Over its 25 years in production, the Renault Clio has become one of the UK's most loved hatchbacks

On the 29 March 1991, the Renault Clio was launched in the UK. Since then, it has found fame and fortune both as an everyday transporter and, with performance specials such as the Clio Williams of 1993 and latterly the RS 220, a hot hatch.

In total, more than 13 million Clios have been sold around the world since the car's launch - in hatchback, saloon and estate forms - with 1.2 million of those finding homes in the UK. As the Clio turns 25, we celebrate the pivotal moments in its history.

1990 - A new big, small car

At the Paris motor show in 1990, Renault introduced its new supermini to the world. The Clio name, taken from a Greek word meaning 'made to make famous', was given to a car that would largely replace the ageing Renault 5. The Clio was longer and wider than the 5 and had a longer wheelbase designed to offer better ride comfort and handling.

1991 - Touchdown in the UK

When the Clio first landed on UK soil, it was fresh from winning the title of European Car of The Year, having beaten off competition including the Nissan Primera and Vauxhall Calibra. The UK range started at £7190, which translates to around £14,600 in today's money. Power came from a range of 1.2 and 1.4-litre petrol engines, while the top-end RT models sported luxuries including front electric windows, remote locking and a stereo radio and cassette. A total of 21,124 Clios were sold in the UK in 1991.

1992 - More models

As the Clio continued to gain favour in the UK, Renault added a 1.9-litre diesel version and a performance-orientated 1.8-litre petrol model. In its first full year on sale, 34,701 Clios were sold in this country.

1993 - Clio Williams

Renault originally launched the Clio Williams in a limited-edition run of 3800 cars, but such was the popularity of the car that it ended up building another 1000 or so more. The car was named to celebrate Renault's partnership with the Williams F1 team and featured a 2.0-litre petrol engine with 145bhp. Such was the model's popularity that it has secured a place in the hot hatchback history books.

1994 - First facelift

A 'phase 2' version of the Clio was released in 1994, bringing with it minor styling changes inside and out. By this point, the Clio accounted for 49% of Renault's sales in the UK. A second facelift came in 1996, and with it came tweaked styling and the option of a new 1149cc engine first used in the Twingo.

1997 - The Mk1 Clio bows out

1997 was the last year of production for the first Renault Clio. In its final year on sale, more than 58,000 units were sold, taking the total number sold in the UK to over 300,000.

1998 - New Clio, new face

The second generation of Renault's family favourite was again larger than the car it replaced and featured more rounded styling. Weight-saving materials such as aluminium were used, and larger seats fitted to the interior in a bid to improve refinement. New safety equipment was also available, including front side airbags and ABS.

The fast French connection - bargain hot Clios

2001 - Second facelift

Following a series of minor changes made to the Clio in 2000, Renault fully facelifted the car in 2001, bringing tweaked styling and a new 1.5-litre diesel engine. In 2002, Renault sold 86,337 Clios in the UK - the car's best year in its history.

2005 - Clio III

At the Frankfurt motor show in 2005, Renault introduced the third-generation Clio to the world stage. It entered the UK market in August of that year. It was larger again than the Mk2 Clio, and came with a five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP. Renault worked to give this small car features typically associated with bigger models, including a tyre pressure monitoring system, soft-touch materials inside and a keycard instead of a traditional key. In 2006, the Clio was again awarded the title of European Car of the Year, this time seeing off competition from the Volkswagen Passat and Alfa Romeo 159.

2009 - Third facelift

The latest Clio morphed into an updated 'phase 2' model, which saw the introduction of a new GT variant which was designed to help bridge the gap between the regular road car and the hotter Renault Sport derivatives.

2012 - A fresh design

At the Paris motor show in 2012, Renault's head of design Laurens van den Acker opened a new chapter in the history of the Clio, unveiling the fourth-generation model to a waiting crowd of journalists. Designed to ape the styling of previous Clios, the new model was inspired by the DeZir concept of 2010, and featured a range of naturally aspirated and turbocharged petrol and diesel engines.

Track day diary: Renault Clio RS200 at Spa Francorchamps

2016 and beyond - laying the ground for the next Clio

At the 2014 Paris motor show, Renault showcased the Eolab concept car. While not directly previewing the next Clio, officials admitted that technology seen on the car, including its more aerodynamic shape and frugal petrol-electric powertrain, would be used to inform the new car, tentatively due to arrive in 2018.

Video

Last year our sister website Pistonheads produced a video comparing every generation of hot Clio on track. You can view it below.

 

Our Verdict

Renault Clio
Distinctive styling details are taken from the showstopping Renault Dezir concept car

A multi-talented contender that can stand comparison with the best

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Comments
13

29 March 2016

Car ads used to be quite good, but now with the advent of pc are just rubbish, a fine example being the new Clio ad that only informs me that it has a very strong roof panel!Oh dear.

29 March 2016
Davmut wrote:

Car ads used to be quite good, but now with the advent of pc are just rubbish, a fine example being the new Clio ad that only informs me that it has a very strong roof panel!Oh dear.

...my most disliked car ad by miles is that Audi banner ad at the top of the Autocar news pages. On my tablet, I must have opened it unintentionally dozens of times while trying to scroll down the page. I do appreciate that advertising pays for the website, but it's still VERY annoying!!!

29 March 2016

@Daniel Joseph, try Adbloc Plus, a great app.

29 March 2016

Hi Scratch. Did you mean adblock+ by kartika production? Most of the reviews on Google Play are pretty negative. I tried to install it, but all it did was show me plenty of its own ads!!! I then became a bit suspicious when it didn't offer me an "Uninstall" option in Play. I had to do this via Apps in Settings. Perhaps I chose the wrong one as there's a number of different "Adblock" apps in Play.

30 March 2016

The one I use is Adblock Plus by Eyeo Gmbh, works fine with Safari. You can switch it off easily in settings if necessary.

29 March 2016

Wow what a terrible article, who wrote this? Firstly, it's full of spelling mistakes...obviously Autocar don't hire a proof-reader. Also, why so much detail on the Mk1 but so little on the later models? Plus, no mention at all about the Clio V6?! Or Renaulsport at all for that matter! A shocker.

29 March 2016
Danwise wrote:

Wow what a terrible article, who wrote this? Firstly, it's full of spelling mistakes...obviously Autocar don't hire a proof-reader. Also, why so much detail on the Mk1 but so little on the later models? Plus, no mention at all about the Clio V6?! Or Renaulsport at all for that matter! A shocker.

The one that stuck out for me was:

Autocar wrote:

n 2002, Renault sold 86,337 Clio models in the UK - the car's best month in history.

29 March 2016

It still French - nuff said

what's life without imagination

29 March 2016

The second photo above is a striking illustration of just how much cars have grown over the past quarter century. I don't doubt that the current Clio would be far safer in a crash than the original, but I can't help wondering how much of its increased size is dictated by safety requirements, and how much is simply due to the dictates of styling: the current Clio may look good, but at the cost of a great deal of bulk and much poorer visibility, whereas the original has a functional elegance, simplicity and charm. On another website I recently saw a photo of an F-type convertible flanked by two E-Types. Again, the F-type looked enormous compared to its predecessor, especially in its width.

29 March 2016
Daniel Joseph wrote:

how much of its increased size is dictated by safety requirements, and how much is simply due to the dictates of styling

It's not safety. Each new car has to 'improve' on the previous model and offer more space etc. The result is that each model gets bigger and bigger, then a new model has to get slotted in beneath - e.g. Twingo, Ka, Lupo, Up!, etc.

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