Motoring: The Independent Road Test: Phew and far between: The new, blue Clio Williams is a rare treat: buy now or miss out, says Roger Bell

Some limited-edition cars are mere marketing ruses, contrived - with the help of cut-price equipment and a meaningless name - in an effort to drum up business. The Renault Clio Oasis is a case in point. Other limited editions are created through dynamic development and with serious intent. Another Renault Clio, the Williams, falls firmly into the latter category.

The Clio Williams is what is known in the trade as a 'homologation special'. According to the rules of international rallying, a production car is one of which at least 2,500 examples have been built; manufacturers who want to enter Formula 2 rallying for production cars - as Renault did with a 2.0- litre Clio - develop a special version in a limited edition to meet the rule and achieve 'homologation'.

Why is this Clio called 'Williams'? That is a marketing ruse. The Williams Grand Prix team, which won the world championship with Renault-powered cars, had nothing to do with the 2.0 Clio's development. The Williams logos on the flanks and seats are there merely to add kudos.

At pounds 13,275 the quick Renault is good value, undercutting Vauxhall's 2.0 Astra GSi by more than pounds 2,500; its insurance group rating, though, is a stiff 17, against the Vauxhall's 15. Another model in the Clio range, the 16V, emphasises both the keen price of the Williams and the harsh view the insurance companies take of it. The 16V has the same muscular bodywork as the Williams but a less powerful engine; it is only pounds 350 cheaper, but falls into insurance group 12.

The Clio Williams has a widened track, firmed-up suspension, and a 150bhp engine driving the front wheels through a close-ratio five-speed gearbox. Only available in metallic blue with gold alloy wheels, the car comes with a numbered plaque on the dashboard to emphasise its rarity.

Performance is strong, particularly at high revs, but not decisively stronger than that of the 137bhp 1.8 Clio 16V, which comes better equipped. To pare costs and weight, Renault has denied the Williams anti-lock brakes, electric mirrors, a sunroof, even the delightful fingertip audio controls fitted as standard to the 16V. You do, however, get powered steering, windows and locks, and an exasperating (but necessary) engine immobiliser.

Also standard are special seats that are sumptuous in their embrace. Although the driving position is flawed (you cannot adjust the steering column) those seats keep you comfortable for several hours at the wheel, even with suspension that is sports-car firm.

The Williams has a top speed of over 130mph, but it is not at its best on motorways because of the low gearing and high engine noise. On the twisty minor roads for which it was developed, the Clio is wonderfully entertaining, with a snappy, short-throw gear-change that encourages use of the gearbox, and tenacious, crisp handling.

The French have a good track record with performance hatchbacks, but the Clio Williams emulates even Renault's giant-killing 5 Turbo and Peugeot's evergreen 1.9 205 GTi. The car's joie de vivre is intoxicating, its brakes and grip reassuringly strong.

The blue of the exterior continues inside, to the instrument faces, seat belts, carpets, gearknob and badging. Although getting into the back seat is awkward, the Clio is a roomy and practical car by 'supermini' standards - if not by those of other pounds 13,000 models. If you want a Clio Williams, do not dither. Renault says it will make 5,000 of these cars, double the requirement of the rallying rules; but there will be only 400 with right-hand drive. And most of those have already been sold.

SPECIFICATIONS

Renault Clio Williams, pounds 13,275.

Engine: 1,998cc 16-valve four-cylinder twin-cam developing 150bhp at 6,100rpm and 129lb/ft of torque at 4,500rpm. Transmission: five-speed manual gearbox, front-wheel drive. Performance: 0-60mph in 7.5 seconds, top speed 134mph, fuel consumption 26-33mpg.

COMPARISONS

Citroen ZX 2.0i 16V, pounds 14,995.

One size up from the Clio, so bigger and roomier. Sharp-steering, crisp-handling three-door that goes well but promises more excitement than it delivers.

Fiat Tipo 16V, pounds 13,694.

A roomy, vroomy driver's car, now available only in three-door form. Fine, no-roll cornering, firm suspension and bags of brio; the smooth engine is noisy but feisty. Deserves greater recognition.

Ford Fiesta RS1800, pounds 11,995.

Ford's smallest hot hatch is better than the patchy old Turbo it replaced, not as good as the Clio Williams it undercuts. Goes and grips hard but lacks handling finesse. Nicely finished, however.

Honda Civic 1.6VTi, pounds 14,560.

Crisp handling tearaway with startling performance: the high- revving engine yields 158bhp. Round-back styling and split tailgate look good but cut luggage space.

Vauxhall Astra 2.0 GSi, pounds 15,780.

Attractive and very comfortable. Ride and handling have been improved, but chassis dynamics still not up to the Clio. Vigorous performance from noisy engine. Nicely made, feel-good cabin a strong lure.

(Photograph omitted)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Client Services Manager - Relationship Management - London

    £30000 - £32000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

    Recruitment Genius: Credit Controller / Customer Service

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding business...

    Recruitment Genius: Electronics Engineers / Senior Electronics Engineers

    £25000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Based in Henley-on-Thames, this...

    Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

    Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

    Day In a Page

    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project