► Powerful, efficient petrol hybrid
► Under £20k, on sale now
► Rivals Toyota’s Yaris Hybrid
Renault’s opened order books for its new Clio E-Tech Hybrid. The latest addition to the particularly impressive Clio range, it joins as a powerful, efficient alternative to pure petrol models or hybrid rivals such as the Toyota Yaris.
The eco-conscious Clio E-Tech uses a particularly tricksy hybrid setup inspired by the brand’s F1 cars – no, really – and pairs a 1.6-litre petrol engine with a pair of electric motors for a total of 138bhp and claimed fuel economy of 64.2mpg.
What’s so special about the hybrid system?
Renault starts with a 1.6-litre, four-cylinder, naturally-aspirated petrol engine – similar to the one found in the Dacia Duster but with some significant reworking including hybrid-specific injection and camshaft timing.
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It’s paired up with two electric motors. A larger 36kW one provides most of the motive power, while the smaller 15kW motor is used largely for brake regeneration, starting the combustion engine and powering the gearbox.
Might be worth getting a big tea before diving into this, because it’s going to get a bit complicated. There’s no continuously variable transmission (CVT) here like you often get in a hybrid car – it wouldn’t fit in the tightly packed engine bay. Neither, say Renault’s engineers, would a clutch.
So what you have instead is a multi-mode, clutchless, dog 'box. Like an F1 car. In fact no production road car has used something like this before and unsurprisingly it’s protected by more than 150 patents. It also has no auxiliary belts, with tiny electric motors for things like the water and oil pumps.
It’s actually two gearboxes in one with - unusually - two ratios for the electric drivetrain (all electric cars except only the Porsche Taycan have just one) and four for the internal combustion engine. Plus neutral gears for both. Wow.
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What that means is that the Clio always pulls away in full EV mode with no thermal assistance (up to 38mph) and can disconnect the electric drivetrain for faster motorway driving. Helping to make these changes seamless and rev-match the gears (no clutch, remember) is the smaller electric motor. Which is also an alternator and starter motor.
Blimey. So it’s super-efficient?
Renault reckons 64.2mpg and 98g/km of CO2. The 1.5-litre dCI diesel elsewhere in the Clio range actually beats this, but does so with 74bhp instead of 138bhp.
It’s better compared with the only other hybrid supermini you can buy – the Toyota Yaris Hybrid, which manages 58.8mpg.
Any other hybrid-specific touches?
The E-Tech powertrain’s available right from the entry-level Clio Play, but all will feature the digital dial pack that’s usually a feature of higher models. Otherwise, alterations are limited to just a bit of blue detailing and grey seat upholstery.
Prices kick off from £19,595 for a Clio E-Tech in Play trim, and order books are open now.