What Car? says...
We’ve got used to the Renault Clio going through image changes like they're going out of fashion, and the latest version of the small car has been restyled to match the looks of the French manufacturer’s newest models.
As a result, the Clio has a front-end design similar to the Renault Megane E-Tech electric car and the Renault Austral family SUV. And like the Austral, it's available in a new range-topping trim called Esprit Alpine, inspired by Renault's Alpine F1 team.
Of course, the Clio isn't the only small car you can get with hybrid technology these days – the Honda Jazz and Toyota Yaris have been using it for years. And there are plenty of regular-engined rivals in this hotly contested class too, from the Vauxhall Corsa and the VW Polo to the Audi A1 and the Mini 3-Door Hatch.
So, is the Renault Clio a good buy, or will you be better off with one of those? That's what we'll tell you over the next few pages of this review.
We'll tell you whether the interior has impressed us with its plushness and practicality, and if the performance and handling are up to scratch against the rivals. We'll also cover practicality, running costs and other useful stuff.
If you plan to get a new car soon, remember we can help you find it for the lowest price if you search our free What Car? New Car Deals pages. You can find sizeable discounts without any awkward haggling, and there are some impressive new small car deals.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
The Renault Clio's 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol unit (TCe 90) produces 90bhp and comes with a six-speed manual gearbox. Performance isn’t exactly spritely, with 0-62mph taking 12.2 seconds officially.
So far, we’ve driven the other engine options, the 1.6-litre hybrid (E-Tech 145). It produces 143bhp, and can move from 0-62mph in 9.3sec. Power delivery is smooth and linear, with the engine and motor pulling adequately, if not very strongly, under acceleration. Unlike the TCe 90, it uses an automatic gearbox.
When accelerating from a standstill, it can take a second or two for the petrol engine to wake up when you press on the accelerator, and when you get underway the gearbox changes gears smoothly enough. It’s not a CVT automatic (like the Yaris) but at times it does sound like one as it holds on to gears to get the most out of the engine under acceleration.
Suspension and ride comfort
Although by small car standards we wouldn’t describe the Clio as uncomfortable, it can’t round off imperfect road surfaces as well as the Polo, and fidgets more than its rival, resulting in a choppy ride.
More concerning is the way potholes and ridges thud through the car’s body because the suspension fails to soak them up. Those impacts never cause the car’s body movements to feel uncontrolled, but you feel everything except smooth Tarmac through the seat.
If you pitch the Clio into a corner briskly, you’ll find that body lean is kept nicely under control, yet there’s little sense of fun to be had from driving it down a winding country road in a spirited manner. The Ford Fiesta is the car to go for if driver entertainment is what you're looking for.
The steering is fairly accurate at higher speeds, but you do have to turn the wheel a little more than you’d expect when manoeuvring at low speeds. It never gives a great sense of feel, although selecting the Sport mode does add weight for an extra bit of reassurance.
One thing’s for sure, if you start to push the car hard, you’ll feel it gently and safely running wide at the front before the stability control kicks in to rein it in. It’s safe, but the Fiesta and Polo offer greater and more predictable levels of grip.
Noise and vibration
In the E-Tech hybrid there’s a slight whine from the electric motor when it’s running on electricity. When the engine does chime in, it does so relatively smoothly (like it does in the Jazz), and it’s smoother than the Yaris. The E-Tech engine is quiet when accelerating, but it sounds coarse when you really push it.
If the battery is low, the engine will kick in to top up the battery. In traffic this can take you by surprise, because the engine is fairly loud and abrupt when it does so. The brakes feel sensitive, but you get used to them quickly. You can also slot the gear lever into ‘B-mode’ to maximise the regenerative braking for charging the battery.
There’s quite a lot of wind noise at higher speeds, and that combined with the vibrations coming from the engine makes it feel less refined than the Polo.
The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
The driving seat in the Renault Clio has a decent amount of seat adjustment and most people should be able to get comfortable behind the wheel. There’s no lumbar adjustment on any of the trims, so you’ll need to look at the Audi A1 if you want this feature. Esprit Alpine trims come with sportier seats with more side bolstering to help keep you supported when cornering.
The steering wheel is reach and rake adjustable, and its airbag design gives you a clear view through it to the 10in instrument cluster, or the 7.0in digital TFT display which comes with Evolution and Techno trims. Although you can switch between modes, the 10in digital screen can’t show as much information as the Active Info Display in the VW Polo. The resolution is clear and crisp, though.
Despite that, the 10.0in display extends the full width of the cluster and can display sat-nav directions and other information. Unlike some cars, which have their controls hidden away in the infotainment menu, the Clio has physical buttons and dials to set, for example, the interior temperature.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
While the Clio’s screen and front windows are large, its steeply raked windscreen pillars are rather wide, and can interfere with your vision in situations such as pulling out of a T-junction. For a small car with a better view forwards, try the Honda Jazz (it has handy front quarter windows to minimise blind-spots).
While the rear screen pillars aren’t as wide as those of some rivals, the lower left and right extremes of the screen itself sweep upwards over the rear lights, reducing your field of vision when looking backwards. Again, the Jazz provides a better view out the back.
You get rear parking sensors as standard on all Clios, and all trims except entry-level Evolution get front sensors and a rear-view camera.
Sat nav and infotainment
Esprit Alpine gets a larger 9.3in portrait-oriented screen that's more like a tablet computer. It's glass-fronted and looks good, but is actually quite basic and can take a moment to respond when you touch it.
There are five touch-sensitive buttons at its base for infotainment shortcuts – although a good old-fashioned knob would be better for setting the volume.
