Cars | 19 February 2019

CLIO STORY: relive the success of the best-selling french car in history

Produced in over 15 million units since launch in 1990, Renault Clio is a model of numerous superlatives, ranking as the best-selling French car of all time, the first car to win the European Car of the Year award twice, the top-selling car in France 21 out of the 28 years since launch, and the B-segment leader in Europe. From the start, Clio has been recognized as a small car with “the makings of a great vehicle”. We take a look back at the 29 years of the Clio story in words and pictures.
by Emmanuel GENTY


The arrival of Clio in 1990 as the replacement of the Renault 5 marks the first revolution: henceforth, Renault models were named not with numbers but with nouns, to make them more memorizable and give them a warmer and more human aspect.

On launch, Clio was officially presented as a “versatile small car designed and produced according to the same rigorous criteria as large cars”. Between the Renault 5 and Clio there was a clear move upmarket.

And the move proved successful, with Clio topping the sales rankings in France and winning the European Car of the Year award. In the words of the jury, “the new compact car has remarkable styling, strong quality levels, generous cabin spaces, and unprecedented equipment for a model of this size”.

First-generation Clio was available with ABS, air conditioning, an electronic automatic gearbox, an anti-break-in alarm, power steering, and electric defrosting door mirrors. With this level of equipment, Clio rewrote the rule book in the European city car segment.




Second-generation Clio was launched in 1998. The new model was seven centimeters longer for increased spaciousness and made safety equipment broadly affordable, all versions being fitted with ABS and airbags. It also boasted enhanced comfort. The range was extended so that each customer could pick the Clio that was right for them. Clio was also available for the first time in an R.S. version and even with a rear-mounted V6 engine.



Third-generation Clio was launched in 2005. Longer (3.99 m) and more spacious, it moved upmarket in terms of quality and finish and was fitted with equipment worthy of the segment above, including a hands-free start card, a GPS system and a cruise control/speed limiter function. It scored top marks on active and passive safety, available with as many as eight airbags. It was the first car in its category to obtain five stars in EuroNCAP crash tests. It was also the first Clio model available in an Estate version.

All these qualities were once again acknowledged by the 2006 European Car of the Year award. This was the first time a car had earned this prestigious distinction twice.



The Clio success story continued with the arrival of the fourth-generation model in 2012. Directly inspired by the DeZir concept car, Clio 4 was the first model to feature the new visual identity of the Renault range. With a design informed by passion, the new model’s winning qualities were sensuality, appeal and extra soul.

It was more extensively equipped, notably with R-LINK, a built-in connected multimedia tablet, and, in a world first, a “bass reflex” sound system. It also fully embraced customization through a broad choice of interior and exterior decoration components and four different interior design schemes.

Over the course of its career, Clio 4 was enhanced with new high-end equipment including the hands-free parking system, Easy Park Assist. In a remarkable sales performance, Clio sales increased with each new year.



Unveiled at the start of 2019, fifth-generation Clio keeps all the DNA behind the success of the model for over 30 years. It builds on the strengths of each of the four previous generations, opening a new and highly anticipated chapter in an illustrious story.

From Clio 1, it “has all the makings of a great vehicle”. It boasts technology found on higher-end vehicles such as Mégane and Espace. It is even equipped with advanced driver assistance systems leading towards the first steps of autonomous driving.

From Clio 2, it has adopted extremely high standards of spaciousness and comfort. Clio 5 is a treat for passengers and luggage alike, the former benefiting from extra room, the latter from the largest trunk in the category, at 391 liters!

Like Clio 3, it ushers in a new era as regards the quality of the materials and presentation. A true interior revolution has led to the creation of the Smart Cockpit, embodied by a giant 9.3-inch multimedia screen.

From Clio 4, it inherits a strong design, one that inspired the entire Renault range and became a true trademark. The exterior design of New Clio is based on that of Clio 4 but with more expressive and vigorous characteristics. Clio styling has never been this modern!

The All-new Renault Clio will be presented at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show from March 5.


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