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.


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.


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)

The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
Life and Style

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister

Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
Northern soul mecca the Wigan Casino
fashionGone are the punks, casuals, new romantics, ravers, skaters, crusties. Now all kids look the same
Life and Style

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

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

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Year 5 Teacher

    £80 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Year 5 Teacher KS2 teaching job...

    Software Developer

    £35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...

    Systems Analyst / Business Analyst - Central London

    £35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...

    Senior Change Engineer (Network, Cisco, Juniper) £30k

    £30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...

    Day In a Page

    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

    Salisbury ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities

    The city is home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, along with the world’s oldest mechanical clock
    Let's talk about loss

    We need to talk about loss

    Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album