Renault Clio Williams Buying Guide

This first truly sporty Clio, developed in-house by Renault Sport, had all the right ingredients to challenge for the hot-hatch title in the early 1990s. Here's how to secure a good one

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How much to pay

• Project £3500-4500 • Good £6000-7500 • Concours £10,000-15,000 •
Most Expensive at Auction: £37,000 (Retromobile 2018-Clio Williams #001)

Overview

Practicality ★★★★
Running costs ★★★★
Spares ★★★★
DIY friendly
Investment ★★★★
Desirability ★★★★

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When it comes to sporty hatchbacks, there are plenty of modern offerings that appear to offer it all. Yet compared with the Renault Clio Williams, they all seem a bit too lardy, a bit too sanitised. That said, they also offer ABS (not offered on the early Williams models), airbags and far more power than this 25-year-old icon. However, if your requirements of a hot hatch are that it’s immersive, communicative and feels special at any speed, the Clio Williams quickly rises to the pointy end of the pack.

Developed from the Clio 1.8 16v, the 2.0-litre Williams was much more than just a larger-engined 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.

While 148bhp and 126lb ft may seem anaemic in today’s turbocharged world, with a kerbweight of under a ton the Clio Williams is still surprisingly quick and responsive, making it more than a match for early 1990s competitors. Although it was intended to be built in limited numbers, the massive demand saw Renault extend production from the original 3800 units to over 5400.

This irked the early customers – but not as much as when Renault introduced the Williams 2 and 3 versions, adding another 6700 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.

Your AutoClassics Renault Clio Williams inspection checklist

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 6000 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 6500rpm 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.

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Gearbox

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

Clutch actuation may feel stiff compared with a modern car’s. This is normal, but the controls do get progressively stiffer as they age, so check the service records for when the clutch and clutch cable were last done.

Suspension and brakes

Only the later Williams 3 models came fitted with ABS, otherwise the suspension and brake set-up 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. It’s not always something that can 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.

Bodywork

Rust can manifest itself in the usual areas such as under the rear arches, and around footwells and 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 Blue, 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.

Interior

The seats are covered in a soft, velour-like material that tended to look a bit worn even when new. They should not, however, be torn or threadbare unless the mileage is very high and you are looking for a bargain buy.

Overall build quality was acceptable, but rattles and creaks are par for the course. Check that the wear on the steering wheel, gearlever and pedals matches up with the advertised mileage.

Williams 1 and 2 models did not come equipped with audio systems, so if these are fitted make sure the wiring has been done correctly. The electrics can give trouble, so check that all the switches work as they should and that the electric windows operate 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 original suit carrier is still intact.

History

  • 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 all painted in metallic blue with gold alloys. 5400 built in total. 390 units imported into UK
  • 1994: Williams 2 introduced. Broadly similar to Williams 1 but now without numbered plaque. 482 imported to UK
  • 1995: Williams 3 introduced. Sunroof and ABS now standard fitment. 308 make it to UK, with total of 6700 of both Williams 2 and 3 models built

AutoClassics says…

The days of picking up a bargain Clio Williams may be long gone, but prices are still reasonable for good-condition cars and they are more likely to have been cared for, too. Despite the allure of one of the earlier models, prices over the three phases remain relatively constant.

Watch out for fakes; the first batch of cars had numbered plaques and did not come equipped with electric mirrors, sunroof, ABS or audio system. Williams 2 variants did not have the numbered plaques, while Williams 3 models came fitted with a sunroof and ABS, and as mentioned were painted in a brighter shade of blue. Many have led hard lives, so watch out for accident damage and walk away from cars with patchy service histories and evidence of neglect.

Many iconic hatches from this era vie for centre stage – the Peugeot 205 GTI, VW Golf GTI and even Renault’s own 5GT Turbo all have their followers, but prices for the best models have risen hugely in recent years. What the Clio Williams offers is a touch of early 1990s civility combined with a level of ability that is truly special, and at a price that’s still within reach for now.

Specifications

2-litre F7P inline-four
  Power 148bhp
  Top speed 134mph
  0-60mph 7.6sec
  Economy 35mpg est

Picture courtesy of MagicCarPics

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