Renault Clio Williams (1993 – 1995) Review
Renault Clio Williams (1993 – 1995) At A Glance
Proof that great hot hatches weren't just the preserve of the 1980s
Flimsy build, watch out for fakes
The Renault Clio Williams set the template for all of the hot Renaults that followed it. It was powered by a 2.0-litre 16-valve engine for an excellent power to weight ratio, ditching the vogueish need for a turbocharger. The Williams was uprated over standard Clio 16V by 200cc and 15bhp.
Even though it was called the Clio Williams, the F1 team played a minimal role in the development of this car. The transformation was carried out by Renaultsport, the firm’s motor sport arm. Originally, a limited run of 500 Clio Williams was planned, but, due to overwhelming demand, the company saw an opportunity and continued building them – much to the annoyance of those believing they’d bought a limited edition car. The subsequent Williams 2 was built on the same platform but the Williams 3 was heavier thanks to additional safety equipment such as ABS and therefore lacked the same amount of appeal as the original.
Driving Renault Clio Williams (1993 – 1995)
The Renault Clio Williams was launched in 1993, and for many, marked the end of what had been a fallow period in hot hatchback development.
The glory years of the 1980s, so epitomised by the Volkswagen Golf and Peugeot 205 GTIs, and Renault 5 and Fiat Uno Turbos, had long gone - to be replaced by easy-to-insure, hard-to-steal '90s sensibilities - however, no one Told Renault of this...
Classic road test: Renault Clio Williams
The Renault Clio Williams' DNA was rooted in motor sport. It was named in honour of Renault's F1 partnership with Williams Grand Prix engineering - which, in 1993 was its absolute zenith following Nigel Mansell's sensational championship season. But its raison d'être was rallying. The 2.0-litre Clio was built for homologation in order to gain its maker entry into Group N of the French Rally Championship.
And that meant although Renault's super-hot hatch was a brilliant F1-related marketing exercise, there was genuine talent underpinning it. The Clio Williams was based on the standard 16 Valve, but that car's 1.8-litre 16V ‘F7P’ engine was treated to a new crankshaft, pistons, camshafts and con rods, upping the power to 145bhp at 6100rpm. If the maximum torque figure of 129lb ft at 4500rpm suggested a peaky drive - as so many 16V cars seemed at the time - 85% of the maximum torque was available from 2500rpm.
To effectively harness the additional power, it received a reinforced front subframe that had been used on the Clio Cup race cars together with specific springs, uprated shock absorbers, front anti-roll bar and rear torsion bars. The new Speedline alloys were shod with super-low profile Michelin MXV3A 185/55x15s, and were painted gold with polished chrome rims. And all Williams models were metallic Sports Blue.
Ultimately, three versions of the Williams were made. At the time, that caused a number of problems, as owners of the original car felt agrieved with Renault as many had bought theirs, assuming that it was part of a never-to-be-repeated run, but the Williams 2 and 3 were subtly different, meaning the original really was original - even if it didn't seem it back in 1994-'95.
In total, 1180 Clio Williams models were imported into the UK, split into the following: Williams 1: 390, Williams 2: 482, Williams 3: 308, and production numbers were 5400 for the original version, with a further 6700 2s and 3s made.
About the Renault Clio Williams
The Clio Williams was an early adopter of the less-is-more approach to hot hatch tuning. In order to keep its price and weight down, Renault omitted ABS, electric mirrors, a sunroof, and an audio system. These were all standard on the cheaper 16V - but for Williams owners, the additional power and uprated suspension, more than made up for it. Besides, it still had electric windows, central locking and an immobiliser - more than the bare minimum.
Inside, the Williams was also rather different. It was fitted with figure-hugging velour seats with blue inserts. The seat belts and instruments are coloured to match, and look great - and unlike the car it replaced, the Renault 5GT Turbo, the Clio's interior feels well made and seems well screwed together. But as the one we're driving is effectively a 'new' car, that's to be expected. With 100,000 miles on the clock, it might be a different story...
On the road
Oh yes, our Clio is a bit special, unique even. It's car number 0001, and it used to be owned by Sir Frank Williams. It was sold back to Renault a few years back, and understandably doesn't come out to play very often, as it has less than 1500 miles on the clock. So with that in mind, we're going to treat it nicely, even though it's in thoroughly roadworthy condition, and riding on fresh, recent (energy) tyres.
