Williams Renault Clio: Revisiting a Classic Car From the 90s

The Williams Renault Clio was a 2.0-liter hatchback introduced in 1993 by the French automaker Renault. Even though it is already discontinued, it continues to capture the imagination of vintage car lovers to this day.

Williams Renault Clio Classic Car


This article has compiled all the details about the car and what made it special, so keep reading to know whether or not the vintage classic should adorn your garage!

Williams Renault Clio Overview

The story of the Williams Renault Clio began in 1993 when Renault launched a special edition version of its hatchback. Named after the Renault-backed Formula One team Williams, they needed to build at least 2,500 units of this automobile for homologation.

However, they did 1,300 better and churned out 3,800 limited edition vehicles bearing a unique numbered plaque on their dashboard into the market.

– Early Success

The plan worked! Such was the popularity of this limited edition vehicle that it sold out rapidly, leading the manufacturers to build 1,600 more. Seeing as their launch was a smash hit, Renault continued the Williams Clio with Williams 2 and 3 post the first series of vehicles was launched.

However, this was much to the chagrin of the “original” Williams owners, who had been assured of its uniqueness and exclusivity. Overall, Renault ended up making more than 12,000 vehicles bearing the Williams marquee due to its sustained demand among automobile enthusiasts.

– An Engineering Feat

Even though the Williams Renault Clio was anointed after the Formula One team, the inspiration was limited to the moniker. The Williams Clio was modeled on the Clio 16S – an earlier Renault hit. The design and engineering were majorly carried out by Renault Sport, the motorsport division of Renault automobiles. Although, it was not a complete outlier to motorsport and fulfilled its Formula One destiny by being featured as the Safety Car during the 1996 season.

The engine was a naturally aspirated Dual Overhead Camshaft (DOHC) and boasted a capacity of 1998cc (121.9 cubic inches or 2.0L). It featured four valves per cylinder fed by a multipoint fuel injection inline-four engine. The engine could generate 145 bhp of power at 108 kW and 6100 rpm and 175 Nm (129 lb-ft) at a torque of 4500 rpm. With performance-tuned ride and handling, the engine could power the vehicle to a speed of 215 kmph or 134 mph.

There were slight specification differences based on the version. The Gr.N, or the basic racing version, sported bucket seats made by Sabelt and a roll cage made by Matter France. It also featured a significantly more free-flowing exhaust, different engine management, and racing suspensions that combined to churn out a power output of around 121kW or 165 PS. 

The next upgrade was a Gr.A model that featured updated front brakes with four-pot Alcon brake calipers and 323 mm discs. The suspensions were also further updated, and the newer rims with optional extractors fashioned the latest 2012 16″ Speedline version. The engine was tuned further to generate up to 162kW or 220 PS of power.

– More Than a Remodel

Even though the Williams Renault Clio was modeled after the Clio 16S, the engine was quite different. Contrary to popular belief, the 2.0 L engine wasn’t simply another bored-out 1.7 L engine but had a different engine oil cooler, stroked crank, cams, and valve sizes. It also added 15bhp of extra power due to the newer pistons, con rods, camshaft, and increased capacity.

Williams Renault Clio 90s Model

There were other significant structural differences as well. They included a firmer suspension, a bespoke four-to-one manifold, an uprated JC5 gearbox, wider Speedline alloys, and a broader front track like in a Renault 19, although not the same. On top of these, some cosmetic changes inside as well as outside made it a distinctive offering.

When it comes to the different series of the Williams Renault Clio, most of their differences came down to the natural evolution that the Clio lineage experienced. These included cosmetic variations and, more importantly, enhancement of safety features. For example, even though 449 Sports Blue was used to paint Williams 1 and 2, the final edition featured the slightly brighter edition of the blue called the 432 Monaco Blue.

