Renault's frugal new compacts: Clio hybrid and Captur plug-in
PARIS - With strict new emissions laws coming into place in the European Union, plug-in hybrids are starting to make a lot more sense for those that want to commute on electricity but without losing the freedom to drive longer distances when the need arises.
Not surprisingly, this form of propulsion is filtering down to the more compact end of the market, and this is where Renault is hoping to find some momentum with the new E-Tech plug-in hybrid version of the Captur compact SUV, which is also being joined by a conventional hybrid version of the new Clio hatchback.
The Captur’s drivetrain pairs a new-generation and specially adapted 1.6-litre normally aspirated engine to a pair of electric motors, one being a high-voltage starter generator and the other taking the form of a multi-mode clutchless gearbox.
The system is fed by a 9.8 kWh, 400V battery that is said to allow a range of 48km on electric power alone, as long as the driver doesn’t exceed 137km/h, in which case the petrol engine will kick in.
The vehicle has various driving modes, including a ‘Pure’ setting that draws the full power from both the petrol and electric motors when maximum performance is needed. There’s also an E-Save mode to that allows battery power to be saved if the later part of the journey is in a city centre, where petrol engines are at their least efficient.
Clio goes hybrid
As a more cost-conscious vehicle, the Clio E-Tech gets a smaller 1.2 kWh battery that doesn’t have the capacity to allow a plug-in facility, but thanks to the regenerative braking system that’s also fitted to the Captur, it can operate in electric only mode for up to 80 percent of urban driving time, according to Renault, although no all-electric range is given. All-in-all though, the Clio E-Tech should be around 40 percent more fuel efficient than a petrol engined car.
The Clio has the same drivetrain set-up as the Captur, combining a 1.6-litre normally aspirated engine with two electric motors, and in full power mode it’s a particularly capable overtaker, taking just 6.9 seconds to accelerate from 80 to 120km/h, according to claims.
The new Renault Clio and Captur are both due in South Africa this year, but it's too early to say whether the hybrid versions will ever form part of the local line-ups.