With that in mind, we'll take Renault's performance figures on trust. The maximum speed is 134mph and 0-60mph time is 7.8 seconds, and it certainly feels that quick on the road. But it's not the fastest hot hatch you could buy - in 1993, if you wanted the ultimate pace, you could buy a Vauxhall Astra GSi or Volkswagen Golf VR6, both of which were endowed with more power and torque. But they were both far more expensive when new, and aren't remembered now - 20 years on - for their dynamic brilliance.
The alterations to the Clio's suspension set-up certainly created a car that's great, almost brilliant, to drive. On typical English B-roads, the Williams is at its entertaining best - the combination of its short-throw, wonderfully mechanical gear change, well-weighted accurate steering, and torquey engine, it's capable of quick progress. But it's not the speed that impresses, but the balance and traction, both of which are very good indeed. Cambered and lumpy roads really flatter the Williams - the suspension might be firm for low-roll cornering, but it's also beautifully damped, rounding off all but the sharpest irregularities.
The steering, although lacking in ultimate feel (and we'll put that down to this car's energy tyres), is certainly accurate and allows you to hit every apex with millimetric perfection. Plant the throttle at this point, you'll marvel in the Williams' brilliant traction, allowing the engine's ample torque to slingshot you to the next corner and do it all again. And the faster the corner, the more planted it feels.
And that's what makes the Clio Williams so special - its dynamic brilliance.
The HJClassics Verdict
The Renault Clio Williams exploded on the scene in 1993, and went a great deal of way to rehabilitating the hot hatchback after a years of joyrider, yuppie-fuelled bad publicity. The hot hatch bandwagon felt like it had blown itself out in the early 1990s with the 205GTI coming to an end, the pert Golf Mk2 becoming the Mk3 bloater, and the popular Escort XR3 utterly losing the plot. The Williams proved that '90s sensibilities weren't incompatible with joie to vivre lift-off oversteer moments. And thank goodness for that.
The Clio Williams also established Renault as the manufacturer to beat in the hot hatch sector. After years of Volkswagen and Peugeot hegemony, this was something of a breath of fresh air, and arguably, a new balance of power that remained in place well into the 21st century.
But less of that. The Clio Williams might occupy a fascinating place in the history of the performance car, but it's also exceedingly good, being pretty much the perfect classic hot hatchback. It has almost everything going for it - it's quick without being anti-socially fast, and handles so well, you feel rewarded every time you attack your favourite back road. It's also less of a compromise than the 205 or Golf GTI, or indeed a 5GT Turbo, because the interior won't implode with miles, you can cruise fairly effectively on the motorway, and it's easy to live with.
But it's also special, is appreciated by true aficionados, and will definitely appreciate in years to come. That being the case, grab one now, cherish and enjoy it. You'll never regret it.
Renault Clio Williams (1993 – 1995) Buying Guide
Buying guide by the Williams Clio owners' club.
- As soon as you come to look at the car, have a feel on the bonnet to see if it is hot.
- If it is hot, there could be things being hidden; such as cold starting problems, or idle problems.
- Have a general look around the car. Checking that the panel gaps are equal, remember this is a 10+ year old Hot hatch so its likely some will of been crashed in there lives.
- Have a look at the rear arches for rust:
- Have a good look around, checking where the bumper meets with the arch as this area can rust up too.
- You can tell if the arches have been done before by the sticker position and type, as there are various poor copies of the proper sticker.
- Then take off the petrol cap and have a look inside, this can tell you the true condition of the arch sometimes before it shows through.
- Have a look at the boot for its general condition paying attention to the rear wiper.
- If it is a Williams 1 check the washer jet for rust around it too.
- Open the boot and have a look inside for signs of rust:
- With the boot open have a look inside the boot.
- Looking inside lift up the carpet if it has one, and examine the floor for any signs of accident damage.
- Look inside the rear wheels at the rear brakes.
- These should be a disc and caliper braking system.
- Check if the rear discs have any rust on them.
- If it does it may have been sat around for a while, or the rear brakes are not working correctly.
- Check the rear discs again after a test drive to see if they have cleared.
