Renault Clio – Thirty Years of Iconic Motoring

22 Dec 2020 by Lisa Simm

One of the world’s most popular supermini’s the Renault Clio turns 30 this year. To mark the occasion we are taking a look back at thirty years of the iconic Renault Clio.

Thirty Years of the Renault Clio

The winner of multiple awards, the Renault Clio has been popular since it first came to the UK and is one of only a few models to win the European Car of the Year Award twice, in 1991 and 2006.

The name ‘Clio’ derives from the Greek language and means ‘made or to make famous’, an apt title given the Renault Clio’s exceptional and continued popularity.

From its beginning, the Renault Clio has been recognised for its first-class design and thrilling performance. It is also one of the safest superminis on the market. Over the years, it had undergone numerous facelifts, yet it retains the iconic Clio style. It has all the style, technology and power to make it a popular model with wide-appeal.

So let’s jump straight in and take a look back through thirty years of the Renault Clio.

A Brief History of the Renault Clio

1990 – Renault launches the Clio to replace the Renault 5

1991 – Renault Clio makes it to the UK market and wins European Car of the Year

1994 – The Renault Clio accounts for 49 per cent of Renault sales in the UK

1998 – Renault debut the second-generation Clio with a brand new look

2002 – 86,337 Clio cars sold in the UK, the best year in its history

2005 – Renault introduces a third-generation model

2006 – Named European Car of the Year for the second time

2012 – Renault produces a new fourth-generation model

2019 – Fifth-generation model features petrol hybrid powertrain

first-generation Renault Clio

A Legend is Born

Launched in 1990, the Renault Clio was designed to replace the Renault 5. As a result, the design of the Clio built on that of the Renault 5, being only slightly longer and wider, for better ride comfort and handling.

55,000 Clio models were sold in its first year on the market.

The Renault Clio first came to the UK in 1991; an instant hit, 21,124 Clio models sold in the first year. It remains one of the bestselling models in the UK to this day and is still one of the best vehicles in its class.

Second Generation Renault Clio

Eight years after the Renault Clio’s introduction, it was time for an overhaul. So in 1998, the MK2 Clio was released with refreshed styling. While larger than the MK1 model, significant weight savings ensured that the MK2 Clio offered improved refinement. You also get a range of safety equipment, including front side airbags and ABS.

What’s more, with more rounded styling, it had a playful aspect that made it popular with a wide variety of buyers.

thirty years of Renault Clio - second generation model

Third Generation Renault Clio

2005 saw a third-generation Renault Clio model introduced. As was becoming the norm, the model was larger than its predecessor. On top of that, it was equipped with ‘big car’ features like tyre pressure monitoring, soft-touch materials and a key card instead of a key. Plus it got a five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP thanks to an impressive suite of safety measures.

Thirty years of Renault Clio - Third Generation model

Fourth Generation Clio

In 2012, the fourth generation Renault Clio was released. It aped the styling of previous Clios and took inspiration from the 2010 DeZir concept car. The option of both naturally-aspirated and turbocharged petrol and diesel engines ensured there was something for everyone. While a host of customisation options meant it had wide appeal.

Fourth generation

All-New Renault Clio

The all-new Clio is the most advanced model to date with extensive technology and driver assistance features. It even comes with the option of E-TECH hybrid technology, which promises excellent emission and impressive fuel economy.

Style-wise the all-new Renault Clio is evolutionary, not revolutionary. A larger front grille and C-shaped daytime running lights help bring it in line with the rest of the Renault range. Meanwhile, being a little shorter, sitting slightly lower and a smidge wider, it has a dynamic stance. Yet on the inside, it offers more space for everyone to relax.

Racing Pedigree

With thirty years of the Renault Clio, it is no surprise it also has an outstanding racing pedigree. Over the years there has been a range of potent sports models offering more power, greater precision and better handling for an all-round first-class driving experience.

Renault Clio Williams

In 1993 the first sports model, the Renault Clio Williams, was launched, with a two-litre engine and 150hp, for 0-60mph in 7.8 seconds. But the Clio Williams did not just offer outright pace if also came with thrilling handling which made it one of the best hot hatches. It also came with ABS, electric mirrors, a sunroof and stereo system for easy driving convenience.

Originally Renault planned to make just 500 Clio Williams models. However, 5,000 sold, resulting in further models being released in the following years. By 1995 when production of the Clio Williams ended, over 12,000 models had sold.

Renault Clio Williams

Renault Sport – The R.S. Clio

The R.S. Clio are arguably some of the most sought after hot hatches to this day, despite production stopping in 2015. We take a look at the history of the R.S. Clio

2000 – Renault release the 1 Renault Sport Clio 172, as well as a special edition Exclusive model later the same year

2001 – Phase 2 model makes its debut with new features and a refreshed face

2002 – Pared-back R.S. Clio 172 Cup arrives with weight savings reducing 0-62mph time

2004 – Renault releases the new R.S. Clio 182 with an extra 10bhp, the 182 CUP model follows later in the year

2005 – Renault launches the Clio Trophy and Evo Magazine name it People’s Performance Car of the Year

2006 – Renault Sport 197 comes a year after the release of the third-generation Clio in 2006

2007 – Things get exciting thanks to the release of the F1 Team R27 edition R.S. Clio, later the same year Renault releases the 197 Cup model

2009 – 197 receives an update becoming known as the 200

2013 – R.S. Clio embraces turbo power making the new 200 capable of 0-62mph in 6.7sec

2015 – Renault introduces 220 Trophy the final R.S. Clio

Renault Clio V6

It would be remiss to discuss the Renault Clio’s performance heritage without mentioning perhaps one of the most bonkers cars ever built, the Clio V6.

One of the most remarkable models ever made it demonstrates what happens when the engineers are let loose. Ripping out the back seats provided enough space to put in a potent three-litre V6 engine. The phase one model had a whopping 227bhp. But the phase two model produced from 2003-2005 had even more power with 252bhp and a 0-60mph time of just 5.6 seconds; almost supercar levels of performance.

Iconic Advertising

The Renault Clio owes at least some of its success to its incredible TV advertising campaigns.

The first and still notable ad is known as Papa and Nicole, and it ran from 1991 to 1998. It was followed by the stylish ‘Va Va Voom’ advert starring French footballer Thierry Henry.

To continue this legacy, Renault has created a special 30th edition advertisement. Echoing its thirty years in the making, it follows a French and English girl and travels with them through three decades of Renault Clio motoring.

So there you have it, thirty years of the Renault Clio and it is still going strong, with the all-new Renault Clio ready to set pulses racing. Do you own a Clio or perhaps you’ve had one in the past, we’d love to hear from you. Why not let us know your favourite generation Renault Clio in the comments below?

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