Clio 16V: The forgotten RenaultSport Clio
Can't afford a Clio Williams? Look no further...
Just a year after the launch of their critically acclaimed Clio hatchback, Renault released their first small hot hatchback since the Renault 5 Turbo. Powered by Renault's 1.8 litre 'F7P' naturally aspirated unit, the Clio 16v produced nearly 140bhp and was capable of accelerating from 0-60 in just 7.7 seconds. Despite these astonishing performance figures, the Clio 16v has been largely forgotten in the UK - just 50 of these pocket rockets remain on British roads. I therefore think it's high time that we give the first ever RenaultSport Clio the recognition that it deserves.
The Clio 16v (or 'Valver' as it has become known) really ought to be considered a modern classic by now - although its 137bhp may seem modest by today's standards, it is important to remember that the first-generation Clio weighed in at just 990kg. As a result, the Valver had a higher power to weight ratio than almost all of its contemporary rivals and was capable of embarrassing far more prestigious 90's performance cars. Don't think that it was a one-trick pony, either, as its handling abilities were far ahead of its contemporary rivals - CAR magazine described the plucky Clio's suspension as having a "real sophistication" about it. This quickly becomes clear through the corners - the car feels planted, purposeful and has astronomical levels of grip, even in the wet. Their praise for the Clio 16v didn't end there, as the highly acclaimed automotive publication also proclaimed that the Valver was the "best hot hatch you can buy" during their review of the car back in 1991.
It also has to be said that the Clio 16v certainly looks the part - with its bonnet scoop and wide wheel arches, the whole car has a rather brutish charm about it. This theme is continued on the inside, where the driver is treated to a vast array of gauges, heavily bolstered sports seats and the same tiny leather steering wheel that was later fitted to the Clio Williams. Furthermore, its 265 litre boot was far larger than contemporary rivals such as the Peugeot 205 GTi, a car which is often heralded as the finest hot hatch of all time.
So why is the Clio 16v still yet to receive recognition as a modern classic? After all, it seems to tick all of the required boxes - it's powerful, practical and now properly rare, as almost all of these hot hatchbacks have been written off, scrapped or turned into track day cars. The answer lies in the Valver's bigger brother, the Clio Williams. Due to its limited production-run, the 2 litre Williams Clio has become far more sought after, and has perhaps overshadowed the Clio 16v, despite the Williams Clio being just 0.1 of a second quicker to 60mph than the 1.8 litre car.
Many 16v Clios have been converted for track use. Image Credits: James 5D MK3 (flickr.com) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/
What this does mean, however, is that 16v Clios can be picked up for unbelievably low prices. Just £4,000 could buy you a pristine Clio Valver with less than 80,000 miles on the clock and a full service history - an equivalent Williams Clio would set you back at least three times more. This represents a staggering saving and makes the Clio 16v an absolute bargain on the used market, especially when you consider how much performance is on offer for the money.
Only time will tell as to whether the Clio 16v will become a classic, but I still maintain that there has never been a better time to buy one of these high-performance hot hatchbacks. Although it may not yet be held in the same high esteem as many of its contemporary rivals, the 1.8 litre 16v Clio is a genuine alternative to the Clio Williams at a mere fraction of the cost.
What do you think of the Clio 16v? Comment down below!