The Renault Clio Williams buying guide – French hot hatch heaven

Renault Clio Williams (27)

The Renault Clio Williams was a class-leading hot hatch in its day, almost 30-years later its Renault Sport roots still imbue it with an undeniable charm.

Fast hatchbacks have seen a welcome resurgence in recent years but their first golden-era was in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s when cars like the Peugeot 205 GTI and VW Golf GTI ruled the roost. Renault always had a strong contender in the game too, and the 1993 Renault Clio Williams was a great example of the breed.

Developed from the Clio 1.8 16v, the 2.0-litre Williams was much more than just a larger capacity variant. It made an additional 15bhp courtesy of the increased capacity as well as a new camshaft, con rods and pistons. Renault Sport also carried out a comprehensive upgrade to the suspension which now featured uprated springs, dampers and beefier anti-roll bars. A wider track and wheels, ah those gold painted wheels, aided mechanical grip levels while the gearbox was also strengthened to cope with the extra grunt.

148bhp and 126lb ft may seem anaemic in today’s turbocharged world but with a kerb weight of under a ton the Clio Williams is still surprisingly quick and responsive, it was more than a match for early ‘90s competitors. Intended to be built in limited numbers, the massive demand saw Renault extend production from the original 3,800 units to over 5,400.

This irked the early customers but not as much as when Renault introduced the Williams 2 and 3 versions adding another 6,700 cars to that total. Despite many having been written-off or neglected beyond repair over the years, this does mean that there are still a few good examples out there today although prices are rising.

Renault Clio Williams Engine

 The 2.0-litre F7R 16-valve engine is unique to the Williams Clio and featured bespoke camshafts, con rods and pistons. They are hardy units but do need regular maintenance. Three oil gauges line the dashboard, be sure that all work and that the level, pressure and temp are correct. Tappets can become noisy over time; regular oil changes can alleviate the problem. This should be done every 6,000-miles or sooner if the car is used infrequently.

A healthy engine will have a strong torque delivery low down in the rev range and should rev freely to the 6,500rpm red line. Blue smoke under hard acceleration may indicate worn rings or worse. If you see white smoke check the head gasket and look under the oil filler cap to check for ‘mayonnaise’, a sure sign that water has mixed with the oil.

Renault Clio Williams Gearbox

The gearbox is strong so any excessive movement or crunching when engaging gears could indicate a hard life and big bills in the near future. Worn engine mounts can also affect the way gear changes feel so have these checked if they are overly sloppy.

Clutch actuation may feel stiff compared to a modern car, this is normal however they do get progressively stiffer as they age so check the service records for when the clutch and clutch cable were last done.

Renault Clio Williams Suspension and brakes

Only the later Williams 3 models came fitted with ABS otherwise the suspension and braking setup remained constant across all versions. Wheel bearings tend to wear out so listen out for grumbling noises. Front springs can crack and are expensive to replace.

The car should feel planted in the corners although there is a degree of lean and the rear end can feel loose in quicker turns. Not something that can always be checked on a test drive, but generally sloppy body control may indicate worn springs and shocks. Steering columns can exhibit a degree of play, if this is excessive physically check the linkages. The power-steering pump can be noisy and low fluid levels can exacerbate the noise.

Renault Clio Williams Bodywork

Rust can manifest itself in the usual areas such as under the rear arches, around footwells and around the door frames. Poorly applied stickers and missing bits of trim such as the side sill kick plate may indicate a respray.

Williams 1 and 2 models were painted in the same Metallic Sports Bluee while Williams 3 models had a slightly brighter shade of the same colour. Accident damage is not uncommon so watch out for ill-fitting body panels or incorrect colour for the model.

Renault Clio Williams Interior

The seats are covered in a soft velour-like material that tended to look a bit worn even when new. They should not be torn or threadbare unless the mileage is very high and you are looking for a bargain buy. Build quality overall was acceptable but rattles and creaks are par for the course. Check that the wear on the steering wheel, gear lever and pedals match up to the advertised mileage.

Williams 1 and 2 models did not come equipped with audio systems, if they are fitted with one make sure the wiring has been done correctly. The electrics can be troublesome so check that all the switches work as they should and that the electric windows work at a reasonable speed.

The original carpets were blue, check under them for any damp as this could indicate a faulty heater matrix or rust issues. Replacement interior trim is scarce, so original and unmodified cars are highly valued. You are really in luck if the suit carrier is still intact.

Model History of the Renault Clio Williams

1993: Renault Clio Williams introduced with 148bhp 2.0-litre engine and uprated suspension settings over earlier 1.8-litre Clio. First batch of cars were all painted in metallic blue with gold alloys. 5400 built in total. 390 units imported into the UK

1994: Williams 2 model introduced. Broadly similar to Williams 1 but now without numbered plaque. 482 imported to the UK

1995: Williams 3 model introduced. Sunroof and ABS now standard fitment. 308 made it to the UK with a total of 6,700 of both Williams 2 and 3 models built

Which Renault Clio Williams to buy

Thanks to their enduring popularity there are precious few bargains out there, the good news is that the majority of surviving cars are likely to have been well looked after. Despite the allure of one of the earlier models, prices over the three phases remain relatively constant.

As values steadily head on their upward trend it has become important to watch out for fakes, the first batch of cars had numbered plaques and did not come equipped with electric mirrors, a sunroof, ABS or even an audio system. Williams 2 variants did not have the numbered plaques while Williams 3 models came fitted with a sunroof, ABS and were painted in a brighter shade of blue. Most are pampered now but low prices in years gone by and the very nature of these cars means that many have led hard lives and accident damage is not uncommon.

The Clio Williams was the progenitor of the acclaimed Clio RS models and that alone would place among the all-time hot hatch greats. Yet it earns its reputation on its own merits, still capable of offering the kind of immersive driving experience that separates the merely good from the simply sublime.

Renault Clio Williams Specifications

2.0-litre F7P inline-four

Power:             148bhp

Top speed:      134mph

0-60mph:        7.6sec

Economy:       35mpg est.

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Text John Tallodi  Photos Newspress

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