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Remember the famous advert campaign – Nicole? Papa? In 1991, Renault introduced a car to the nation that we instantly fell in love with.
The appeal of the supermini reaches far and wide – it’s the perfect first car for a new driver, but equally the Renault Clio Cup is a hugely popular track day machine. The Clio fulfils many different roles, all with a unique French style, quality and practicality.
Over 13 million Clios have been sold around the world since launch, with 1.2 million sales in the UK alone. To celebrate the introduction of this iconic car, Trusted Dealers takes a look below at the history of the Renault Clio.
Originally launched in the UK on 29th March 1991, the Renault Clio I came to the UK to fill a gap in the market for a stylish supermini that was refined, but could equally zip about town at a moment’s notice. Four successive generations later and the Clio remains one of the world’s best loved small cars. Built to improve on the qualities of the much-loved Renault 5, the Clio was derived from the Greek word meaning ‘made or to make famous’, and so it did. The aim of the new car was to produce ‘big’ refinement in a ‘small’ car and subsequently Renault worked on producing a car that was physically larger than any other supermini in its class, so occupants could benefit from better ride comfort and handling. In addition, the new ‘Energy’ engines of 1.2 and 1.4-litre capacity coupled with a high level interior spec, pushed the Clio even further upmarket, and enabling it to scoop the prestigious European Car of the Year award – before it even arrived in the UK!
The European Car of the Year award provided instant recognition for the Clio and before long Renault’s latest supermini had notched up sales of 21,124 units in the UK. A further 34,701 cars were sold in the first full year of UK sales in 1992, thanks to new arrivals to the range included a 1.8-litre 16v hot hatch and a 1.9-litre diesel model. Following the introduction of a ‘phase 2’ model in 1994 and a few minor styling changes, the Renault Clio now accounted for 49% of Renault UK sales alone and was on the UK top ten best sellers list. 1997 was the final year of Clio I production and was also the best sales year for the model, which racked up a whopping 58,033 sales, taking the UK total to over 300,000, exceeding all the maker’s expectations.
Nobody can forget one of the most famous adverts on TV, the Nicole and Papa advert hit a chord with the nation and it wasn’t long before we were all waiting in anticipation to see how Nicole would next trick her unsuspecting father, by nipping off in her trusty Renault Clio for a romantic rendez vue with one of her handsome beaus! Over 8 instalments, the actress who played Nicole, Estelle Skornik, became one of the most recognised people in the UK, ahead of the then-serving Prime Minister John Major! The final advert was aired in May 1998 and was one of the most watched TV adverts ever. The Clio adverts that followed were equally gripping and featured French footballer Thierry Henry famously discussing ‘What is Va Va Voom?’ So much so that the phrase ‘Va Va Voom’ made it into the Oxford English Dictionary in 2004. Then there was the characters of ‘Ben’ and ‘Sophie’ in 2006 who discussed the merits of the UK versus France for the Clio III. The most recent media campaign for the Clio uses the theme ‘Be Moved. Not Driven’ and echoes all the traits that make Renault so unique and features a number of Clio IVs.
The Clio II arrived in 1997 and had a tough act to follow. The car had grown again in length but this time by only 6cm, but even so the longer wheelbase was able to accommodate an ever larger interior with larger seats and compliant bushing for the suspension to maximise refinement. To reflect the changing times, fuel consumption was much improved and emissions were up 15% on some models in comparison to its predecessor. A choice of four trim levels were available with prices ranging from £8,350 – £11,700 and the Clio had a class-leading four star Euro NCAP rating. In 2002, the Clio II achieved its UK highest sales volume at 86,337.
The Clio II made its debut in 2005 and was available to buy from August of the same year. Larger again in dimensions, it was the first car in its market segment to be awarded a five-star Euro NCAP rating. The Clio III brought new levels of quality and sophistication to the supermini class to include the use of soft-touch materials on higher spec versions and other ‘big car’ features such as a tyre pressure monitoring system and Renault’s own ‘hands free’ card, instead of a traditional key. The hard work of the designers and engineers paid off when the Renault Clio II won European Car of the Year 2006, making the Clio the first car to win the coveted prize twice (firstly with the Clio I in 1991).
Described as “simple, sensuous and warm” with cutting edge technology, the Clio IV was designed under the watchful eye of Renault’s current Head of Design, Laurens van den Acker. The Clio IV was first unveiled at the Paris Motor Show in 2012 and it deliberately set out to reinterpret some of the dynamic visual qualities of the earlier Clios, while the longer body once again significantly increased the wheelbase to improve further the roominess of the car. Inside the Clio IV, a striking dashboard design in the shape of an aircraft’s wing is combined with a tablet-style facia with the option of Renault’s new R-Link integrated touchscreen system linking the car with the world outside. With a personalisation programme allowing buyers to specify their Clio like never before, it’s hardly surprising the Clio has enjoyed sales of more than 12 million over the years.