Back in the late 1980s Renault was in some serious shit. They were losing a stack of money every day, all o f their cars were outdated and unexciting and the only highlight in their range was the flawed but fun 5 GT Turbo. Renault needed a saviour, and in 1990 it arrived in the form of the Clio.
The first of the modern Renaults to have a name instead of a number, the Clio immediately scooped the European Car Of The Year award and was a sales success just about every where! Its combination of modern looks, a wide range of engines and specs and those dodgy Papa and Nicole adverts sorted Renault right out, and they even managed to trump the old skool 5 GT Turbo.
For us power lovers the Mk.1 Clio 16v and Williams models are true hot hatch legends, but Renault didn’t rest on its laurels, no way – and followed them up over the next 20 years with the 172, the 182, the Trophy, Cup models, the 197, the 200 and let’s not forget the maddest one of the lot, the rear-engined, rear-wheel drive mentalist, the V6. Renault was back in the business of producing real drivers cars and us lot lapped ‘em up!
Hooning around the corners is what Clios are all about, and they do it so well you can quite easily upset plenty of cars running twice the horsepower. Obviously coil-overs are the dream mod when it comes to the chassis, while a cheeky spot of camber, sticky tyres, hefty brakes and a set of lightweight rims will have you cornering better than a BTCC race car.
As for the RWD V6 forget everything I’ve just mentioned – it’s a animal that needs some taming and only the real brave should attempt to push it!
No matter how much they tell us that their quality has vastly improved over the years, everyone knows that Renaults aren’t the best-built motors in the world. I prefer to think that their lightweight build means a slim-line kerbweight which itself improves performance and handling.
There are plenty of Clio owners out there who, think the interior trim is cheap ‘n’ flimsy and bin it off! The stripped out look really suits the hardcore RenaultSport models, and the Recaro perches that came in some specials are a mighty desirable mod.
For years, the sportier Clios have always trumped their supermini rivals in the power stakes, with the majority of models housing punchy and high-revving 2.0-litre 16-valve lumps that have gradually jumped from 150bhp to today’s healthy 197bhp.
‘Perky’ is a decent way to describe just about every other more insurance-friendly Clio engine out there, as they strike a respectable balance between power, economy and fun. But as with any normally aspirated lump out there, an improvement in the breathing department wouldn’t go amiss, and this is where an induction kit and a free-flowing exhaust system can come into play.
As with most hatches out, there the Clio has come through the extreme body mods phase of a few years back with pride, and now looks to a more minimalist future. For us, the hottest looking Clios out there right now are kicking back with very few body modifications, instead letting their well thought-out detailing do all the talking.
Again, you can always look to the RenaultSport models for inspiration, with their moody front valances just begging to have a cold air feed positioned where there once used to be a foglight. Trick colour coding is another cheap yet dead effective route to go, but if you’ve got the cash, a dash of smoothing can do wonders for the Clio’s looks.
Engine: 1390cc – 75bhp
Max speed: 109 mph
0-60mph: 11.1 secs
Insurance group: 5
Price range: £450-£1250
PERFECT PROJECT – RENAULTSPORT 172
Engine: 1998cc – 172bhp
Max speed: 138mph
Insurance group: 16
Price range: £1095-£5000
ULTIMATE PROJECT – CLIO V6 255
Engine: 2946cc – 255bhp
Max speed: 153mph
Insurance group: 20
Price range: £10,000-£15,000
Clios are as popular as ever, and with literally tons of parts and upgrades readily available is there a better first car to own and modify? Probably not. The best thing is, once you’ve finished with your 1.4 RT, you can strip it back, sell it on and buy yourself a 172 and start all over again. And once that’s done, it’s time for the daddy of all hot hatches… the V6!