Clio I - 1991

Clio I

The Clio story begins in 1990, during October at the Paris Motor Show, with the debut of a new Renault for the supermini class. Clio, taken from a Greek word meaning ‘made or to make famous’, the all-new car was naturally seeking to improve yet further on the qualities of the much-loved Renault 5. The principal aim of the new car was to ‘create big-car refinement in a small car’ – a ‘big’ little car, as it was referred to at the time. To that end, Renault made the car physically larger, some 2 inches longer and 2.5 inches wider, and increased the wheelbase and track to be the largest in the class to the benefit of ride comfort as well as handling. New ‘Energy’ engines of 1.2- and 1.4-litre capacity, and a high level of interior specification for the time, pushed the Clio even further upmarket.

The Clio I arrived in the UK on 29th March 1991 having already scooped the prestigious European Car of the Year award. In Britain, the range started with the RL 1.2 3-door at £7,190, and rose to the RT 1.4 five-door at £8,980; all models featured an extended eight-year corrosion warranty, with top-line RT specification bringing the sophistication of front electric windows, remote central locking and a stereo radio/cassette.

The European Car of the Year award was the ideal launch pad for the car, and sales for 1991 raced to 21,124 units in the UK. Another 34,701 were sold in the first full year of UK sales in 1992, aided by new arrivals to the range such as the 1.8-litre 16v hot hatch and the 1.9-litre diesel model.

A ‘phase 2’ model appeared in 1994 with minor styling changes, the Clio by now accounting for 49% of Renault UK sales alone and surging strongly into the UK top ten best sellers list.

Further design enhancements, along with improved safety measures and additional mechanical changes were instigated with the ‘phase 3’ models of 1996, with 1997 being the final year of Clio I production. Ironically, and proof as if it were needed as to the quality of the original concept, the Clio I had its best sales performance in the UK in its final year: 58,033 examples finding homes in the UK during 1997, taking the UK total to over 300,000 sales. The ‘big’ little car had exceeded even its own maker’s loftiest expectations.

 

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Clio I

Clio I

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