Renault Clio E-TECH hybrid engines, drive & performance

The latest Clio is fundamentally a good car to drive, but the complex E-TECH hybrid drivetrain can leave it feeling a bit 'busy' in everyday motoring

Renault Clio hybrid
0-62mph Top speed Driven wheels Power
9.9s 112mph Front 140bhp

On the road, the Clio hybrid's petrol-electric setup works best at low speeds. It always starts up in electric mode and the engine only comes into play when needed – if you press the accelerator sharply or are tackling a steep hill, for example.

You can prevent it coming into play at all by hitting the 'EV' button on the dashboard, but this will only last for a few miles at most before the battery is depleted. The good news is that the transition from electric to petrol power and back again is very smooth when you're just gently pootling around.

Ask for strong acceleration, though, and the picture is less rosy. You can sense a lot of restless shuffling around as that complex gearbox decides what to do, and although it's not necessarily slower to make up its mind than a conventional petrol car with an automatic gearbox, it's disappointing for those used to the instant response of electric and plug-in hybrid models.

Renault Clio E-TECH hybrid 0-62mph, top speed and acceleration

The dual electric motors and clever gearbox in the Clio E-TECH ensure it feels a good bit quicker than its official 0-62mph time of 9.9 seconds suggests. Top speed is 112mph, so it can cruise comfortably at the UK motorway limit.

Handling

When it comes to steering, handling and ride quality, it's as good as any other Clio; not quite up to the Ford Fiesta's benchmark, perhaps, but very impressive nonetheless. Its steering has a pleasant, oily smoothness and progression to it and the car feels very tidy through corners.

Sport mode's hearty mid-range performance means you can have a bit of fun on a decent road if you want to forget about fuel economy for a few minutes. The ride was a little firm on the 17-inch wheels of our test car, but that's the only price you pay for the spark of flair you get with the Clio’s handling. There's a bit of patter over scruffy town roads, but it’s still more than comfortable enough for easy daily commuting.

When you're more intent on saving money at the pumps, you can of course put the Clio into pure-electric mode to get the maximum zero-emissions distance. To maximise the battery charge and electric range (which is only ever a mile or so at most before the petrol engine has to chime in) you nudge the gearlever into ‘B’ mode, which introduces a heavy regenerative braking setting that’s almost strong enough for one-pedal driving in town. It    bleeds in smoothly as you modulate the throttle and it’s easy to judge whether you’re going to need the brake pedal or not.

Left in the standard mode, the regenerative braking is mild and feels natural – not dissimilar to conventional engine braking in a non-electrified car. It's all the more impressive, then, that it does seem to harvest a lot of energy and flick into pure-electric mode frequently.