Renault Clio Driving, Engines & Performance | Top Gear
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Friday 8th December


What is it like to drive?

Surprisingly mature, actually. There are pseudo-MacPherson struts up front and a twist-beam (torsion bar) in the rear, all tuned to ride with a bit more squish than you might expect. It means the Clio corners with a quiet confidence, and precise steering makes it easy to place on the road. Which is fortunate, because visibility isn’t the best on account of the tiny rear window.

Brakes are strong and progressive, while the clutch and six-speed manual are light and easy. It’s really a very tidy car to travel about in, without ever tempting you to raise your heart rate.

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Ah, but I can get the Clio RS for that.

Bad news. The Mk5 Clio has yet to spawn a hot (or even warm) hatch variant on account of changes at the firm’s factory in Dieppe to make way for the Alpine A110 a few years back. And several years on from the car’s launch, it’s unlikely to ever materialise. Renault Group giveth, and Renault Group taketh away.

So what we have here is a supermini that’s abundantly sensible, capable of handling everyday driving but not an ounce more. You can pretty much write the playbook from your armchair: push too hard and you’ll get gentle understeer. Lift hard and you’ll get a very slight unweighting that means precisely nothing. Which is as it should be for a car like this.

Drat. Anything to get excited about?

Of far more real-world relevance is the fact that this version rides very well. The suspension isolates you from rough surfaces better than you’d expect for a car in this class, and also recovers from bumps and potholes quickly, so you don’t spend every mile of your journey being jiggled about.

There’s also very little engine or wind noise at motorway speeds: tyre roar is usually the dominant sound, depending on how smooth the tarmac is. Combined with its compliant nature, this means the Clio is relaxing to cruise along in. Very good news indeed.

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What of the engines?

At launch you’d have had several options, but now there are only two: the 1.0-litre turbocharged TCe 90 (89bhp, 0-62mph in 12.2s, 54.3mpg, 118g/km CO2) or the hybrid 1.6-litre E-Tech 140 (143bhp, 0-62mph in 9.3s, 65.7mpg, 97g/km CO2).

The first of those comes with a six-speed manual gearbox, (the old TCe 100’s five-speed has gone the way of the dodo) while the latter gets a six-speed automatic. Hybridisation is a welcome addition to the Clio line-up: in mixed driving we saw fuel economy in the high 50mpgs without really trying, so 60mpg looks a good bet on the kind of town roads the Clio will most likely be used for.

What kind of hybrid is it?

The Clio E-Tech is of the full hybrid variety: that is to say all the power ultimately comes from the fuel tank and you can’t charge it with a plug, but there’s a 48bhp electric motor and 1.2kWh battery that’s capable of zero-emissions driving in very short bursts. Renault reckons you’ll do 80 per cent of your urban trips in EV mode.

The Clio’s hybrid system is a little more complicated than that (there’s another e-motor that replaces the alternator, powers the gearbox and harvests energy from the brakes - read more about that here) but all you really need to know is that it behaves like any other auto: perfectly happy at normal speeds, but a bit lazy to shift if you give it full throttle. Which you’ll hardly ever do.

One thing we have noticed with the hybrid, though: it has a habit of boosting the engine revs in order to charge the battery. That means you can be sitting quite happily at a steady speed only for the revs to jump without warning. At first it’s confusing, then it’s just irritating as you plod along as though you’re in too low a gear.

Highlights from the range

the fastest

1.6 E-TECH full hybrid 145 Esprit Alpine 5dr Auto
  • 0-629.3s
  • CO2
  • BHP140.8
  • MPG
  • Price£23,885

the cheapest

1.0 TCe 90 Evolution 5dr
  • 0-6212.2s
  • CO2
  • BHP89.8
  • MPG
  • Price£17,530
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