The entry-level trim, Evolution, has a lot of plastics on display, but the other trims look much smarter, with soft-touch surfaces and fabric finishes that compare well with the Polo and even the A1.
Esprit Alpine trim gives you neat details such as contrast stitching and a French flag embroidered into the dashboard fabric. The metal-effect climate control dials also have a tactile feel to them, adding to the sense of quality.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
For what is a fairly small car, front space in the Renault Clio is generous, with plenty of head and leg room for drivers well over six feet tall, and little danger of clashing elbows with your passenger. Still, you’ll have no complaints in the Ford Fiesta, the Peugeot 208 or the VW Polo either.
Oddment storage has been increased significantly over the previous-generation car, with a much bigger glovebox, decent door bins, storage in the central armrest and a deep tray in front of the gearlever. That said, it can’t beat the Tardis-like Honda Jazz which not only has deeper pockets but also two gloveboxes.
Rear space in the Clio is fair for a small car but there’s no doubt that an adult over six feet tall will find their head very close to the roof lining. If the person sitting in front of them is a similar size, the rear passenger’s knees will be wedged against the front seat.
The fairly wide rear seat should help three people to squeeze in the back a little easier, as should the fairly low hump in the centre of the floor.
Hybrid models are just as spacious as regular versions, although neither has as much rear space as the Polo or Jazz. The Jazz has room to spare for the adults in the outer spaces, plus wide door openings that make putting a child in their child seat a doddle.
Seat folding and flexibility
Every Clio has 60/40 split folding rear seats. That's par for the course in this class, but the highly-versatile Jazz allows you to fold up the rear seat base, revealing a cavernous area that you can park a bicycle across.
The seatbacks fold to create a flat floor, but the front passenger seat doesn’t fold far enough forward to make much of a difference with extra-long loads.
You get driver’s seat height adjustment as standard. If you want to give the same luxury to your front-seat passenger, you’ll need to avoid the entry-level trim.
On paper, the Clio looks to have a truly cavernous boot by the standards of the class. At 391 litres in (non-hybrid) models, it’s not just bigger than those of its rivals, it’s also bigger than that of the VW Golf from the class above. That means it should have plenty of space for a shopping trip or weekend away.
You get a two-level boot floor so you can either maximise space or reduce the height of the lip when loading it through the tailgate. In the floor’s lowest position, lifting heavy items in and out can be rather awkward. A Jazz has a much lower lip to lift items over and is therefore easier to get things in and out of.
The E-Tech hybrid’s boot capacity is quite a lot smaller, at 301 litres. It’s still bigger than a Toyota Yaris boot, but you’ll get more space in a Fiesta or Jazz.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2
Pricing for the new Renault Clio has not been confirmed yet, but it’s likely to have a similar starting price to the previous model (around £19,000). That's competitive against the Ford Fiesta, the Peugeot 208 and the VW Polo.
On top of that, it should hold on to nearly as much of its value as the Fiesta over three years, although both the Honda Jazz and the Polo suffer far less depreciation over the same period. It’s much the same story when it comes to insurance costs, with the Fiesta costing around the same on a like-for-like basis, and the Polo attracting cheaper premiums.
With official fuel economy figures of 67.3mpg for the E-Tech hybrid and 54.3mpg for the TCe 90, the former is the most frugal Clio on paper. During our test drive (which consisted of town, countryside and motorway driving), the hybrid achieved an impressive combined figure of 57.6mpg. If you’re a company car driver, it should be a good option, with its low CO2 emissions (from as little as 95g/km).
Equipment, options and extras
Regardless of the trim level, the Clio has a generous amount of equipment. Indeed, even the entry-level Evolution trim comes with 16in alloy wheels, full LED headlights, automatic windscreen wipers, keyless start, automatic climate control, touchscreen infotainment and rear parking sensors.
Techno trim adds more creature comforts, including 17in alloy wheels, a leather steering wheel, a wireless charging pad, automatic LED headlights, front parking sensors and a reversing camera.
Esprit Alpine is the range-topping trim and adds a host of sporty features to the Clio, including sports seats and unique 17in alloy wheels. On top of that, it gets the larger infotainment screen and digital driver’s display, a heated steering wheel, heated front seats and adaptive cruise control.
Meanwhile, things were a bit better for Renault as a brand: it claimed 18th place out of the 32 included manufacturers. That’s not a bad show, putting it above Audi and Volkswagen, and way above Ford, which is down in 27th. It’s still behind Honda (12th) and Toyota (2nd).
Every Clio comes with a three-year warranty with no mileage limit for the first year and a 60,000-mile cap in the following two. That’s pretty par for the course and matches the three-year warranties offered by most rival brands, but not as generous as Hyundai’s five-year policy or Kia’s seven-year package.
Safety and security
Euro NCAP awarded the Clio the maximum five stars for safety, and it performed better than the Audi A1 at protecting adults from chest injuries in the event of a frontal impact. However, because the Clio was tested back in 2019, it can’t be compared to the five-star Polo, which was tested under 2022’s tougher regime.
As well as being well-rated for protecting its occupants in a crash, the Clio also helps to prevent you having one in the first place – automatic emergency braking (AEB), traffic-sign recognition and lane-keep assistance are all standard.
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|RRP price range||£17,795 - £24,095|
|Number of trims (see all)||3|
|Number of engines (see all)||2|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||hybrid, petrol|
|MPG range across all versions||53.3 - 68.9|
|Available doors options||5|
|Warranty||3 years / No mileage cap|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£947 / £1,138|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£1,893 / £2,277|