Parkers overall rating: 4.4 out of 5 4.4

Renault Clio E-Tech (2021) cornering, front

  • Five engines to choose from
  • Range of manual and automatic gearboxes
  • 100hp petrol our pick of the range

What engine options are there?

There’s a total of five engines to choose from and unusually for this market sector, you can buy a Renault Clio in petrol, hybrid and diesel forms.

Petrol engines

Engine Power and torque
0-62mph time
Top speed
SCe 75 75hp, 95Nm 16.4secs 100mph
TCe 100 100hp, 180Nm 11.8secs 116mph
TCe 130 130hp, 200Nm 9.0secs 124mph

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The range kicks off with the 75hp 1.0-litre, badged SCe 75, that makes do without a turbocharger. From our experience with this engine, we wouldn’t expect too much in the way of performance. Best suited to use around town, the SCe 75 should at least be reasonably efficient if it’s treated gently.

Far more palatable is the turbocharged TCe 100. It’s willing at low revs, happy enough to be pushed to the upper echelons of the rev range when necessary and yet it’s very refined at a cruise. It’s a shame, then, that it’s paired as standard to a five-speed manual gearbox. Handily, first and second gears are quite short for acceleration around town, but once you start pushing on in the higher gears towards the national speed limit, the engine can feel out of its depth.

The TCe 130 is the most powerful non-hybrid Clio available, but the fastest against the clock with a 0-62mph time of 9.0 seconds and a maximum speed of 124mph. It’s a four-cylinder, 1.3-litre unit, and is paired exclusively to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. The engine doesn’t feel too much of an upgrade over the 100hp unit. The thrummy, three-cylinder engine note in the TCe 100 sounds better than the four-cylinder drone found in the TCe 130 too, even if it’s not as muted as a Ford Fiesta Ecoboost.

Renault Clio E-Tech (2021) dashboard

Diesel engine

Engine Power and torque
0-62mph time
Top speed
dCi 85 85hp, 220Nm 14.7secs 111mph

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Renault’s one of an increasingly small number of manufacturers still offering a diminutive diesel car. We’ve not yet driven the dCi 85, but it should be very efficient, reasonably torquey and quite refined – like most modern diesels.

Electric and hybrid engines

Engine Power and torque
0-62mph time
Top speed
E-Tech Hybrid 140hp, 220Nm 9.9secs 112mph

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Featuring a whole bunch of world firsts, the Renault Clio E-Tech hybrid uses a 1.6-litre petrol engine mated to an electric motor and 1.2kWh battery pack. Performance lags behind the 130 TCe model – worth bearing in mind if you want the fastest Clio you can lay your hands on.

It feels remarkably un-hybrid to drive, with nippy acceleration from a standing start and the additional punch from the electric drive adding to the feeling of effortlessness. It will drive around town in pure-electric mode for extended periods if you’re gentle with the accelerator, but when the petrol engine kicks in, it remains quiet and unobtrusive.

However, when called on to accelerate hard out of the city or to overtake a slower moving vehicle, the transmission can take time to select the correct gear, and when it does, the engine revs quite coarsely. But it’s not too often that the Clio is caught out like this, and it’s pretty quick when the electric motor is doing its job. In this situation, the Clio feels punchy without having to try too hard. It’s here that it beats the Toyota Yaris Hybrid, as it doesn’t need to spend as much time revving noisily.

Handling

  • Light and responsive steering
  • Good handling, some bodyroll
  • Not as much fun as a Fiesta

The Clio manages to be fun to drive despite the cosseting suspension setup. There’s a fair degree of body roll but it deals with it well and offers plenty of grip. The controls feel responsive enough to be fun, thanks to the weighty pedals and fun-to-use manual gearbox, but it’s a shame the gearlever is so tall that it almost feels like you’re driving around in a crossover or SUV, like a Kadjar.

The steering is quite sharp off-centre but it’s very light with no build-up in weight as you apply more lock, so it doesn’t feel that reassuring when you want to know what grip levels the front wheels have.

Opt for R.S. Line and you’ll have Normal, Eco and Sport drive modes available to adjust the weighting of the steering and throttle response. We found these made little difference to the driving experience and would argue that they’re not worth the compromise in every day comfort.

The Ford Fiesta is still the one to get for driving fun, but at least the Clio’s manual gearshift is the best to use out of all the French manufacturers. Its DCT automatic transmission isn’t too shabby either most of the time, with quick and smooth changes between gears helping you enjoy it on a B-road, although it can sometimes be slow to respond if you need instant acceleration, when needing to overtake, for example.

Renault Clio E-Tech (2021) cornering, rear