by Marine Berthier - Cars

THE RENAULT CLIO STORY : Relive the success of the best-selling French car in automotive history

Tags: clio clio RS

Having achieved no fewer than 13 million sales across four generations, the Renault Clio is by any yardstick a quite extraordinary car: the world’s all-time best-selling French vehicle, the first contender to be awarded the prestigious European Car of the Year accolade on two separate occasions, France’s best-selling vehicle for 18 of the last 25 years and top of its class in Europe in both 2014 and 2015 (passenger cars and light commercial vehicles combined). Right from its roots, the Clio has stood out as a genuine small car with big car refinement.

Relive in pictures a quarter century of the famous Renault CLIO

Launched in 1990: Car of the Year in 1991

Clio was officially introduced as a ‘versatile small car, designed and manufactured according to the same rigorous criteria as its larger siblings’.

CLIO-img-2                                                                                Renault Clio 1

The transition from the Renault 5 to the Clio broke new ground in other areas, too: henceforth, the brand’s models would no longer be referred to by numbers but rather by names, in order to make them more memorable and imbue them with a warmer and more human personality.

No sooner had it been launched than the Clio was elected European Car of the Year in 1991. The jury noted that Renault’s new small car had a ‘remarkable style, good quality level, generous cabin/luggage space and a richness of equipment never offered before in a model of this size from a popular manufacturer’.

Equipment worthy of superior segments

The first-generation Clio came equipped with ABS, climate control, an electronically-controlled automatic gearbox, an alarm, power steering and even electrically-adjustable heated door mirrors. In offering such an outstanding level of equipment, the Clio made waves in the European city car segment as it staked its claim as a versatile small car capable of taking the fight to the very best in the business.

The second-generation Clio was launched in 1998. Seven centimetres longer than the first, this model introduced 16-valve engines and, with the entire range offering ABS as well as front and side airbags, it put safety firmly at the top of the agenda.

CLIO-img-3                                                                                Renault Clio 2

The third-generation Clio arrived on the scene in 2005, as the Clio 2 remained on sale under the new ‘Clio Campus’ moniker. Longer at 3.99m and more spacious, the Clio 3 truly spoiled its owners. Not only did it come with hands-free starting, GPS and cruise control/speed limiter but, equipped with as many as eight airbags, it also boasted the very best in active and passive safety, making it no great surprise that it became the first vehicle in its class to be awarded five-star Euro NCAP rating. This was, moreover, the first Clio to be joined by an Estate version.

CLIO-img-4                                                                                Renault Clio 3

In an unprecedented achievement, all of these attributes earned the Clio the coveted European Car of the Year award once more in 2006. In the distinguished ceremony’s 43-year history, this marked the first time that the same model had been crowned on two separate occasions. One jury member noted: ‘A great little car that should inspire bigger ones’.

The fourth-generation Clio appeared in 2012 and kept the flame burning bright through its timeless appeal combined with even more soul. Directly inspired by DeZir Concept presented two years earlier at the 2010 Paris Motor Show, the Clio 4 was the first model to adopt the brand’s new visual identity. Finished in Flamme Red and sporting a new front end, the Clio 4 instantly expressed passion and seduction while continuing to offer a comprehensive range of equipment, notably including Renault’s integrated and connected R-LINK multimedia tablet and a state-of-the-art bass reflex sound system – a world first. 

CLIO-img-5                                                                                Renault Clio 4

A sporting icon

Whilst stealing the show on the small screen, the Clio was simultaneously honing its sporting skills. Over the past 25 years, there has been a steady stream of sporty versions appearing on the road, racetrack and rally stages, proving the worth of Renault’s ongoing commitment to motorsport.


CLIO-img-6                                                                                Renault Clio 4 R.S.

Boasting ever-more powerful engines, subsequent generations of the Clio have always been accompanied by a sporty variant by Renault Sport, as evidenced by the 197hp Clio 3 R.S. in 2006, the 200hp Clio 4 R.S. in 2013 and, most recently, the 220hp Clio R.S. Trophy in 2015.

The Clio’s history mirrors that of Renault

In 1990, the Clio 1 measured 3.71m in length and, having progressively grown from one generation to the next, the current model stretches 4.06m.

Renault’s story very much reflects that of the Clio. Between 1990 and 2016, the company grew exponentially. Back when the Clio was born, Renault’s annual global vehicle sales stood at 1.8 million. Today, Groupe Renault covers three different brands, is affiliated with Nissan under the banner of the Alliance and sells 2.8 million vehicles every year across 125 countries.

One of the Clio’s raisons d’être has always been to make innovation accessible to all and to treat its customers to levels of equipment and refinement more commonly associated with higher-segment cars, whilst offering a comprehensive range of models including sporty and exclusive variants.

Having achieved more than 13 million sales worldwide, the Clio success story continues with the forthcoming presentation of a new version of Europe’s favourite small city car

Tags: clio clio RS