Before we get to the nitty-critty of Renault’s new hybrid model, lets pause and say “Happy 30th Birthday Clio”. The Clio has sold over 15m examples worldwide – 55,000 of those in Ireland – making it the best selling French car of all time! The Clio spans five generations, and many memorable TV ad campaigns – remember ‘Papa & Nicole’ and the phrase ‘Va Va Voom’? Then there were the Williams (F1) ‘1’ and ‘II’ performance models (ed. pauses to wipe drool). The Clio replaced the iconic Renault 5 and is today a very good car. We’re testing the latest variation this week – the new E-Tech Hybrid (you can read our Clio review from last January here http://motorhub.ie/renault-clio-review/ )
The Clio supermini in E-Tech is a conventional hybrid (HEV) and not a PHEV plug-in like its bigger E-Tech siblings. It is powered predominantly by a 1.6 litre petrol engine, assisted by an electric motor, and a second small integrated starter motor. Power is impressive for its size with 140hp going to the front wheels via a smooth clutch-less CVT automatic gearbox. The CVT’s whine (an integral trait with all CVTs) is well suppressed. CVTs deliver very efficient power, relatively good fuel consumption and thankfully have come a long way since their use in early hybrids. Renault’s familiar ‘MultiSense’ drive modes button can be selected to deliver a driving experience that suits your mood. ‘Sport’ mode does what you’d expect, while the ‘Eco’ function delivers the most frugal fuel consumption. The Clio E-Tech is the most potent version in the range (for now) with 0-100km/h taking 9.9 seconds. You have to like small cars with sufficient power.
The exterior of the Turkish built (Bursa) Clio features some subtle hybrid badging to point to the car’s green aspiration. Inside the Clio E-Tech Hybrid models is a standard 7.0-inch TFT Driver’s Information Display, complemented by a 7 or 9.3-inch Easy Link touchscreen display, dependent on trim level. The digital instrument cluster is unique to Clio Hybrid models. It can display specific hybrid animations such as battery levels and energy flow. A larger 10-inch version is available. You can customise the display and store user preferences. Interior lighting can be customised with a choice of eight colours. Up front the experience is good and comfortable, although I wouldn’t mind a bit more lateral support from the driver’s seat. The Clio has impressive rear legroom for a supermini and a good boot too.
The driving experience is refined and pleasant. Emissions are low at 99g/km CO/2 and this means fuel consumption is good too with a diesel-like 4.4 litres per 100km quoted – we averaged closer to 5 litres but did a fair bit of motorway driving during our testing. The electric motor gets its power from a 1.2kWh battery pack that can accommodate up to 2km of electric only travel at speeds of up to 50km/h – after that the engine kicks in. There is an EV button you can press to get the car to run in zero emissions mode but ultimately the car will decide if it does. Renault says ‘All vehicles with E-Tech power-trains guarantee electric-only starting every time the car is switched on’ but on moving out of our driveway at Motorhub Towers I would select the mode but the engine would kick in despite there being more than enough battery power displayed. In general stop start traffic the car will use battery power to move the car off unless you accelerate hard.
Battery power for the hybrid system is gained in a number of ways – by engine power directly via the starter generator, by lifting off the accelerator when driving and by using the ‘B’ position (brake-mode) on the gear selector to add extra regenerative braking when you lift-off the throttle. Clio’s ‘B’ mode is excellent and quite strong and this allows for nearly one pedal/foot operation, which is remarkable in a hybrid and more common in an EV (BEV). The Clio has a large battery fuel gauge and petrol fuel gauge on either side of the driver’s display.
The Clio E-Tech Hybrid (RS-Line) is priced at €28,795 exc. dealer/delivery charges – Clio pricing starts at €17,195. All Clios have a comprehensive five-year warranty with unlimited mileage limit in the first two years. E-TECH versions come with eight-year battery warranty. The Clio E-Tech Hybrid is available across all main trim levels: Dynamique, Iconic and R.S. Line, plus an exclusive E-TECH Special Edition. Clio E-Tech Hybrid models offer some distinct features to mark it out, including E-Tech badging on the B-pillar and boot-lid, plus the option of a Hybrid Blue pack that features blue detailing to exterior and interior trim. The Clio in hybrid form is a really nice machine – the only question you need to ask yourself is can you justify the high price when you can get in to a petrol Clio for a lot less.