The Renault Clio is a supermini car, produced by the French automobile manufacturer Renault. Originally launched in 1990, it is currently in its fourth generation as of 2012. The Clio has seen substantial critical and commercial success, being consistently one of Europe's top-selling cars since its launch, and it is largely credited with restoring Renault's reputation and stature after a difficult second half of the 1980s. The Clio is one of only two cars, the other being the Volkswagen Golf, to have been voted European Car of the Year twice, in 1991 and in 2006.
The Clio has been sold as the Renault Lutecia in Japan, because Honda owns the rights for the name CLIO (one of Honda's sales networks in Japan being called Honda Clio).
Clio I (1990–1998)
The Clio was introduced at the Paris Motor Show in June 1990 and sales in France and the rest of the continent began then, although sales in Britain did not begin until March 1991. The Clio largely replaced the aging Renault 5 (which continued to be built in lower volumes until 1996 in Slovenia as a budget alternative). The engine range available at launch included 1.2 L and 1.4 L E-type "Energy" petrol inline-four engines (first seen in the R19) and 1.7 L and a 1.9 L diesel (both based on the F-type unit) engines. The petrol engines gradually replaced carburettors with electronic fuel injection systems throughout production, in order to conform to ever stricter pollutant emission regulations.
A minor trim facelift occurred after only a year of being on sale. A new "smooth" version of the Renault diamond badge (the previous "ribbed" badge was being phased out at the time) and a new front seat design were the only changes. The altered design did not constitute a new "phase". In March 1994 (at the Geneva Motor Show), the Phase 2 model was launched, with small updates to the exterior and interior of the Clio. Most noticeable was the change in the front grille from two metal ribs to a single colour-coded slat grille. The bump strips were made slightly larger and rounder, and the car's trim level badge was incorporated into the bump strips. The badges on the tailgate strip were moved up onto the tailgate itself and the tailgate strip was given a carbon fibre look. The rear light clusters were given a slightly more rounded bubble shape to them, giving the Clio a more modern look. The clusters, however, are physically interchangeable with Phase 1 clusters.
In 1996, with the arrival of the Phase 3 facelifted Clio, the 1.2 L Energy engine was replaced by the 1,149 cc D7F MPi (Multi Point Injection) DiET engine, first used in the Renault Twingo; for some time also, versions were available with the older 1239 cc "Cléon" unit from the original Twingo. The cylinder head design on the 1.4 L E-Type was also slightly altered for the Phase 3 models in a bid for better fuel economy. This resulted in the engines producing slightly less power than their earlier versions.
The Phase 3 Clios had a slightly more noticeable update than the Phase 2's. The Phase 3 has different, more rounded headlights, incorporating the turn signal in the unit with the headlight. The bonnet curved more around the edges of the lights. The tailgate incorporated a third brake light and a new script "Clio" name badge, following the same typeface as contemporary Renaults. Some mechanical improvements were also made.
Renault also released a warm hatch version of the Clio for the 1993 model year. It was aesthetically very similar, but with the addition of a 110 PS (81 kW) 1.8 L eight-valve engine, side skirts and disc brakes on all wheels. This, with multi-point fuel injection, was badged as the RSi. From 1991 a lighter tuned version of this 1.8 litre engine (with single-point injection) joined the earlier 1.7 used in the very luxurious Baccara version which was sold in some continental European markets. In addition to this reasonably powerful engine, the Baccara has a luxurious interior with lots of leather and wood, as well as power windows, locks, etcetera. The Baccara was renamed "Initiale" in 1997, in line with other Renaults, differing from the Baccara mainly in the wheel design.
During 1991, a 1.8 L 16-valve engine producing 137 PS (101 kW) (also first seen in the R19) capable of propelling the car to 209 km/h (130 mph) was introduced to the Clio engine range, known simply as the Clio 16S in France (S for "soupapes", the French word for valves), and Clio 16V in export markets. As well as having higher top speed than a regular Clio, the 16S sported wider plastic front wings, an offset bonnet vent, wider rear arches and uprated suspension and brakes, and colour-coded front mirrors and bumpers. The RSi side skirts were omitted, however. Interior wise, the 16V model had an extended instrument panel that housed dials for engine oil pressure, oil temperature, and oil level (which only indicates on engine start). The seats were also more supportive to match the sporting nature of the model. The non-catalyzed versions, still available in some markets, offered 140 PS (103 kW) and marginally higher performance with top speed up to 212 km/h (132 mph) and the 0–100 km/h time dropping from 8 to 7.8 seconds.
The Clio was voted European Car of the Year for 1991, and soon became one of Europe's best-selling cars, as well as the first Renault to be consistently among the top-10 best sellers in the United Kingdom. UK sales were helped by a famous television advertising campaign by Publicis shot in France, featuring the two main characters of Nicole (played by Estelle Skornik, who was not French nor did she have a driving licence at the time) and Papa.
From 1991 to 1993, trim levels were identical in every European country. Starting in 1993, trim levels designations became more varied across the various markets. The car was sold as the Renault Lutecia (from Lutetia, the Latin name for Paris) in Japan, as "Clio" was used there by Honda for one of their domestic marketing networks.
Sales across Europe were strong throughout its production life, and a decade after its demise it is still a common sight on Europe's roads.
Clio II (1998–2012)
The second generation of the Clio was launched in the spring of 1998 and sold for less than €8,000, with considerably more rounded and bulbous styling than its predecessor. Part of the radical concept of the new Clio were many components made of unusual materials to save in weight and repair costs.] For instance, the front wings were made of plastic (Following on from criticisms of corrosion in this part of the previous model and based on technology developed for the Renault Espace) and the material of the bonnet was aluminium in some versions. Originally the engine lineup was similar to before, with 1.2 L, 1.4 L and 1.6 L petrol engines and a 1.9 L diesel.
In early 2000, a sportive 16V version equipped with a new 1.6 L 16-valve engine was introduced, and eventually, all the older petrol engines were upgraded to more powerful and more economical 16-valve versions.
In 1998, Renault launched the 169 PS (124 kW) Clio Renault Sport (also known as Clio RS for short, named Clio Renault Sport 172 in the UK and sold for less than €17,500- 172 coming from the DIN method horsepower measurement), with a 2.0 L 16-valve engine and a top speed of 220 km/h (140 mph). The standard Clio RTE powered with a 1.2 54 PS (40 kW) engine could reach 180 km/h on its maximum. The top-of-the-range Clio, however, was the mid-engined, rear-wheel drive Clio V6 Renault Sport, originally engineered by Tom Walkinshaw Racing for a one-make racing series, which placed a 230 PS (170 kW) 3.0 L V6 engine, sourced from the Renault Laguna, placed behind the front seats, with a top speed of 235 km/h (146 mph).
In 2000 a few minor changes were made to the Clio range, which included revised specification levels, a new instrument cluster, and a passenger airbag fitted as standard for all models. The Clio achieved a four-star Euro NCAP rating in 2000, which was class-leading at the time.