- Have a look at the doors under the bump strip for any signs of rust:
- Open the door and have a look underneath it for any signs of rust as well.
- While the door is open. Have a look at the kick plate area, and make sure that it has the Williams kick plate.
- If it doesn’t have the kick plate, it may have had new sills or been re-sprayed in its life. Or maybe it is a Williams’s replica?
- Then have a look at where the B pillar joins with the sill.
- Look around this area for rust, as it is susceptible to stone chips which can start rusting.
- Check the sills along the whole length for any signs of rusting.
- Also try and look behind them if you can.
- The sills do get bent by mechanics jacking the car on the sill, rather than the proper jacking points.
- Check the windscreen for overall condition and look at the lower parts of the A frame for any signs of rusting, as this area is known for rusting on the Renault 5's
- Look at the front arches, these are made out plastic so wont be rusting.
- But have a look at the condition of it in the middle of the arch, if there is damage to the paint, then the wheel may be coming into contact with it.
- Standard Williams are known for coming into contact with the arch but if there is excessive damage then the car may have been lowered or had big wheels on in its life. Or an enthusiastic owner
- If you’re prepared to get dirty, lie on the ground and have a look at the subframe at the front of the car.
- Check it for any signs of rusting or accident damage.
- The subframe is susceptible to jacking damage so bear that in mind.
- Also check that the sump isn’t leaking/cracked as these are an expensive item to buy new.
- While looking under the car, have a look under the doors at the chassis rails and make sure these are solid.
- Looking inside the car check the condition of the seats and for bolster wear.
- The seats in the Williams do fair up to time alot better than the 1.8 16v seats.
- Check the general wear and tear of the steering wheel, pedals and gearknob to the mileage indicated. Does it all add up?
- Have a general look around the inside of the car, making sure it has the blue floor carpet.
- Check the carpet isn’t damp underneath the glove box. As this could mean the heater matrix is leaking.
- Test all of the electrics inside the car as they can be troublesome with age
- One common one is slow electric windows.
- Also check the full beam switch on the stalk works, as these can go to.
- Make sure that when the car is running you get hot air coming out of the vents.
- If you don’t, this means you may have to replace the heater matrix which is a labour intensive job.
- When you put the key into the ignition, make sure that the three extra gauges work, as these are known for not always working with age.
- Check that the oil level works; if the level is low this could indicate the sort of owner that owned the car.
- When you start the engine the oil pressure should rise, as long as it rises upto a decent pressure then all should be well.
- Oil pressure is regularly discussed about. If you are unsure about the pressure reading/not happy with it, then get the engine compression tested.
- When the car is running listen out to see if it’s idling right, it should idle at 900rpm.
- There are numerous idle problems with Clios. Some of which are cheap to fix others more costly. Worst of all they are often time consuming to pin point.
- When driving the car, you may notice that the speedo wobbles at lower speeds. This is due to the cable being worn at either the gearbox or speedo end.
- There is a revised contact mod available from Renault to resolve this issue.
- Check this for any signs of damp, and that it works fully.
- Make sure that on the parcel shelf you have the carry case for putting suits in etc.
- Look at the front door cards, the Williams 1 & 2 don’t have speakers in the door cards. So if they have been cut for speakers it could be abit tricky sourcing new cards as they where only available on these 2 models of Clios.
- Have a look at the condition of the gear gator, as you can’t get these new from Renault.
- Open up the bonnet, the bonnet release catch is found under the steering wheel, to the left of the headlight height adjustment.
- Looking at the engine bay you should see a large engine and not a lot of room.
- Looking at the engine, check the oil level on the dipstick. This is found at the front of the engine by the inlet manifold. The oil colour should be a golden colour if it has been recently changed. Make sure that the dipstick is yellow with a white dot on it, this indicates it’s the 2ltr engine. Although bear in mind it is simple to change around.
- Undo the oil cap and have a look for any signs of mayonnaise on the cap.
- This could mean it’s either done alot of short journeys or the head gasket is on the way out.
- Then have a look at the coolant bottle found just above the battery and to the left.
- If the coolant is rusty then this indicates that the cooling system has been neglected at some point in its life.
- With the coolant being neglected there could be future overheating problems.
- The bottle will stain with age so bear that in mind.
- Take the cap off, making sure that the engine is cold otherwise the coolant will come out.
