The Renault Clio Williams was in production from 1993 until 1998. Styled in house, it is a front-engine, front wheel drive hatch seating four adults.
Planned as a run of 3800 cars to exceed homologation requirements, the Clio Williams was so popular Renault had to build a further 1600 examples. By the time the subsequent Williams 2 and Williams 3 models had been completed, more than 12000 Clio Williams models had been built. The formula was simple. Take a Clio 1.8 16v. Shoehorn in the 2.0 unit from the larger Laguna, tuned to develop 145bhp, and tweak the suspension and chassis to suit. Add some sporty trim, paint it blue, et voila! One of the most distinctive hot hatches of its era. All Williams and Williams 2 models were painted Sports Blue, the Williams 3 was painted the slightly brighter Monaco Blue. The Williams 3 also introduced a sunroof, standard equipment for the first time given that the Williams and Williams 2 had come without to save weight. All original Williams models came with a numbered plaque, this wasn’t fitted to the Williams 2 or 3. Production finally ceased with the launch of the second generation Clio in 1998.
Soft squidgy seats are alien today in prestige cars but they’re there in the Williams, along with more blue than an Eiffel 65 record. Seriously. It’s on the seats, belts, carpets and even the gauges, if you don’t like blue you’ll hate it. Until you drive it. Few hot hatches this side of the 205GTi can put as big a grin on your face, and there are many who’d argue that even that can’t hold a handle to the Clio. Forget Papa and Nicole, this is the car Nicole’s big brother took racing at the weekends.
A stiff feeling clutch compared to a modern car is normal, but they get stiffer as they wear so if it feels iffy, get a second opinion. But most important is the shell. Not just rust, though you should check for this at all the lower extremities and where stone chips may have developed around the nose. But these are quick cars and many will have seen ditches. Check the panel gaps, to make sure everything’s even and the car isn’t bent. The velour on the seats looked worn even when new, so don’t worry too much about this as it’s actually hard wearing. Check the oil gauges on the dash, as well as any more general signs that might indicate engine wear.
Most desirable and accordingly most valuable is the original Clio Williams, with its light weight, lack of toys and numbered plaque. If you can’t stretch that far financially, the Clio Williams 2 is an admirable alternative, less valuable as it was produced in higher numbers but at the same time close enough in spirit to the original. Those looking for a Williams to use daily will welcome the extra comforts of the Williams 3, along with its better value, but the brighter paint and less pure nature of these cars makes them less desirable to those seeking a Williams as a collectible item.
Alternatives to the Clio Williams might include the 16v version of the VW Golf GTi MK3, the Ford Fiesta RS Turbo or the Peugeot 306 GTi6. Today as a classic, a value alternative would be the subsequent Clio 172 model based on the next generation Clio. If you want a hot Renault and can find one, a Renault 5 Turbo will be likely to appeal if the Clio Williams is your thing. Alternatively, the Peugeot 205GTi has similar collectible appeal, and the Vauxhall Astra GTE 16v would be an ideal example of retro cool.