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ROAD TEST The 5th-gen Renault Clio gets the hybrid 'E-Tech' treatment

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The stunning new Renault Clio E-Tech Hybrid

The stunning new Renault Clio E-Tech Hybrid

The bulk of the Clio E-Tech tweaks are under the bonnet

The bulk of the Clio E-Tech tweaks are under the bonnet

The interior got a 30th-birthday 5th-gen makeover too

The interior got a 30th-birthday 5th-gen makeover too

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The stunning new Renault Clio E-Tech Hybrid

I have to confess, I never fully got the Clio thing. Obviously, I liked it (what's not to like, right?) but I never quite grasped how there were over 56,000 of them on Irish roads since it launched 30 years ago.

I've driven every Renault in the current range over the last four years and I've slowly grown to appreciate the brand more. I certainly understand why they have such loyal buyers. But until this week I never fully appreciated why the Clio is so popular.

Now in its fifth iteration, the French manufacturer has gone all futuristic and offers it in a hybrid powertrain. There are dashes of blue all over the body work just to let everyone know that it is not your average engine underneath.

In fact, up against the 'Quartz White' body spray, the blue is beyond sexy and really gives this car a lift. The chassis is the same as the 2020 version but the new electrification (they call it E-Tech) and the 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine (and two electric motors) delivers a combined 140bhp, making it the most powerful Clio around while also having the lowest emissions.

This is not a plug-in. Just to be clear. So, you don't have to own a driveway or some form of private road frontage to charge her up. This will suit anyone in any urban setting. The hybrid system is continually switching between the petrol engine and electric motor. In almost all circumstances, unless you are actually staring at the 7-inch digital display constantly (which I wouldn't recommend, obviously) you are unlikely to know which element of that powertrain is actually getting you from A to B.

With a line-up culminating in sporty R.S. Line models, the All-New Clio boasts a more expansive range of engine options than ever before, with efficient TCe and dCi powertrains bolstered by the advanced new E-Tech hybrid powertrain.

Perched beautifully on four 17" Viva Stella diamond-cut alloys, the refreshed front bumper grille in glossy black looks magnificent. There are LED daytime running lights too and body-coloured door handles and mirror shells. There is a chrome-look insert on the lower side doors with Clio embossing, a shark fin antenna and the aforementioned blue exterior colour pack. The interior is equally special to look at and sit in. The cabin is surprisingly big and bright and has delicious flashes of white across the dashboard and in the door cards. The part-leather seats include a grey woven fabric insert that looks and feels great. Another huge plus is the 9.3-inch tablet-style touchscreen display.

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The interior got a 30th-birthday 5th-gen makeover too

The interior got a 30th-birthday 5th-gen makeover too

The interior got a 30th-birthday 5th-gen makeover too

I would prefer a dial or a knob for volume control instead of having to tap the screen to adjust. Or at the very least it would be much handier too have a volume control on the steering wheel. A minor thing, though.

There is a black and medium-grey interior complemented by a glossy black-trim steering wheel and gear shift lever surround and black cloth upholstery with headrest and sides. Safety wise there are six airbags (including side curtain airbags), Isofix (i-Size), hill-start assist, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane-keeping assist and lane-departure warning as well as traffic sign recognition.

This latest Clio boasts technology and features that we have already seen on the larger and more expensive models in the Renault range, bringing the very best of the brand to a wider choice of buyers, with advanced driver assistance systems and full LED lighting as standard equipment across the range, the very latest infotainment systems and the most accomplished driving experience, backed up by a five-star Euro NCAP crash safety rating.

The hybrid battery is small enough at 1.2kWh, but the car makes good use of it. During urban driving (which is all I managed in the current climate, obviously), in particular, it tends to use its electric power with pleasing frequency. I firmly believe that some of my neighbours think it is a full EV as my canter around the estate rarely used the ICE powertrain.

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The bulk of the Clio E-Tech tweaks are under the bonnet

The bulk of the Clio E-Tech tweaks are under the bonnet

The bulk of the Clio E-Tech tweaks are under the bonnet

The 1.6-litre petrol engine is accompanied by two electric motors, the larger of which helps move the car. The smaller one acts as an alternator and starter, and helps with gear changes as this Clio uses an automatic gearbox that doesn't have a clutch. Conclusion… a very smooth drive.

So, let's talk money. You can buy a Clio from as little as €17,195 but no one in their right mind ever would. To enjoy this properly you need to move up the spec ranks a little and when you delve into the new E-Tech range you are talking about an extra €10k. Throw in a few options like my test vehicle had and your purchase price is €29,361.

But thanks to Renault's current deal it is actually very affordable and is available from €130 per month, with a €1,000 cashback and three months' deferred payments.

Also, there is the obvious Covid benefit of less driving so Renault will acknowledge that by increasing the Guaranteed Minimum Future Value (GMFV) on a new Clio on a PCP agreement, enabling even lower costs to the customer.

For my family needs, it is probably a bit small but I know a lot of people who swear by Clios and after a fun, safe, smooth and eye-opening week in this car I understand exactly why now.

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