There’s something about the image of a hybrid that doesn’t quite sit well with that of the Renault Clio supermini. There’s an air of the hair shirt about the former; hybrids have come of age, but for many the term is still associated with saving the planet by driving a car that looks a bit like an egg and feels like it’s propelled by rubber bands.
The latter, of course, is steeped in continental chic; the Clio is Europe’s best-selling small car, and as familiar a sight on the streets of Paris or Barcelona as a boulangerie or a zapateria.
But in this latest iteration, the twain have been forced to meet. Electrification, the industry buzzword of the moment, has come to the Clio – yet in contrast with its rival, the Peugeot e-208, the electric motor of this new E-Tech version has come with a petrol engine attached.
Blame the Renault Zoe for that. It’s already established as Renault’s electric small car, so there’s no place for an electric Clio. But, says Renault, this hybrid version promises an electric-style driving experience without the need for a charging point at home, not to mention diesel-style fuel economy with less noise and lower emissions. In theory, then, it’s an ideal alternative for small car buyers who can’t – or don’t want to – convert to electric just yet.
Pros: Effortlessly smooth to drive, Smart interior, Impressive fuel efficiency.
Cons: Cramped rear seats, Fiddly entertainment system, Unproven reliability.
Under the skin
The Clio E-Tech is powered by a combination of – take a deep breath – one petrol engine, two electric motors, one battery and two gearboxes. Getting them all to work together without a hitch will have been no mean feat. The petrol engine is a comparatively simple 1.6-litre naturally aspirated unit; of the two electric motors, the larger helps drive the car forward, bringing the combined maximum output to 138bhp.