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 from launch, along with a hybrid Clio that’s now on sale. 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 and 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 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.
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. 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 is 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.
We've already driven a prototype of the Clio E-Tech Hybrid, which 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 the Toyota Yaris hybrid and forthcoming Honda Jazz. The car harvests energy from slowing down and puts it back into the battery, then using it to power the car up to 40mph.
A complex clutchless automatic gearbox derived from Formula 1 shuffles power between the power sources but it felt a bit busy in the test car we drove. It has a number of different gears for the petrol engine and electric motor, giving 15 possible combinations. According to Renault, this spread allows the Clio to be at its most efficient in any driving situation, and the Clio can drive using electricity alone at up to 40mph before the 1.6-litre petrol engine takes over. It's quiet and spends more time in its electric mode than the Yaris Hybrid, which is encouraging in terms of keeping running costs down. Brake feel is good too, and there's slick steering and impressive handling when you ask the Clio E-Tech to tackle a more challenging road.
A maximum of 138bhp is available and the hybrid system works best in an urban environment. Here it starts in electric mode, with the petrol engine only kicking in when needed or if the battery is empty. The transition between the two is impressively smooth, with an 'EV' light on the dashboard often the best indicator of which power source is being used. It's not perfect though: accelerate suddenly and there can be a delay as the system seems to struggle to decide what to do. It's a shame, as fully electric cars tend to be very responsive in this regard.
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.