In-depth reviews

Renault Clio hatchback - Engines, drive & performance

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

Carbuyer Rating

4.4 out of 5

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. It strikes a good balance between solid handling and decent comfort,

Renault Clio petrol engines

Two different petrol engine options are available, along with the hybrid Clio E-Tech. The Clio's engine range kicks 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, which is likely to prove the sweet spot in the Clio range and the best seller, as we found it just about quick enough for most situations. That's so 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. 

The five-speed manual gearbox in the entry-level model is the same as before but with tweaks to its linkage that have made it feel slightly notchy. Thankfully, the lack of a sixth gear is no issue, as fifth gear is long enough to provide a relaxed motorway cruising speed. The six-speed gearbox on the TCe 90 model is better. Renault's X-tronic CVT automatic gearbox is also available for the 90bhp model, with stepped changes for those who don't like the ‘rubber band’ nature of a CVT and prefer the feel of accelerating through fixed ratios.

In the 1.0-litre models, 0-62mph takes 12.2 seconds in the TCe 90 and a lacklustre 17.1 seconds in the base model, which is 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.

Diesel engines

Although it’s not on sale any more, 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.

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 Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa or Volkswagen Polo. 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 but this is so seamless most won't even notice. 

Around town, the E-Tech is in its element, switching between petrol and electric smoothly and feeling 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, but it's a small complaint.

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.

Next Steps

Which Is Best?

Cheapest

  • Name
    1.0 SCe 65 Iconic 5dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £16,520

Most Economical

  • Name
    1.6 E-TECH Hybrid 140 Iconic 5dr Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £20,970

Fastest

  • Name
    1.6 E-TECH Hybrid 140 Iconic 5dr Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £20,970

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