Moreover, the first two editions did not have a sunroof, but the final version sported a sunroof, something that was a staple of the Clio line so far. And finally, the very first edition of the Williams had its build number displayed on a metal plaque despite being much lighter than the other two owing to the lack of mirrors and sunroof electricals.

– A Star Performer

The Williams Renault Clio unlocked good driving performance with a combination of increased engine output, the manual five-speed transmission, and lower body weight. The 2.0-liter engine had an enhanced output of 150 hp or 110kW, which, when combined with the unladen weight of just 990 kgs and the manual transmission, produced a scintillating performance. It took just 7.9 seconds for the car to go from 0 to 62 mph, while the intermediate acceleration between 50 to 75 mph took an additional 7.8 seconds in the fourth gear. The Williams was also advertised to top out at 134 mph.

In contrast, the inspiration for it – the Clio 16V — was a French market-only model that attributed most of its success to the French rally championship. Its four-cylinder, 1.7 L naturally aspirated engine produced 135 hp or 99kW of power, notably lower than the tuned Williams editions.

– Accolades Accumulated

The Williams Renault Clio remains one of the most popular rally cars. The series has continually received rave reviews from esteemed motoring journalists, most notably as one of the very best hatches ever made. A less than exhaustive list of accolades includes:

  • 3rd in the 2006 list of “Greatest front-wheel drive cars ever” by the EVO magazine. Placed just behind Honda Integra Type-R in second and the Clio 182 Trophy at the top.
  • 6th in the 2004 list of “Car of the Decade” features by the EVO magazine.

The Ultimate Williams Renault Clio Buyer’s Guide

The ultimate Williams Renault Clio buyer’s guide includes steps such as checking the interiors, looking at the bodywork, examining the brakes and suspensions, verifying the gearbox, revving the engine, making sure it’s authentic, and checking out the top speed of the car.

Following in the footprints of other fast hatchbacks like the Volkswagen Golf GTI and the Peugeot 205 GTI during their golden era of the late 80s to early 90s, the Williams Renault Clio was able to carve a niche of its own. 

The Renault Clio Williams still exudes undeniable charm close to three decades after the class-leading hatch was originally released. Even though Renault has always been a strong contender in the hot hatchbacks game, the 1993 Williams was the pinnacle of its offerings. We will try to deconstruct the aspects you should look at while looking for Williams Renault Clio for sale.

– Check the Interiors

Starting with what’s inside, the Renault Clio Williams carried its distinct French charm with elegance. The seats were draped in a soft material that looked like velour and carried a slightly worn look even when they were brand new. When looking at a car today, make sure the seats aren’t too torn or threadbare unless you are looking for a bargain buy or if the mileage makes up for it. 

The build quality of a new Williams was quite robust. However, you should consider creaks and rattles to be par for the course and be on the lookout for wear on the pedals, gear lever, and steering wheel. You should only go for it if the wear matches the advertised mileage.

Next, look at the carpet. The original carpets were blue. Check them thoroughly for signs of any dampness, which could be indicative of rust issues or a faulty heater matrix. One of the reasons why original and unmodified Williams are highly valued is the rarity of replacement interior trim. If you find one with an intact suit carrier, consider yourself lucky.

And finally, check the audio system. Keep in mind that the first two editions of the Williams Renault Clio were not equipped with audio systems. If you still see one fitted with an audio console, check the wiring to ensure they are done properly. Elements like the electric windows and switches should also be checked to ensure they are working properly. The electrics for older vehicles like this can be tricky, so extra caution is recommended.

– Look at the Bodywork

Start with the most obvious one, the paint. The Williams 1 and 2 models sported the same blue Metallic Sports hue, while the Williams 3 was draped in a slightly brighter blue paint. Check the body carefully to locate incorrect coloring and ill-fitted body panels or parts. They can be definitive signs of accidental damage.

Other damage indicators can include respraying to hide missing trim bits, such as the side sill kick plate or even poorly applied stickers. More importantly, you should check for signs of rusting. Areas around the door frames, footwells, and underside of the rear arches are all hotspots for rusting and, thus, should be examined carefully.

