Which hybrid supermini is best? Renault Clio E-Tech vs Toyota Yaris Hybrid

The Toyota Yaris has been the only hybrid option in the small car class for many years, so can the new Renault Clio E-Tech better it?

Renault Clio E-Tech hybrid vs Toyota Yaris Hybrid
Full hybrids such as the Toyota Yaris and Renault Clio, which don't need to be plugged in, are a good answer for motorists who want efficiency but don't want a diesel.

Until recently, if you wanted a small hatchback with a hybrid engine, the Toyota Yaris was the only way to go. But all that’s changed with the arrival of the hybrid Renault Clio - the E-Tech. It’s got the Yaris squarely in its sights, and on first acquaintance, we were pretty impressed with it. 

Toyota isn’t worried, though. It’s just unveiled an all-new Yaris, replete with pumped-up styling and an updated hybrid powertrain. And as the established player in the hybrid supermini game, it has experience on its side. 

So which is best: the old hand or the young pretender? Is the Yaris’s funky styling and an updated engine enough to see off the challenger, or will the Gallic charm of the Clio E-Tech prevail? Register or log-in and read on to find out. 

On Test

Renault Clio E-Tech Hybrid 140 Iconic – £20,995

The Clio gives you lots of car for the cash, besting the Yaris’s power output for almost the same cash. It isn’t as economical, though – and does it look a bit too much like the old model?

Toyota Yaris Hybrid Design – £20,970

Toyota has made hybrid technology its own, and the Yaris carries the benefit of that experience. It’s also more economical than the Clio.

Looks and appeal 

Renault Clio: 4/5

Toyota Yaris: 4/5

Only high-end trims in the Yaris range get the contrast roof.

Park these two cars side by side, and it’ll likely be the Yaris that grabs your attention. That might come as a surprise, because historically, the Clio has been the car to beat in terms of fashion and style – but this latest version, handsome though it is, looks just a little bit too much like the one that came before it to really grab your attention.

By contrast, the Yaris, with its bulging wheel arches, sportscar-esque snout and rotund backside couldn’t me more different to the slightly anodyne model that preceded it. Whether it’s to your taste or not, it’s hard to deny it’s one of the most eye-catching small cars out there.

The Renault Clio hybrid uses F1 technology in its clever, clutchless automatic gearbox. 

It’s just as smart inside. The swooping dashboard feels right up to date, with its big touchscreen centre-stage, and cute pods which house the speedometer and power flow indicator. It’s a shame there’s so much dour grey plastic, though – and some of it feels rather cheap, particularly on the door grab handles, where you feel it every time you shut the door. 

As a result, the Clio takes top honours here, its sleek dashboard finished in a more upmarket-feeling selection of materials. The switchgear looks and feels slicker than the Toyota’s, too, and there are some smart touches like the blue accent line and metal-effect surrounds to the air vents that make the interior a more welcoming place to be. 

The smart materials and eye-catching blue highlights make the Clio interior more appealing than the dour Toyota Yaris

Neither of these cars has a particularly effective entertainment system, mind you; the Clio’s relies too heavily on its slightly laggy touchscreen – there isn’t even a physical volume knob – while the Yaris’s small buttons are hard to press, and its menu system is rather fiddly. 

It’s a shame, too, that in this Design model, you still get a ‘map’ button despite sat nav not being installed. Pressing it gets you a ‘function not installed’ message, as if to remind you of what you can’t have. In fact, you can’t actually get sat nav on any Yaris in the UK – so that the button remains feels like a corner cut. 

The Toyota's dash is logical enough, but some materials around the cabin feel cheap.

Space and comfort

Renault Clio: 3/5

Toyota Yaris: 3/5

There’s not much to split these cars in terms of front seat space, though of the two, it’s the Clio that feels airier and slightly more spacious. In the back seats, meanwhile, the Yaris can offer more room for passengers’ knees, but less for their heads. Having said that, neither car feels particularly roomy – if you need to carry adults regularly, you might be better off with a Skoda Fabia. 

The Reanult Clio pictured here has slightly better headroom than the Toyota Yaris in the back, but neither is best in class if you need  space in the back seats.

Both of these cars’ boots are about average for the class, though the Yaris’s is on the small side. The Clio’s, meanwhile, is a more useful shape, with a load bay that’s longer, so better suited to bulky items, and shallower, so you don’t have to bend over as far to lift out heavier loads.

You shouldn’t have any trouble finding a good driving position in either car, and in neither front seat did we suffer from any aches and pains after an hour or so behind the wheel. Were we splitting hairs, however, we might mention that the position of the Clio’s arm rests gave it a fractional edge in the comfort stakes on a longer journey. 

The Yaris' boot is a little smaller than the Renault Clio's, but is still big enough for most small families. 

On the road

Renault Clio: 4/5

Toyota Yaris: 3/5

Neither of these cars rides perfectly. The Clio lulls you into a false sense of security with its initial softness, but then jars you as it thumps its wheels into potholes; meanwhile, the Yaris’s tauter setup suffers from a subtle background jitteriness that picks up short, sharp ruts even while ironing out larger lumps. 

The Toyota Yaris feels faster than its performance figures suggest, but the Clio is still the punchier car here.

