What is it?
According to Renault, the E-Tech hybrid powertrain in this Clio features technology “inspired” by Formula 1. By which, we reckon, they possibly mean that, much like F1 power units, it’s incredibly clever and confusingly complex, yet all but hidden away from view.
The powertrain is based around a 1.6-litre engine that’s boosted by two electric motors – just like Renault’s F1 car (although we doubt Daniel Ricciardo would have reached the podium this year with a 102bhp engine and a total system output of 138bhp). The largest e-motor, which adds 48bhp, and the petrol engine are both driven from an automatic transmission. The engine is driven by four gears and the e-motor by two, resulting in 15 possible combinations.
Then there’s a small, 20bhp motor similar to that in a mild-hybrid system, which acts as a starter-generator. Both electric motors are charged via recaptured energy stored in a small, 1.2kWh battery and can operate independently or together.
There are two reasons for such a complex system. The first is that, battery size aside, it’s essentially identical to the plug-in hybrid units offered in the larger Captur and Mégane. Second, the relatively small battery means the hybrid adds only around 10kg to the kerb weight of a comparable petrol Clio. That’s crucial in making the hybrid system effective in a supermini, which isn’t an easy task. There’s a reason why the class isn’t exactly flush with hybrid machinery: the Clio E-Tech Hybrid’s only real direct competitors are the Toyota Yaris and Honda Jazz.