Tuesday 29th March 2016 wasn’t just the dreaded first day back to work, college and other routines after the Easter bank holiday weekend. It also marked 25 years since the exact date on which the ever-popular Renault Clio was launched. If you’re good at maths, you’ll have worked out that the Clio’s long journey here in the UK all began on 29th March 1991. Apparently, if all the Clios that have been sold since 1991 were lined up in a chain, they would more or less fit around the Earth’s circumference one and a half times.
Clio and Carrot
Renault is right that the Clio, now in its fourth version, is one of the world’s best-loved ‘first wheels’ for newly-qualified young drivers. After all, it sits in the top 5 cars we insure here at Carrot. Also, customers invited to our first ever safety day at Silverstone experienced first-hand what the little car is capable of on a track.
Famous TV adverts
Set to take over from the Renault 5, which had stolen many hearts over the years, the Clio sought to cram all the refinement of a big car into a small one, and hot on the heels of winning the European Car of the Year prize in 1991, those famous ‘Nicole & Papa’ adverts were let loose on TV screens across the nation. The actress who played Nicole became more easily-recognised than Chris Evans and even the Prime Minister back then, John Major. French footballer Thierry Henry took over Renault Clio adverts for a while under the ‘Va Va Voom’ banner, and American model Dita von Teese starred in 2011.
Clio II arrived in 2000, with a curvier design, more room inside, better suspension, larger seats and a four-star EURO NCAP safety rating. In 2005, Clio III was launched, having grown again, with classier materials incorporated on more expensive versions, plus the full five stars for safety. The following year, the Clio won European Car of the Year for the second time in its history. The Clio IV is the latest, still current version, with sharper styling, even more space inside, an aircraft wing-inspired dashboard with a connected touchscreen, and increasingly economical engines, including a three-cylinder. Renault has also sold various generations of the Clio in body-styles other than a hatchback, including a Sports Tourer ‘estate’, a saloon version in certain central and Eastern Europe countries and even a Clio van.
Clio’s CV includes lots of sporting models and successes, too, from the 1.8-litre 16V in 1991 and the famous Williams edition in that easily-recognisable blue colour with gold wheels, to the more recent family of Renault Sport models, which kicked off with the Clio II and currently boasts the 220 Trophy edition with a clever EDC gearbox.
On the track, the Clio Cup, a whole racing programme built around this popular little French car, is still going strong, once again providing support for the British Touring Car Championship in 2016. The bumper-to-bumper style of Clio Cup racing helped turn the ignition on the careers of drivers such as Jason Plato and Andrew Jordan. In the mid-90s, the Renault Clio was also involved in rallying, showing what a versatile car it is.
Comparing old with new
Analysing the most basic model from the original 1991 Renault Clio range side-by-side with its equivalent in 2016, ‘rear view mirror’ has now developed into ‘reverse parking camera’, ‘optional driver airbag’ is now ‘driver and passenger front, side, head and thorax airbags and 5-star Euro NCAP rating’, the weight has increased from 839kg to 1,017kg, horsepower from 60bhp to 90bhp, fuel economy from 46mpg to 61.4mpg, and the price from £8,280 to £14,675.
Renault’s ‘big’ little car has clearly grown in all ways and still proves popular today. It will be interesting to see how long the Clio name lives on in the Renault model range and whether driverless Clios are something we’ll be writing about in the future.