– Examine the Brakes and Suspension

The first two models of the Renault Clio Williams were standard in terms of the braking and suspension setups across all their versions. Only the third edition was installed with ABS. Try to listen for grumbling noises while test driving. This can be an indication of worn-out wheel bearings. The front springs of the Williams can often be cracked, and take note that they can be an expensive replacement.

Examine the Brakes and Suspension

While driving, the car should ideally feel planted across all corners. Although even the rear end of the original vehicle occasionally felt loose in tighter turns, there was a perpetual degree of lean, so they are to be expected. Signs of worn shocks and springs can be found in generally sloppy body form, but you might be unable to verify it on the first test drive itself.

If the power steering pump is noisy, this can indicate low fluid levels that increase the noise. Also, if there is excessive physical play with the steering columns, checking the linkages is recommended in this case.

– Verify the Gearbox

Any issues with the gearbox can lead to hard times and bigger bills, so it is recommended to be extra cautious. The default gearbox is robust, so look out for crunching noises while engaging gears or any excessive movements. If you notice any sloppiness with how the gear changes feel, have them checked as they can indicate worn-out engine mounts.

It is critical for the clutch and the cabling to be serviced at regular intervals as they tend to get stiffer with time. Checking the service records will be crucial here. However, keep in mind that compared to a modern vehicle, the clutch actuation will feel stiffer, so that also needs to be considered.

– Rev the Engine

A healthy Renault Clio Williams engine should freely rev until the 6,500 rpm red line and should deliver strong torque in the lower rev ranges. Check the exhaust smoke carefully for any abnormalities. A cloud of white smoke can indicate water mixing with the oil. Check the head gasket and under the oil filter cap. If you find a mayonnaise-type residue, you can be sure of it. Otherwise, bluish smoke is also an indication of worn-out rings or something far more damaging. Apply hard acceleration to check for it.

As the engine is quite different from the standard Clio 16, the differences must be considered. The unique F7R 16-Valve 2.0 liter engine features bespoke yet robust pistons, con rods, and camshafts, but they need to be maintained regularly. 

Across the dashboard, you will notice three different oil gauges. Check their temp, pressure, and level to ensure they are working correctly. Changing the oil regularly — every 6,000 miles or sooner if the car isn’t used at regular intervals — is critical to maintaining the health of the tappets, which can otherwise become louder over time.

– Check Out the Top Speed

According to its data sheets, the Williams Renault Clio could reach a top speed of 134 mph. The specked-up 2.0 L engine with a manual five-speed transmission powered the Williams from 0 to 62 mph in less than 8 seconds. The intermediate acceleration between 50-75 mph also took a similar time. The advertisements for the model were centered around its fast performance with the headline:

“You may blush with shame, turn green with anger, but it’s a Clio that Frank Williams named.”

Renault claims that the Renault RS16 is not only the fastest Clio, but the speediest Renault that has ever been built. The RS 16 takes its 2.0 L four-cylinder turbo engine from the fast Renault Megane 275 Trophy R that can produce a massive 265 lb. ft of torque and 271 bhp power. It is also speculated that the RS16 could hit a top speed of over 150 mph with an acceleration of 0 to 62 miles in 5.5 seconds.

However, it’s almost impossible to expect these speeds if you go out to buy the car now. Even if it’s well maintained, it’s not to be used for commuting and would best serve as a prized possession in your car collection.

– Make Sure It’s Authentic

The Renault Clio Williams places itself among the pantheon of great hot hatches simply because it was the progenitor to the much-vaunted Clio RS. Yet its own undeniable merits and the fact that it offers an immersive driving experience to this day separates it from the pack of simply good cars and elevates it into the realm of great vintage vehicles.

