Renault Clio E-TECH Hybrid 140 (2020 - 2023) used car review

Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

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Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

By Jonathan Crouch

Introduction

Hybrid technology has often been decreed too pricey for the supermini segment, but in 2020, Renault attempted to democratise it with this car, the Clio E-TECH Hybrid, a version of its fifth generation Clio supermini. It was a little pricier than an ordinary Clio but the French brand hoped early buyers would be impressed by impressive efficiency figures, plus the 'EV' option that gave limited all-electric driving range.

Models

5dr Supermini (1.6 E-Tech hybrid)

History

Back in 2020, Europe at last gained a hybrid-powered supermini to take on the Asian brands - and this was it, Renault's Clio E-TECH Hybrid. There was an awful lot of technology to get to grips with here, but the bottom line was that the French manufacturer was here offering a really credible alternative to diesel power more affordably than any other hybrid supermini maker had managed to do before.

And there's a real ongoing need for that. Europe now has the world's strictest emission regulations, requiring a 95g/km across-the-board range average for small cars which it simply isn't possible for a manufacturer to meet without electrifying a large number of its engines. Prior to 2020, all that was available in that regard in the small car market was the Toyota Yaris self-charging Hybrid and a handful of EV models that hardly anyone bought. That's got to change - and it's going to.

Unlike the E-TECH PHEV Hybrid versions of Renault's slightly larger Captur and Megane models, this one's a hybrid of the self-charging sort, rather than being a plug-in. But thanks to its F1-infuenced engine technology, it's still capable of diesel-like returns that closely match those of its two close supermini segment full-hybrid rivals, the Honda Jazz and the Toyota Yaris. The Clio E-TECH Hybrid sold in its original form until mid-2023, when it was significantly facelifted and became the only Clio model on sale in the UK. It's the pre-facelift versions of this car we look at here.

What You Get

Apart from the badge work, there are no visual differences to mark the Clio E-TECH Hybrid out from standard variants in the range. Which means the look is just as with any other MK5 Clio - a slightly more expressively styled design than others in this model line. At the front, sculpted ribs on the bonnet flow down into a wide central grille and LED tusks curve out from the full-LED headlamps in a C-shaped stylistic flourish that one writer reckoned reminded him of a fairground version of Salvador Dali's moustaches. And from the side? Well it's possible you might not initially notice that this, the only body style on offer, is a five-door hatch. The gloss black rear door handles are, after all, rather artfully hidden in the C-pillar, giving the silhouette a sportier three-door look. The curvy creativity continues at the rear too, where the tail lights feature a C-shaped 3D illuminating signature. A long, thin brake light is fitted at the top of the tailgate glass and there's a further 'E-TECH' badge on the boot lid. But of course what's more important is the stuff you can't see, this MK5 model's stiff, sophisticated CMF-B ('Common Module Family, B'-segment) chassis structure, fashioned from high elastic-limit steel and designed from the outset to accommodate this electrified drivetrain.

When we first sampled this MK5 Clio's considerably upgraded cabin, we pronounced it to be un-bettered in the segment for style and quality feel. For this Hybrid model, it gains E-TECH badging and subtle blue detailing running the width of the interior in the air vents and around the gear lever. Otherwise, the ambiance is much as you'd find in any other well specified Clio, with soft-touch trimming, tactile touch-points, smart piano key switches and supportive enveloping seats. The need to incorporate various extra e-functions in the 'EasyLink' centre-dash portrait-format screen means that it must be of at least 7-inches in size with a Clio Hybrid - and ideally you'd get yourself a trim level featuring the larger 9.3-inch monitor. This adds the finishing touch to what Renault's tried to do here, feeling satisfyingly sophisticated as you poke, pinch and swipe your way through menus for things like Navigation, 'Apple CarPlay'/'Android Auto' smartphone-mirroring, apps, Multimedia options and a decent quality DAB audio system. The instrument binnacle can also be quite colourful because you have to have virtual dials with a Clio Hybrid. That's so as the various extra e-drive read-outs can be incorporated, these sitting within the 7-inch colour screen, which, at the top of the range, could be upgraded by original buyers to a wider 10-inch monitor.

We weren't especially impressed by the space provided in the back when we first tested the conventional version of this model - and we weren't in this E-TECH version either, though at least the hybrid system's been packaged in such a way as not to detract further from the knee, leg and head space available. One tall-ish adult can just about sit behind another - and you wouldn't really be wanting to do that for very long, room for knees and legs being at something of a premium. Headroom isn't great either, thanks to the somewhat swept-back roof line. As one writer pointed out, overall it's all rather more 'Asterix' than 'Obelix'. But does that matter, given that for the majority of buyers, these rear seats will be used only occasionally for adults and more regularly for children? Only you can decide.

There are no versatile seat base gymnastics like you'd get in a rival Honda Jazz, but Renault provides seat back pockets, reasonably-sized door bins, a coin recess in the door pull and overhead coat hooks. The comma-shaped front seat headrests improve your view forward, plus there's a reasonably low centre transmission tunnel that'll make the carriage of three small-to-medium folk a little easier. ISOFIX child seat fastenings feature on the outer two seats and there's easy access to the bin behind the handbrake if you've got stuff you need to stash away. In the top-spec 'RS Line'-spec model, there's also some nice trimming to take your mind off the rather compact surroundings, with twin-colour door stitched and red trimming for the upholstery and the seat belts.

We'll finish with a look at cargo space. The standard Clio atones for its somewhat restricted rear seat surroundings by somehow managing to serve up the largest boot in the supermini segment. Well you don't get that here, the usual 391-litre capacity falling to 301-litres in this case thanks to battery pack positioning beneath the cargo area floor. Still, that's only 3-litres less than you'd get in a Honda Jazz and it's 15-litres more than you'd get from a Toyota Yaris.

