath the surface, with 150 separate patents being filed for it.
It’s being introduced to the Clio, Captur and Megane, and on the Clio, it’s a ’self-charging’ setup, which we’ll get on to shortly. It aims to bring the best of both worlds by offering the best performance and efficiency of any derivative in the range.
WHAT’S UNDER THE BONNET?
Rather than use an existing Renault engine and bolt on the electrical gubbins, Renault decided to start from scratch with the E-Tech. So it uses a new naturally-aspirated 1.6-litre petrol engine mated to two electric motors and a 1.2kWh battery. It’s then mated to a clever clutchless six-speed automatic gearbox.
In terms of performance, Renault claims it can reach 60mph in 9.7 seconds, though because of the torque produced from the electric motor, it feels quicker than the figure suggests. But it’s efficiency where the Clio E-Tech scores highly as it’ll return a claimed 64.2mpg, with low CO2 emissions of 98g/km giving it a benefit-in-kind of 22% - much lower than regular petrol and diesel models.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE?
Out on the road, the additional pace from the electric motor (only one provides additional drive, a second acts as a starter/generator) is really noticeable and gives the Clio plenty of punch for overtaking and getting up to speed.
The E-Tech powertrain also feels much more effective than other ’regular’ hybrids - for one it can travel at higher speeds while still in ’EV’ mode, and Renault says that plenty of urban driving can be done without having to use the engine.
The regenerative braking system is also one of the best around and is enhanced by sticking the gear shifter into ’B’ mode. It means that you can drive the Clio for much of the time only using the accelerator pedal.
HOW DOES IT LOOK?
With cool wraparound LED lights at the front and rear, the Clio has a lot of presence on the road for such a small car, while a range of alloy wheels and the option of a sporty-looking RS Line grade means this is a very striking supermini.
In terms of the E-Tech itself, little has changed when it comes to design next to the standard Clio. Look close and you’ll spot the discreet hybrid badging, while an optional ’Hybrid Blue’ pack brings subtle blue detailing to the interior and exterior, but this is a hybrid that’s happy not to shout about it.
WHAT’S IT LIKE INSIDE?
The quality throughout the new Clio’s interior is excellent, while the layout and technology itself look like something you’re more likely to see in something with a much more premium badge.
Our test car utilised an optional 9.3-inch infotainment display.
This offers a simple-to-use interface and crisp graphics, while thankfully climate control functions remain as physical buttons and not nestled within a sub-menu.
As with just about every hybrid, the space taken up by the battery has impacted practicality - the Clio losing its bragging rights of having the biggest boot in this segment.
It reduces from 392-litres to 300, which might sound pretty major, but it’s still a good size and a roomy shape.
WHAT’S THE SPEC LIKE?
Our S Edition test car came with smart 17-inch alloy wheels, a reversing camera, climate control and the larger touchscreen display - leaving you wanting for little more.
The E-Tech is available on all standard Clio equipment grades, ranging from entry-level Play trim right the way up to Launch Edition.
In terms of pricing, the Clio E-Tech starts from £19,595 for the Play car, with our S Edition model costing £21,595.
Prices might seem steep at first for a supermini, but it’s worth considering the fuel-saving benefits, the performance and the generous levels of standard kit. The E-Tech is also only £700 more expensive than a 128bhp 1.3-litre petrol engine found in the Clio - making the decision to go with the hybrid a no-brainer.
It might have taken Renault a number of years to venture into the world of hybrids, but with the Clio E-Tech, it was most certainly worth the wait.
This is a seriously well-implemented powertrain and one of the best ’self-charging’ ones to date - helped by brilliant efficiency, credible performance and a fantastic gearbox.
With such little compromise for choosing hybrid over a standard petrol version (which is already an excellent car) and the low running costs associated with this E-Tech, this new electrified model becomes the new pick of the Clio range.
FACTS AT A GLANCE
Model as tested: Renault Clio E-Tech Hybrid 140 Auto S Edition
Engine: 1.6-litre petrol mated to twin electric motors and battery
Torque: Engine (144Nm), Electric motor (250Nm)
Max speed: 112 mph
0-60mph: 9.7 seconds