- Have a look inside, to make sure you can’t see any oil in the coolant.
- Have a look at the cap to see if the seal is worn as this could cause future issues.
- Have a look at the exhaust manifold, make sure that it is a thin tubular manifold, this also indicates that the engine should be 2.0-litre.
- Have a look at the bulkhead, what is the condition of the heatsheild like?
- These are £50 from Renault so room for haggling if there isn’t one.
- As you can see here there isn’t a heat shield, which would be protecting the brake lines from the exhaust manifold heat.
- Have a look at the power steering reservoir, check the level.
- Power steering on the Clios is noisy due to the age of the units. So don’t turn down a car due to noisy power steering.
- Worst case you will need a new pump. But usually a power steering additive or a flush and re-bleed of the system keeps it quiet.
- To the right of the power steering reservoir is the main engine mount. Examine this for cracking and excessive play when the engine is on. These cost ~ £70 new from Renault.
- Just below the engine mount is where the fuel lines go up to the fuel rail.
- Have a sniff around here to see if you can smell petrol.
- If you can you will need to replace the fuel lines as there prone to wearing due to poor Renault routing.
- Have a look at the Ht leads and remove one to see if it is covered in oil.
- Rocker cover gaskets are prone to leaking on them. It is a cheap job to fix, but it’s something to haggle with.
- Have a look around the area for signs of water, on Renault 19s the plugs are prone to getting wet due to the rain catcher, so it’s a possibility that the Clio’s one could do the same to.
- Just above the headlight to the left of the slam panel is the VIN plate. Make sure you check this against the v5 and examine the rivets. If they look new it should raise concern.
- If you can look inside the front arches, try and have a look at the front springs, as these are known for cracking which will mean a mot failure and the springs are quite expensive from Renault.
- Have an examine of the exhaust, and make sure that you have the Catalytic converter supplied with the car or fitted. Aftermarket exhausts are all poorly designed so expect to put up with rattles and knocks if one is fitted.
- On the driver's side, open up the scuttle panel and have a look around here.
- You should see the jack stored here, underneath is where the ECU lives. Check for any signs of damp as this could mean future idle problems.
- Start the engine and listen out for any untoward noises. If you hear tapping it could mean that the hydraulic tappets are worn. This is quite common, and can be resolved with a few oil changes or an additive. Although it could need new tappets.
- If you hear any knocking then there could be some big bills around the corner. On the test drive wait till the oil temperature is 80deg before giving it full revs. One thing you should notice while driving is the low down torque the car delivers.
- If it doesn’t have any low down torque and only starts to go after 4k then it could have a 1.8 16v engine in it. The standard rev limit for the car is 6500rpm.
- Check that all of the gears change smooth without crunching. The boxes on the Williams are strong, but don’t take well to being rushed and misused so a lot do go. Accelerate up to say 4-5k and let off the accelerator and watch the gear stick for movement. There is usually quite a bit of movement in the gear stick but any excessive could indicate worn engine mounts, or mainly the dogbone mount. If the car is jumping out of gear then it will mean it will want a new gearbox soon.
- The clutches are always stiff compared to modern cars. This is due to the car being designed an LHD drive car therefore the cable isn’t routed ideally thus making it stiff. New clutches are quite soft though. If there are signs of the clutch cable being replaced recently this could mean that the clutch is on the way out as they tend to do this near the end of its life.
- Rev the car up to around 5000rpm and let it slow down under its own momentum paying attention to the rear window. Do you see blue smoke? If so not a cheap fix. While driving also keep an eye out for white smoke, this could indicate that the headgasket is going.
- Check the steering column for play whilst driving. These are common to have play in. The cheap option is to have the steering column welded up.
- Listen out for wheel bearings whilst driving, as the Clios have a habit of going through them. Check that the car brakes straight. The brakes when in good working order are good. The handbrakes on these cars never work amazingly well so bare that in mind.
- Keep an eye on the water temperature. It should be about a 1/4 on the gauge while driving. If possible try and get the fan to kick in to check it works. If it comes on quite early it may have had a low temperature thermostat/fan switch fitted. Why would it need one fitted? Could be related to rusty coolant/overheating problems.
Running Renault Clio Williams (1993 – 1995)
Renault Clio Williams
|129 lb ft