Otherwise, it's as you'd get on any other Clio. There's quite a high boot lip to lug your stuff over and you have to do without an adjustable-height boot floor. But four tie-down points are provided, along with a couple of bag hooks and, unlike in a rival Honda Jazz, there's enough under-floor space to add in a spare wheel. This Clio gets the usual 60:40-split backrest which, when pushed forward, frees up 1,054-litres of capacity across an almost-flat load floor.

What You Pay

This relatively rarer E-Tech hybrid model varies in price between £16,650 (around £18,450 retail) for a '20-plate 'Iconic' version, to around £20,100 (around £22,250 retail) for a late '22-plate 'Techno' version of the same car. All quoted values are sourced through industry experts cap hpi. Click here for a free valuation.

What to Look For

Most Clio E-Tech Hybrid owners we came across were pretty satisfied, but inevitably, some issues were thrown up by our survey. General Clio problems include issues with the boot block mechanism causing the boot remain locked, an issue that can happen intermittently. This problem is caused by a faulty actuator/solenoid. You'll need to make sure that the infotainment system has got the latest software updates so that it can function as it should.

Check the Renault key card and make sure it locks and unlocks the doors properly. If it doesn't, then the key battery might be flat. Then get in and make sure that the starter activates and lights up the dashboard. If it doesn't then the car battery may be at fault. If the engine can't be switched off once activated, then try pressing the starter button 5 times in quick succession and see if that solves it.

As for driving issues, well look for vibrations, smoke from the exhaust and warning lights on the dash. If vibrations are the problem, check tyre pressure and the condition of the tyres. Check the steering: if it feels very heavy, then the assistance motor may be faulty.. We've also come across reports of issues with electricals, ranging from faulty wipers to cars that wouldn't start. There have also been issues with faulty bulbs that stop the indicators from correctly working.

We came across a number of glitches with the R-Link2 infotainment and sat nav system - things like out-of-date maps and issues with DAB drop-out. Another owner complained of dashboard rattles and window whistles. Check tyres, exhausts and front suspension alignment carefully and try to establish if the previous keeper was diligent in the car's upkeep. Look for parking scratches on the alloys and evidence of child damage on the interior plastics and upholstery. All of these issues are common and could give you scope for price negotiation.

Replacement Parts

(approx based on a 2020 Clio E-Tech Hybrid ex VAT) Day to day consumables for this Clio are in line with what you'd expect. An air filter is around £6. An oil filter is around £5-£11. A pollen filter is around £18-£34. Front brake discs sit in the £54-£112 bracket. Front brake pads sit in the £24 to £40 bracket for a set. A water pump is around £47. A wiper blade will cost around £6-£18. A radiator is around £109.

On the Road

Unlike the plug-in E-TECH engine that Renault uses in the Captur and the Megane, this Clio E-TECH Hybrid doesn't use a PHEV powerplant: Renault reckoned that would make this little supermini too pricey. Instead, it's a 'self-charging' full-Hybrid unit like that in, say, a Toyota Yaris or a Honda Jazz, so it can, for very short periods, run independently on full-electric power (unlike the 'mild hybrid' engines you'll now find in quite a few of this car's small hatch rivals). Renault makes much of the way the design of this car's engine borrows from its F1 racing technology. Like the brand's racing powerplant, this one is extremely compact and features two electric motors, one with 36kW on the rear of the gearbox and one with 15kW on top of the transmission, along with a four-cylinder 1.6-litre normally aspirated petrol engine which contributes most to the 140hp total output. The gearbox is an auto of course (but of the more unusual 'dog box' clutchless variety) and the motor is powered by 1.2 kWh lithium-ion battery pack located beneath the boot floor. The rest of the drivetrain has somehow been shoehorned beneath the bonnet.

There's plenty of mid-range pulling power, so plenty of scope for enthusiastic progress here, particularly if you select the most dynamic of the three drive modes on offer - 'Sport'. But you're not going to want to use that too often for fear of decimating the frugal fuel returns which would have prompted you to choose this car in the first place - think up to 64.2mpg on the combined cycle and up to 98g/km of CO2. For these kinds of readings, you'll most of the time want to stay in 'MySense', a hybrid setting which blends the petrol and electric motor output for maximum economy. Or possibly in the 'Eco' setting, which uses a more measured mapping of the accelerator pedal and adapted gear changing for greater economy. In town, you might want to select 'EV', which prioritises battery-electric drive up to about 38mph, providing there's sufficient charge. Renault claims that a Clio Hybrid will be able to travel for 80 per cent of urban journeys on battery power alone. There's also a further 'Brake' setting on the gear lever, which increases throttle lift-off electrical regeneration.

Overall

Let's be honest. Most EU beaurocracy is a bit of a pain in the neck but without it, we wouldn't have cars as efficient as this one. 'Hybrid' is an over-used word when it comes to small cars these days; if you take that term to mean what it ought to mean - namely the ability to run independently on electric power and an end result of a really significant gain in efficiency - then most so-called 'hybrid' superminis on sale from the 2020-2023 period aren't really proper hybrids at all. But this one is. Developing this kind of powertrain and selling it at realistic money is an enormous automotive challenge, but Renault has risen to it impressively here and meaningfully used its hard-earned F1 technology.

And in summary? Well you could either see this as small car with needlessly expensive technology. Or wonder who wouldn't want a small, economical hatch borrowing its transmission and motor technology from the most up-to-the-minute thinking in F1. One writer described this Clio Hybrid as the 'Pepsi Max' option in the Clio range: in some ways a compromise solution, but one that still leaves a decent taste in the mouth and is better for us in the long run. There's something in that. And there's a lot to like about what Renault's served up here.

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