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Fuel against electricity: Renault Clio E-Tech against Zoe

At the end of 2020, the E-Tech 140 was the first Clio Hybrid, in which the four-cylinder, starter generator and electric motor cleverly interact. His opponent: the Zoe R135 ZE. 50, which can travel 278 kilometers with a 52 kWh battery.

The Renault Zoe is someone who has a mixed relationship with curves. drive through? Well, he gets it right in an unsportsmanlike way. With a twinkle in our eyes, we mention the optional 17-inch mixed tires with 10 mm wider tires at the front, which are intended to reduce the tendency to understeer, as was the case with the Audi A3 sports model. However, his handling of curves only becomes impressive in a coordinate system. From 2013, less than 2,000 Zoe were registered in Germany in the first three years. In 2017, the numbers doubled with the environmental bonus. The premium was increased in 2018: 6,360 units, 9,431 in the following year.

In late summer 2020, the bonus was increased to the current level: 6,000 euros from the state, 3,000 euros plus VAT from the manufacturer. The result for the Zoe? 30,376 units, and the VW e-Golf took second place in the sales charts with 17,438 units. Even the Clio, as Renault's actual bestseller, couldn't keep up with 24,654 units, although there is no eligible plug-in or electric version of it either.

Highly complex hybrid drive

In this comparison test, it competes as the Clio E-Tech 140 with a hybrid drive that, according to the manufacturer, combines 150 patents. The system consists of a 1.2 kWh battery and a 1.6 liter naturally aspirated petrol engine (91 PS), supported by a 15 kW starter generator and a 36 kW electric motor. The latter houses the clutchless multimode transmission, of which Renault built a working model from Lego Technic parts at the start of development.

The gearbox manages two gears for the electric motor and four gears for the combustion engine. The three pictograms in the energy flow diagram on the speedometer display do not break down exactly how propulsion works, because the electrical components are grouped together in a battery symbol. However, it can be seen that the electric motor also acts on the wheels alone for shorter sections or together with the combustion engine. Sometimes the petrol engine also charges the battery and lets the electric motor provide the propulsion alone again - Renault speaks of 15 possible constellations.

In urban areas, you often don't notice much of the technical orchestration because the four-cylinder can switch on fairly quietly and the drive transitions and gear changes are usually smooth. In addition, it starts off pleasantly quickly and can also move agilely during intermediate acceleration. Like the Zoe, it recuperates noticeably more powerfully in B mode.

Outside the city, on the other hand, the drive hardly contributes to driving comfort, and sometimes even disturbs it when the load increases.The hybrid sometimes reacts to gas commands with a roaring engine and a slightly delayed adhesion, and the propulsion often raises doubts about the advertised 140 system hp.

In curves, the hybrid model is not quite at the usual Clio level, but drives much more precisely and agile than its e-buddy. This is mainly due to the more balanced chassis tuning and the lower tendency to roll. But the Zoe springs softer, which is more comfortable at city speed because the body movements are less emphasized.

Always this turtle

In the E-Tech, it's estimated that a maximum of one minute of full throttle on the Autobahn is enough for "limited power" to pop up in the speedometer and the turtle indicator light to come on. As humorous as that may be: the reptile immediately devours 20 of the long-fought 180 km/h - the 91 hp petrol engine lacks the power to defend itself.

Out of town, the hybrid drive reduces the price-performance ratio. Because the Clio shows its economical side with a test consumption of 6.1 l/100 km and 4.9 liters in our Eco round, but costs at least 24,550 euros in the Intens equipment of the test car. For 3,350 euros less there is a manual TCe 140 Intens with 140 turbo hp. The TCe 130, which was recently discarded for this purpose, can serve as a point of reference here: According to this, the difference in consumption should be well below one liter on average.

The Zoe R135 ZE 50 (135 hp) accelerates quickly enough in the city and delivers its power even more agile, although it takes only two tenths of the Clio to 50 km/h (3.6 to 3.8 s). For both, overland, overtaking requires a little more space. The e-car not only accelerates out of the bends with more force, but also more reliably – without the occasional hiccups in the drive. The Zoe can swim along on the motorway, but with its top speed of 140 km/h it requires a rather patient driving style.

After all, it is definitely suitable for medium distances, because with the test consumption of 20.8 kWh/100 km, 278 kilometers are possible, and away from the motorway, the value even increases to 357 km with tortoise-like composure. The E-Renault charges ex works with a maximum of 22 kW, for an additional charge of 1,100 euros there is a 50 kW direct current charger in the snout, which must be booked urgently for the purpose of resale. This is no longer the case, even with small cars (Opel Corsa-e: 100 kW), but according to the data sheet, the Zoe charges at least 80 percent in 70 minutes.

The two charging cable compartments under the boot floor are practical, as is the easily usable 338 liter boot (Clio: 254 l). However, with the rear seats folded 40:60, there is a conspicuously high step, and the loading sill lacks a protective covering over the paintwork. We also chalk that up to the car when evaluating the actually decent quality impression.The engineers solved the arrangement of the B-pillar cable hoses in a really sloppy way: when the rear doors are moved, they scrape them, which unnecessarily reduces durability.

In the back, people taller than 1.80 meters sit a little tensely on the poorly shaped bench, because the foot space under the front seats and the air above is much too tight: the head presses against the headliner, so that the headrest even when sitting upright is not usable. After all, the center tunnel is low and the legroom okay.

The Clio has an additional three centimeters, and although the space available is not above average for a small car, the Zoe's problems do not exist here. Additionally, the outer rear door handles are less fiddly but lack compartments under the trunk floor.

At the front, the seats in the Clio are not only more shaped, but also better positioned than those in the Zoe, which are mounted much too high. You can't see some traffic lights even from the second row without leaning forward. An adjustable lumbar support, on the other hand, is only included in the price list of the naturally quieter Zoe, but only with the leather seats for 1,500 euros. Only the Clio has an armrest, which is so short that it cannot be used with two hands on the steering wheel - the door armrests in both cars are only sparsely padded.

More technology options for the Clio

In addition to distance cruise control, there is also a 360-degree camera only in the Clio brochure, which is a help when maneuvering despite the mediocre image quality. In addition, only the passenger side has mirror glass with an aspherical part that prevents other road users from disappearing into the blind spot. Additional blind spot warning systems cost 250 euros, while they are part of the standard scope of the Zoe Intens, which costs at least 35,890 euros – just like the ten-inch speedometer display and navigation software.

The 9.3-inch touchscreen in portrait format costs extra for both, but offers a higher image resolution than the 7-inch version and, with the larger image section, a useful extension for map display. The operation relies on a few buttons here and there, good climate control with three knobs and an overall well-structured touch-only infotainment system that occasionally loads longer.

In the end, however, it always gets the curve, which the Zoe failed to do in this test despite the drive deficits of the E-Tech Clio. It wasn't enough for him that we take into account in the cost assessment how generous manufacturers and especially the taxpayers are with e-cars.


1. Renault Clio E-Tech 140 537 points

The complex hybrid drive is convincing in the city – but only there. Otherwise, this model also meets the usual Clio qualities such as decent comfort and quality impression.

2.Renault Zoe R135 50 534 points

The range suitable for everyday use and the powerful drive are offset by weaknesses in comfort assistance and charging speed as well as the high price level.


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