Parkers overall rating: 4.6 out of 5 4.6
  • Five engines to choose from
  • Range of manual and automatic gearboxes
  • 100hp petrol our pick of the range

There's a total of five engines to choose from and so far we’ve driven two of them – the TCe 100 paired with a five-speed manual gearbox and the TCe 130 with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.

Three petrol engines to choose from

The trio of petrol engines have seen service elsewhere in the Renault, Dacia and Nissan ranges, which is good news – they’re largely proven, which bodes well for reliability. The range kicks off with a 75hp 1.0-litre, badged SCe 75, that makes do without a turbocharger.

From our experience with this engine in other models, 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 1.0-litre 100hp turbocharged three-cylinder unit that Renault calls TCe 100. It’s a very tractable engine – meaning that 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.

While most rivals will have a sixth gear, we fear Renault may have shot themselves in the foot by not fitting one on the 1.0-litre TCe.

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.

Should you wish, the TCe 100 can also be specified with a CVT automatic gearbox, which is often a red flag for those who enjoy driving. But, having tested this gearbox in a mechanically similar Nissan Micra, we can confidently say it’s one of the best of its breed – smooth, willing and paired well to the engine. There really are far worse small automatics on the market.

At the top of the range – until the brand’s Renaultsport division gets its hands on the Mk5 Clio – sits the TCe 130. It’s a four-cylinder, 1.3-litre unit, and is paired exclusively to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.

The engine is quite powerful, but it 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.

We’d say it’s only worth upgrading if you desperately want the seven-speed transmission, but do note that this isn’t one of the best of its breed and does feel hesitant, particularly when pulling away from a standstill before spinning up the front driven wheels. This all-or-nothing character will take getting used to, but it does changes gear quickly and smoothly on once on the move.

Hybrid powertrain

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, good for 140hp.

We've driven this unit but can't say much about it yet, other than it can accelerate from 50-75mph (on a slip road for example) in 6.9 seconds.

It uses a very clever and slightly complicated gearbox arrangement that means it always pulls away under electric power, and Renault reckons you'll spend 80% of your time driving in town in zero emissions mode.

This combination forms the basis of the plug-in hybrid powertrain that is being saved for the Renault Captur.

You can still buy a diesel

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.

Well-judged balanced of ride comfort and fun handling

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.