How the Renault Clio Williams took the hot hatch game to a new level
And instantly became an icon!
I met one of my heroes and I was not disappointed. Once again, we teamed up with our friends from Private Car Collection to present you this amazing 1994 Renault Clio Williams from their collection. In 4 years, Renault produced over 12'000 units of its little hot hatch, but they have become increasingly rare, especially in Switzerland. Therefore, it was a real chance for us to get close with this French icon from the '90s and see what the fuss is all about.
The Clio Williams was introduced in 1993 to celebrate Nigel Mansell's title with the Renault-Williams Formula 1 team. However, that's what the French manufacturer wanted you to believe. In reality, Renault Sport also wanted to go rallying and desperately needed 2'500 homologation Clios. Yet, there was so much excitement around the launch of the car that Renault raised the production to 3'800 units for the first versions. Associating the Williams name with a brand new sports car seemed to be a good marketing stunt and they were all sold out in no time.
Even though Williams did not take part in the development of the Clio, Renault Sport took great care of building a hot hatch that was worthy of this mythical F1 team. For example, the suspension came from the Clio Cup track car, and the powerful engine gave it a clear edge over its competitors in terms of performance. Derived from the Clio 16V, Renault extensively revised the 2.0 4-cylinder engine and made it stronger in order to handle the power increase from 140 PS to 150 PS.
The specs were mind-blowing for the time. With a trim weight of only 990 kg, it allowed the Clio Williams to go from 0-100 km/h in only 7.8 seconds and reach a top speed of 215 km/h. Just imagine how terrifying this would have been. Not only was it fast in a straight line, but it could also get around corners very quickly thanks to upgraded dampers, springs, stiffened rear torsion arms, and anti-roll bars. These were the ultimate pocket rockets and they were also very successful in rally racing as they won the manufacturers' title in the 1993 French rally championship. It did not stop there as many customers converted production cars into unofficial race cars, and not many changes had to be made in order to beat the competition. This shows how much work and effort Renault Sport has put into the underpinnings of the project, and that was not even it. Their little Clio had to look the part, and everything had to remind the driver that he was sitting in something special.
It started with an exterior design that is immensely cool. It may look very similar to the 16V with its chunky arches, and large air-intake on the bonnet, but it has some distinctive elements that are true to this very model. There was definitely a blue theme going on here with the famous 449 Metallic Sports Blue exterior paint that was paired with the amazing gold Speedline rims. Later, Renault released the Williams 2 and Williams 3 editions that had different trims, options and in the case of the 3 a lighter blue colour, but fundamentally they were all quite similar. The blue accents continued inside with the seatbelts, instrument dials, and the tip of the gear lever. Talking about the inside, the only thing that truly differs from a normal Clio are the seats, which are amazing by the way. Finished in this velour-like fabric with a stitched blue "W", they offer the perfect compromise between support and comfort. The rest of the interior is fairly simple with not too many buttons, and it feels like a breath of fresh air to get in one of those early Clios where all that matters is the driving. You also get this very cool bronze plaque on the center console with the production number. Something you don't get on your regular Clio. This particular model with over 145'000 km is not in the best shape, but purists will probably argue that it does not need any restoration. I'd be curious to know what are your thoughts on this in the poll below.
The important question now is, was it better than the competition? All Renault wanted to do is dethrone the aging Peugeot 205 GTi, and they did. The 205 retired in 1994 and it gave Renault some space to bring the new guns out. The Williams was a far superior car in terms of performance and handling. Also, it definitely feels more modern to drive and design-wise. The 205 GTi definitely has some strong arguments to remain the ultimate hot hatch, but the Williams definitely took the game to a whole new level and set an excellent base for the next generation of fast Clios that are all in general very capable sports cars. For too long, the Williams has been overlooked by many, because let's face it, there were many amazing hot hatches in the '90s, but the Clio has recently made a resurgence and prices have been on the rise ever since. If you always wanted one, now is the moment and you'd be doing yourself a great favor because you'll have the biggest smile on your face while driving it.
I would like to extend my gratitude to my friends from Private Car Collection. They have been nice enough to let us review their car. They have a pretty cool collection of cars that you can see on their Instagram account or Facebook page. Without them, this article could have never been possible.
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