Authentic Williams Renault Clio

This has led to sustained popularity for good value Williams models on the market, meaning your chances of copping a bargain are rather slim. As such, the good news is that most of the vintage Williams models are in relatively good shape due to regular maintenance. Also, note that even though the earlier models are more sought after due to their uniqueness, the prices remain relatively constant across the three phases.

And finally, before spending a substantial amount on this vintage classic, you’d do well to be aware of counterfeit models. Here, your knowledge of the models and variants will be key. Keep in mind that:

  • The first edition came with metal numbered plaques but lacked an audio system, ABS, a sunroof, or electric mirrors.
  • The Williams 2 edition did not have the numbered plaques but had a similar feature set.
  • The third generation of vehicles sported a brighter shade of blue and was fitted with ABS and a sunroof.


1. How Many Williams Renault Clio Were Made in Total?

Around 12,100 models of Williams Renault were made in total. Renault needed to build at least 2,500 units of the first generation of the Clio for homologation. However, they ended up making a total of 3,800, each bearing a unique numbered metal plaque on its dashboard.

The popularity of the first generation led to the creation of Williams 2 and Williams 3, which were also popular on their terms. The introduction of these two models pushed the number of total units above 12,000.

2. When Was the First Edition of the Williams Renault Clio Launched?

The first edition of the Williams Renault Clio was launched in 1993 by Renault. The first model was released as a limited-edition vehicle, with only 3,800 being produced. Each car was numbered with a metal plaque on its dashboard as a statement of its exclusivity.

3. Who Was the Designer for the Renault Clio?

Dutch automobile designer Laurens Van Den Acker was the designer for the latest edition of the Renault Clio. In 2009, Van Den Acker transferred over from Mazda to Renault in a bid to revamp the image of the French manufacturer, which he openly admitted to being a “difficult task.”

4. Which Renault Clio Model Is Considered To Have the Best Engine?

The Renault Clio model that is considered to have the best engine is the E-Tech Hybrid 145. For lovers of efficiency, the E-Tech Hybrid 145 is the best of the bunch. The initial burst of acceleration is substantial, giving you a sense of its power.

Even though it may take a couple of seconds for the petrol engine to kick in after the accelerator is tread hard, it is still a powerful performance. When running in full electric mode, it can generate substantial drive off the line. Overall, the engine is considered punchier than the highly capable TCe 90.

What Makes the Williams Renault Clio a Classic Car from the 90s?

The Williams Renault Clio stands out as a rambler marlin classic car from the 90s due to its timeless appeal. Its sleek design and powerful performance captivated car enthusiasts. With its revolutionary features, the Clio redefined the standards of small cars, becoming an iconic symbol of the era. Its legacy lives on, making it a beloved classic of the 90s.


We covered a lot about the Williams Renault Clio in this article, and this car stands as a time-tested testament to Renault’s timeless engineering. It remains a compelling offering for collectors and admirers of vintage machines. 

  • The Williams Renault Clio was a 1.8-liter hot hatch introduced in 1993 by Renault, the French automaker. Due to its early success, Renault released the Williams 2 and Williams 3 limited edition models as well.
  • The Williams Clio was modeled on the Clio 16S, and its design and engineering were undertaken by the motorsport division of Renault automobiles — Renault Sport.
  • The 2.0 L engine was a naturally aspirated Dual Overhead Camshaft (DOHC) and featured four valves per cylinder powered by a multipoint fuel injection inline-four engine.
  • The engine generated 145 bhp of power at 108 kW and 6100 rpm and 175 Nm (129 lb-ft) at a torque of 4500 rpm to reach a maximum speed of 215 kmph or 134 mph.
  • Even after nearly three decades since it was released, the Williams Renault Clio remains quite popular among vintage automobile aficionados.

You must be well informed to make the right decision while purchasing a Williams Renault Clio today, as their sustained popularity has kept the asking prices high. So if you are in the market for one, this guide can help you avail yourself of a great deal.

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