Renault Group

The Renault Clio: our history, your stories

14 March 2023

The Renault Clio has been an uninterrupted hit since its launch in 1990 – and 16 million of them have been sold worldwide so far! It is, quite simply, the best-selling French car of all time. As the restyled Clio V is about to debut, we look back at the Clio saga with an assortment of figures, photos and testimonials. Because everyone has a memory involving a Clio!


The Clio success story

Besides rising to prominence in Renault’s line-up, the Clio is the best-selling French car ever. Since the first generation reached dealerships in 1990, almost 16 million Clio cars have been sold in a no fewer than 120 countries!

16 million is a lot of cars! Bumper to bumper, 16 million Clio would circle the earth 1.6 times. No less! And, if you stacked them one on top of the other, they would rise 75,000 times higher than the Eiffel Tower! Feeling dizzy yet?

Why has it been such a hit? Because, when it reached the market to take over from the Renault 5, it revolutionised the multipurpose city car segment. And it came with new and improved features across the board (the chassis, equipment, overall quality, etc.) and then fanned out into a wide variety of versions, so everyone could find the Clio that was right for them at a price they could afford. “It’s not expensive enough, son”, an advert once said.

Every generation has taken the Clio’s DNA to new heights and built on the previous generation’s strengths. As a result, 30 years down the road, it is still one of the most emblematic cars in its segment, in every market it is in. And it hasn’t been voted Car of the Year in Europe once – but twice!

Still now, more than 1,400 Clio are made every day at the plants in Bursa (Turkey) and Novo Mesto (Slovenia). In Bursa, a Clio rolls off production lines every minute!

Everyone has a memory involving a Clio

It was in Boulogne-Billancourt, the Renault brand’s birthplace, that we had a few chats about the Clio with passers-by, with a sales rep and with customers at the RRG Boulogne dealership. And they had plenty to say! They all have an opinion, a memory or a story to tell about the “little” car that has come of age.

The Renault Clio? To me it’s a symbol of France and the epitome of cars you can count on. My father had a Clio II and, 25 years later, I learnt to drive in a Clio V. I have nothing but fond memories of this car.


The Clio is really a fantastic car. It was my first car and my son’s first car. He learnt to drive in one and has his own Clio now. Speaking for myself, the latest generation is quite a looker. I think it’s stunning!


I have nothing but good things to say about the Clio! It doesn’t consume much and is easy to park… It’s perfect to drive myself around!


I had some very memorable times with my Clio III. We’ve been together, so to speak, for 16 years and I’m selling it to buy a Clio V. I like the size: it’s not too small and not too big.


I’ve had a Clio II, Clio III and Clio IV. I’ve driven hundreds of thousands of kilometres in a Clio.


My first car as a mum was a Clio. My parents-in-law gave me one when my son was born in 1999. I’ve never had such a comfortable, convenient car.


My father drove a Clio, my sister drove a Clio, my wife drove a Clio. It’s a car that travels from generation to generation.


The Clio saga in 16 snapshots

Here are a few Clio that will look familiar – and some you may never have heard about before.

The very first Clio
Clio took over from the Renault 5 in 1990. It was positioned higher up the range, and shook up the city car segment. It also shot to the top of the sales ranking in France and was 1991 Car of the Year in Europe.

The Clio 16S
In March 1991, barely a year after its launch, the Clio range grew to encompass a sports version, the 16S, which in turn took over from the Renault 5 GT Turbo. Its 1.8-litre, 140-hp engine, flawless handling and jaw-dropping look propelled it to instant stardom.

The Clio Baccara
Clio got its chic Baccara sibling in 1991, as the Supercinq had before it. It featured leather and wooden fixtures inside, top-of-the-line equipment and a 92 hp engine. This trim was renamed Initiale in 1997.

The Clio S
In 1992, everyone could buy a car with a sporty edge. The Clio S was Renault’s zippy and affordable take on its star city car. It had the same 1.4 Energy engine but with stepped gears to clutch more swiftly and run up the revs to make the car roar.

The Clio Williams
The iconic Clio Williams appeared in 1993. It was named after the Williams-Renault team racing in Formula 1 and made sports car history overnight. Its Pearly Sport Blue hue, golden Speedline rims, 150-hp power plant and stiffened suspension made it the compact sports car everyone in its day wanted.

Memorable limited editions
Chipie, Be Bop, MTV, Oasis, Night & Day and Aida are only a few of the special editions that enhanced the Clio I’s line-up – and most of them are remembered to this day. Shown here is the Clio Be Bop, which came with a car radio as standard.

The Clio Electric
Renault was an EV pioneer even back in 1995 when it introduced an electric Clio with an 80 to 100 km range. Like the combustion Clio, it had four proper seats, classy upholstery and up-to-the-minute equipment. It charged in 8 hours, using any household socket.

The Clio Maxi
Clio took rally tracks by storm and soon started working magic on macadam in national championships with the Groupe A version. The Clio Maxi (shown here with the late Philippe Bugalski at the wheel) started competing in the Kit-Car category in 1995.

The Clio II
The second-generation Clio, introduced in 1998, was larger and rounder, and thus more spacious. Its full line-up includes the right Clio for everyone’s needs. Sports-car enthusiasts are especially keen on the Clio R.S. and Clio V6.

The Clio Symbol
In some markets where customers are fond of notchbacks, Renault built a Clio with a boot at the back. The first of this series, the Clio Symbol, appeared in 1999. It soon dropped the “Clio” and only kept the “Symbol” (or “Thalia” in some countries). After revamps in 2008 and 2012, it was replaced by the Taliant in 2021.

The Clio V6
You can’t miss the wider wings, and can’t help thinking of the R5 Turbo when you see them. Renault Sport dreamed up the Clio V6 in 2000, packed it with 230 hp and placed the engine behind the driver. This version is a collector’s item today.

The Clio III
The third-generation Clio came out in 2005 and moved up the range with a comprehensive array of equipment and 5 stars on the Euro NCAP crash test. And it earned Clio another Car of the Year award.

The Clio Grand Tour Concept
The eminently stylish Clio Grand Tour concept car released in 2007 augured the Clio III Estate released the following year. A similar version later became available for the Clio IV.

The Clio IV
The fourth-generation Clio was inspired by the DeZir concept car and reached dealerships in 2012. It was the first car to feature Renault’s new visual branding, was customisable and included an Estate version for families.

The Clio Mio
The Clio Mio was custom-made for the Latin American market, based on the Clio II, in 2012. It had a 4-year run and almost 550,000 were sold!

The Clio V E-TECH
The Clio V went electric in early 2019 with the ultraefficient E-TECH hybrid powertrain. It came with a new high-tech interior and advanced driver assistance features, including a level-2 autonomous driving system.

And this story will not be ending any time soon! Clio will unveil the next chapter in its story on Tuesday 18 April. So watch this space.


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