In-depth reviews

Renault Clio hatchback - Engines, drive & performance

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

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

Three different petrol engines 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 74bhp, followed by a peppier 99bhp 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 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. At 70mph, the engine is turning over at just under 3,000rpm. Renault's X-tronic CVT automatic gearbox is also available for the 99bhp 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 11.8 seconds in the TCe 100 and a leisurely 16.4 seconds in the base model. If you'd prefer extra performance, a range-topping 1.3-litre TCe 130 engine with 128bhp is also offered, hitting 0-62mph in nine seconds, but because it's restricted to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox and top trim levels, it's likely to sell in lower numbers. The extra performance of this engine makes the Clio a ‘warm hatchback’ with it under the bonnet, and it’s worth considering if you’ll enjoy the extra power.

Diesel engines

Renault still thinks there's a place for diesel engines in its latest supermini, and the latest 85bhp version of its 1.5-litre Blue dCi is certainly clean. However, it looks likely this engine is being slowly phased out, as it's now only available with the Iconic trim level. It comes with the advantage of a six-speed manual gearbox, rather than the five-speed of the 1.0-litre, and its low-revving nature and fuel-economy are likely to appeal to motorway drivers. You'll need to be covering large distances to make its running costs stack up, though, so we'd recommend the petrol for most drivers. It’s not particularly quick either, accelerating from 0-62mph in 14.7 seconds - you'll need to plan overtakes carefully.

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 75 Play 5dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £14,420

Most Economical

  • Name
    1.6 E-TECH Hybrid 140 Play 5dr Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £19,170

Fastest

  • Name
    1.0 SCe 75 Play 5dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £14,420

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