Still, you do eventually tune out both cars’ flaws, so neither is impossible to live with. Where the Clio really wins you back, however, is with the quietness and smoothness of its engine and gearbox. It accelerates with the slickness of an electric car, and it’s rare you can tell the petrol engine has kicked in unless you’re really gunning it.

The Yaris isn’t quite as muted, but even when you floor the throttle the engine’s thrum doesn’t become intrusive. It feels gutsier than its power figures suggest, too, though ultimately the Clio’s extra muscle means it’s the car you’d rather be in for an overtake.

The Clio's steering is a bit lifeless, but the handling is still agile enough to make easy work of a country road.

But while the Yaris is at home around town and on the motorway, it’s less so on a country road. It feels just a little too soft and uncontrolled, and there’s very little feel through the steering or chassis, which makes you feel quite disconnected from what’s going on beneath you. For all that, there’s plenty of grip, and the steering is predictable and direct – it just won’t tempt you into taking the B-roads home.

The Clio is a little better; it too suffers from lifeless, overly light steering, but the whole car feels more agile and better controlled than the Yaris when you’re hustling it along, so while ultimately it won’t be your top choice if you’re an enthusiastic driver, it’s more than deft enough for most small hatchback buyers. 

Safety

Renault Clio: 5/5

Toyota Yaris: 4/5

Both cars get autonomous emergency braking and lane keep assist.

As you might expect, both of these cars come with a full suite of safety kit including automatic emergency braking, front and side airbags, and lane keeping assistance. What’s more, both have five-star ratings from Euro NCAP, which is the industry standard crash testing organisation. However, when you delve into the detail of their scores, you start to see where the differences lie.

Of the two, the Clio is better at protecting its occupants, with particularly strong scores of 96 and 89 per cent for adult and child protection respectively. The Yaris’s scores of 86 and 81 per cent are good, but not quite as impressive. The Yaris does at least fight back with better protection of pedestrians, and a stronger score for its driver assistance systems.

The Yaris scored better than the Clio for its assistance system, in Euro NCAP tests, but the Renault offers better occupant protection in a crash.

Costs and Equipment

Renault Clio: 4/5

Toyota Yaris: 4/5

The Clio comes as standard with a decent equipment list, but not an exceptional one; there’s sat nav, LED headlights, cruise control and hands-free entry and starting, for example, but you only get manual air conditioning.

The Toyota Yaris Hybrid doesn't get sat-nav, but does get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to enable use of your phone's map apps on the car's system.

The Yaris, meanwhile, omits the sat nav, as we’ve already mentioned, and neither does it get keyless entry or rear parking sensors, but you do get climate control, a reversing camera and adaptive cruise control. 

The Clio costs more than the Yaris to buy, but only by £25 – and given its power surfeit, that makes it feel slightly better value. That said, the Yaris’s slightly better resale values and fuel economy should mean that in the long run, it’ll cost you slightly less to own. And if you’re choosing a company car, its lower CO2 emissions figure means it’ll cost you less to tax. 

The Renault's infotainment system lacks a physical volume button, but there are audio controls on the screen and steering column.

In terms of reliability, we’ve no data yet on either car specifically, but both Renault and Toyota finished below average in the well-regarded 2019 JD Power Vehicle Dependability Study. Having said that, both offer a five-year, 100,000-mile warranty. 

Verdict

Renault Clio: 4/5

Toyota Yaris: 4/5

This latest Yaris is a huge leap forward over the old one. Where the previous model was something of an also-ran, this new version is much better; indeed, it’s genuinely desirable. Not only does it look stylish, but it feels polished to drive, and the hybrid powertrain is astonishingly frugal. 

And while it’s flawed, most of its issues are matched by the Clio’s. Neither car rides all that smoothly; neither feels quite as exciting as the best small cars to drive. And while the Yaris’s boot is rather cramped, so are the Clio’s rear seats. 

Both the Toyota and Renault suffer similar flaws, but the Clio takes a narrow win

All things considered, then, these cars are actually quite hard to split. But by a whisker, the Clio takes the win here, nosing ahead as a result of its smarter interior, its quieter engine, and its perkier performance. 

That said, if you happen to have a good relationship with your local Toyota dealer, you like the brand, or you simply prefer the looks of the Yaris, we wouldn’t dissuade you – it may not have won this test, but it’s no loser, either. 

Alternatives

Volkswagen Polo 1.0 TSI 110 SEL DSG - £21,190

This high-spec Polo gets more kit than either of our two test cars, but it also comes with a less potent, less efficient engine – and it’ll cost you more. If you can live with that, though, the Polo is a class act. 

Renault Zoe Play R110 ZE50 - £26,995 (after £3,000 PiCG) [SUBS LINK TO PICG PIECE]

This entry-level Zoe will cost you more to buy than a hybrid, but if your driving habits mean an electric car works for you, you’ll make that back in fuel costs over time. The Zoe will also be cheaper to maintain, though it isn’t as well equipped as our two test cars and shares the Clio’s cramped rear seats

Ford Fiesta 1.0T EcoBoost Hybrid 125 Titanium - £19,860

This Fiesta is only a mild hybrid, so it isn’t as efficient as our full-hybrid test cars, but it’s cheaper to buy in the first place. It’s also better to drive, with a smoother ride and more entertaining handling. True, the interior isn’t quite as smart, but it’s still well worth your time. 

All prices are manufacturer’s recommended on-the-road (OTR) figures, correct at time of writing.

 

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