WE all know chocolate bars are getting smaller.
But have you noticed how small cars are getting bigger?
That’s why it’s getting harder and harder to squeeze out of the car at the supermarket – it’s not just our mid-life spread after all.
Mini takes the biscuit here. It’s now a whopping 30 per cent bigger than it was in the Nineties.
But the perennially petite Renault Clio has only swollen a little in 30 years and now finds itself in even ruder health as a mean, green hybrid.
The hybrid small car shelf isn’t as full of choice as Tesco’s biscuit aisle – but only one supermini can claim its fancy E-tech is derived directly from its Formula 1 race car.
Powered by a 1.6-litre petrol engine, two electric motors and a 1.2kWh lithium-ion battery, this 140bhp Clio is the most potent in the range and will even drive silently at speeds of up to 27mph on pure electricity alone.
While there are three increasingly sensible frugal drive modes, if you look hard enough, you’ll find there is – mercifully – a sport mode buried deep in a sub-menu too.
Official fuel economy stats are 64mpg – that of an efficient small diesel engine – and without the faff of ever needing to physically plug this self-charging Clio into the mains, this real world economy coupled with zero range anxiety is its trump card.
And after a week of road-testing it on a combination of city centre streets, country roads and motorways I’m happy to report on a 470-mile range that over 60mpg is easily achievable without driving like your nan.
But I do have a few niggles.
The seats are not the most comfortable on longer journeys and lack lumbar support.
Cabin storage space is tight. And when in heavy traffic, the frequent restarting of the engine to recharge the battery is quite annoyingly pronounced.
That said, sound insulation when you’re on the go is good.
The stereo system is a peach. The hybrid-compromised boot space is hardly noticeable in a car of these proportions.
Plus, the huge central iPad console is superb.
Key facts: RENAULT CLIO E-TECH
Engine: 1.6-litre petrol hybrid
0-62mph: 9.9 secs
Top speed: 112mph
And Renault has really been on it in the interior design department lately too.
Taking its cues from the beautifully bijou Zoe, the Clio’s juxtaposition of textile and plastic with contrasting tones make the cabin a bright, inspired and well-made place for four adults to be.
The Clio E-Tech is not only an appealing addition to the best-selling little French car’s line-up but an essential one which bundles standard driver assistance systems including traffic sign recognition, autonomous emergency braking, lane-keep assist and cruise control.
It even drives rather nicely too.
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