The original fast Clio was overshadowed by the mighty Williams, but still looks the part 30 years on…
By PH Staff / Wednesday, August 11, 2021 / Loading comments
Never go back they say. This is good advice. Especially if you’ve blundered onto the ‘Papa and Nicole’ Wikipedia page and learnt that Nicole (or more specifically, Estelle Skornik) is now 50. Seems like she was 20 about 15mins ago. How time must fly when you’re young and French and concerned with nothing more complicated than swiping the old man’s car keys.
Of course the reason for all this heavy duty research was to better consider the Mk1 Clio. Has a there ever been a car more deserving or better suited to winsome TV commercials than the supermini that Renault introduced to the world in 1990? The R5 it replaced was a design icon in France and its best-selling car, but the first Clio was a note-perfect successor and a smash hit across Europe.
Obviously when we think about the original model now, it is usually to consider the various merits of the Williams version, and its appropriate rank in the Renault Sport hall of fame. But the gold-wheeled special was not the first hot version the manufacturer turned out. That honour went to the Clio 16V, promptly launched in 1991, ostensibly to replace the outgoing GT Turbo, although it was no quicker than the flyweight R5.
It was more powerful though, thanks to the 137hp naturally aspirated 1.8-litre motor sporting four valves per cylinder. And with wider front wings and rear arches, and that offset bonnet vent, it looked terrific. Lower and palpably meaner, it traded in its Nicole-style joie de vivre for a more purposeful poise, yet retained the model’s faultless proportions and angular interior. It was no slouch in the driving department either.
True enough, every Renault Sport version that followed – punchier Williams included – were endowed with ever greater outputs and comfortably quicker, but it’s possible that no subsequent fast Clio looked quite as good as the first iteration. Today it seems unadorned in the best possible sense; less cutesy than its direct replacement and brilliantly smaller (and lighter) than the try-hard Clio III.
Predictably, given a couple of decades in the bargain basement, it is now comparatively rare, too. The internet reckons there are just 90-odd left on the road in 2021. Granted, it’ll be a fanatical, rose-tinted bespectacled fan of the Mk1 that determines nearly £8k a justifiable price for a car that was so cheap for so long (not least because you can buy a more lightly used later Renault Sport Clio variant for less) – but few hatchbacks from the nineties have grown old quite so gracefully.
SPECIFICATION | RENAULT CLIO 16V
Engine: 1,764cc four-cylinder
Transmission: 5-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): [email protected],500rpm
Torque (lb ft): [email protected],250rpm
Year registered: 1995
Recorded mileage: 96,000
Price new: erm
Yours for: £7,995
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