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Renault makes a strong entry into the relatively niche hybrid-supermini market.
Having first sampled the new hybrid Clio in special Launch Edition spec, we now try the car with the regular Iconic equipment grade
Standard equipment on Iconic:
LED headlights, tail lights, DRLs and front and rear fog lights, 16in alloy wheels, hands-free key card, 7in touchscreen with satnav, Apple Carplay and Android Auto connectivity, 7in TFT driver display, air conditioning, rear parking sensors, cruise control and speed limiter, autonomous emergency braking, lane keep assist, lane departure warning, traffic sign recognition
A supermini with a conventional hybrid powertrain is a pretty rare offering, but it's one Renault has adopted as part of its Clio range. This is one of a trio of E-Tech-badged cars the brand has introduced, however, it's the only one of those that's a conventional hybrid, with the Megane and Captur E-Techs being plug-in hybrids.
Like the other E-Tech models, the Clio features two electric motors - a regular hybrid-style motor and a mild hybrid-style high-voltage starter generator. The motors are paired with a 1.6-litre petrol engine as well as a clutchless automatic gearbox.
On the road, the Clio E-Tech makes eco-friendly driving easy. There is a selectable EV mode button on the dashboard, but this frankly feels rather redundant since the Clio is perfectly happy to drop into pure electric running of its own accord when conditions allow, which they often do - such as around town (up to 37mph) and when coasting at higher speeds. With a battery capacity of 1.2kWh, the E-Tech isn't designed for extended EV running in the manner of plug-in hybrids, but the range it does have is utilised so well that Renault's claim of up to 80% electric driving in urban areas seems very reasonable. When the (very refined) petrol engine is required, the transition is unobtrusive and the whole system feels beautifully coordinated - the driver need never know anything clever was happening. There is, however, the option to increase the system's regenerative braking effect by shifting the automatic gearbox into 'B' mode, further improving efficiency.
With 140hp in total the powertrain is also punchy enough when needed and allows the driver to enjoy handling with a nice flowing quality - it's a car that's easy to place on the road, with steering that is light but not imprecise.
Renault is offering the Clio E-Tech with all the equipment grades from the regular range, with our test car coming in mid-range Iconic spec (an R.S. Line model is pictured). Unless an optional Hybrid Blue pack is selected, which adds some subtle blue detailing, the design of the interior is largely indistinguishable from petrol and diesel Clios, although the E-Tech Iconic does come as standard with a 7in driver display that's only included further up the range with other powertrains. In any case, a lack of variation is hardly the end of the world, since we've previously waxed lyrical at Business Car about the step up in quality and technology the latest-generation Clio has brought. The only slight snag is a smaller boot, with capacity dropping by 90 litres to accommodate the hybrid battery, but since the regular Clio's boot is class-leading, the 301 litres the E-Tech is left with is still adequate.
A glance at some other numbers makes the advantage of the hybrid obvious. Compared with the equivalent 130hp petrol Clio, which is now being dropped from the line-up, in official testing the hybrid does 15 more miles on each gallon, and emits 30g/km less CO2. It makes a potentially winning combination of performance, efficiency, and value for drivers and fleet managers alike - though they might also want to consider the Toyota Yaris hybrid, which offers slightly better economy and emissions, albeit with less power.