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In-depth reviews

Renault Clio review - Engines, drive & performance

The Renault Clio is now as good to drive as its closest rivals

Carbuyer Rating

4.4 out of 5

Owners Rating
Be the first to review
Engines, drive & performance Rating

4.5 out of 5

The latest Renault Clio matches its rivals in the handling department, with more responsive steering than the old model, plenty of grip and a reassuring resistance to body lean through tight corners. We think it strikes a good balance between solid handling and decent comfort. The base models’ 16-inch wheels are more forgiving over rough UK roads than the 17-inch alloys which come on Esprit Alpine models, but no Clio is particularly uncomfortable to ride in.

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We found visibility to be very good in the Clio when we tested it – the Clio’s front-side windows dip lower than the dashboard, providing a clearer view when approaching junctions.

Renault Clio petrol engines

Having slimmed down the Clio’s engine range, Renault now offers one petrol engine along with the hybrid Clio E-Tech. The Clio's engine range previously kicked off with a three-cylinder 1.0-litre ‘SCe’ petrol offering 64bhp, followed by a peppier 90bhp version badged TCe thanks to its turbocharger. We've tried the latter in its pre-facelift form, which has proved the sweet spot in the Clio range and is now the sole remaining petrol engine. We found it just about quick enough for most situations as long as you keep it spinning above around 2,500rpm because any less and you'll most likely find yourself reaching for a lower gear, particularly if you're heading uphill.

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The six-speed gearbox fitted in the TCe 90 feels good and is easy to shift. Renault's X-tronic CVT automatic gearbox is no longer available for the 90bhp model, but find a used example and it has stepped changes for those who don't like the ‘rubber band’ nature of a CVT and prefer the feel of accelerating through fixed ratios.

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In the 1.0-litre models, 0-62mph takes 12.2 seconds in the TCe 90 and a lacklustre 17.1 seconds in the previous base model, which was one of the slowest-accelerating cars on sale. The Hybrid is the model to go for if you want the best performance, as it takes 9.9 seconds to cover the same benchmark.

Hybrid engine

The Clio E-Tech Hybrid uses a 1.6-litre petrol engine, two electric motors and a 1.2kWh lithium-ion battery. Because you can't plug in the Clio E-Tech, its closest rivals are hybrid superminis like the Toyota Yaris hybrid and Honda Jazz, and there's currently no full-hybrid option for the Vauxhall Corsa, Volkswagen Polo or Skoda Fabia. The car harvests energy while slowing down and puts it back into the battery, then uses it to power the car at speeds up to 40mph.

A complex clutchless automatic gearbox derived from Formula 1 technology shuffles power between the power sources but the Clio always starts in EV mode. We found it's possible to accelerate up to 40mph in electric mode, if you are very gentle with the throttle. More often, the petrol engine kicks in at around 20mph and the hybrid Clio makes some unusual high-pitched noises and whines as it switches between power sources, but they’re not loud enough to be irritating. With more power than the Clio TCe 90 and some tweaks to the powertrain in late 2022, the Hybrid can accelerate from 0-62mph in 9.3 seconds.

Around town, the E-Tech is in its element – a clever system means the smaller of the Clio’s two electric motors matches the revs for gearshifts to make them smoother. We’d say it feels smoother and more sophisticated than either the Toyota Yaris or Honda Jazz. When asked to quickly overtake slower traffic the powertrain can become slightly flustered as it decides the best gear to select, and we’ve found you have to push the engine hard more often than you’d expect, but it’s a small complaint. The Clio is comfortable at motorway speeds, as its powertrain settles into a more relaxed rhythm.

It's possible to put the Clio in a pure-electric mode, perhaps if you're in a town centre or car park for example, and nudging the gear lever into 'B' mode boosts the regenerative braking considerably, to the point the E-Tech can be driven almost entirely using the accelerator pedal.

Diesel engines

Although it’s not on sale anymore, there was a diesel version with a Blue dCi engine – it was a 1.5-litre and was only available for a short time. It’s not particularly quick, accelerating from 0-62mph in 14.7 seconds, but if you’re looking for a used model for lots of motorway trips, it’s worth a look.

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Which Is Best?

Cheapest

  • Name
    1.0 TCe 90 Evolution 5dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £17,965

Most Economical

  • Name
    1.6 E-TECH full hybrid 145 Evolution 5dr Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Auto
  • Price
    £21,470

Fastest

  • Name
    1.6 E-TECH full hybrid 145 Evolution 5dr Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Auto
  • Price
    £21,470

Charlie writes and edits news, review and advice articles for Carbuyer, as well as publishing content to its social media platforms. He has also been a regular contributor to its sister titles Auto Express, DrivingElectric and evo. As well as being consumed by everything automotive, Charlie is a speaker of five languages and once lived in Chile, Siberia and the Czech Republic, returning to the UK to write about his life-long passion: cars.

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