Renault always come good with hot hatches, it seems. This was one of the first examples of that, the Clio Williams.
Williams didn’t actually have anything to do with the design or engineering of this car. This was all done by Renault Sport, who are behind just about all of the great hot hatches Renault have come up with.
This is very much one of the simplest they made, with a 2-litre straight-4 in the front making 142bhp. 2 litres is quite big for a car of this size, mind.
Indeed, despite its simplicity, the Williams is consistently rated as one of the best hot hatches ever made. And since I’ve always loved a hot hatch, no matter how extreme, I was quite looking forward to a drive in the no-frills Williams.
The sound is quite noticeable, a lovely little roar that does suit the car rather well, even if it’s another amped-up example from Turn 10.
The speed you’re really going in a hot hatch such as this is never important; all that matters is you can thrash it about quickly. So I tried that with the Clio Williams…but found it understeering wide into Hockenheim’s first turn.
But as I turned off onto the short circuit, I lifted off the throttle and found it moving quite nicely, so I was thinking, “Aha, lift-off oversteer! It’s one of those sort of cars.” So I went for the same tactic into the next corner, and though I was coming in at some pace, the car…understeered wide again. Hmm.
Indeed, the Clio was quite confusing to figure out at first, and I was at first left thinking that it was just far too disobedient for me. But then I realised it would be, because it’s not really a car for me.
It’s probably surprising to hear this, but this Clio Williams can only thrive with a very good driver to hand. Because if you can hit a line perfectly, it’ll get through a corner perfectly. But if you try to attack it heavily, it’ll just be like “Nope” and be as front-wheel-drive as it gets.
It’s not a learning tool this, though. You won’t learn anything because it merely punishes you for your mistakes. Instead, though, it’s quite a good way of telling you just how good you are. Most of the time, I was rubbish.
So despite looking remarkably ordinary on the outside, the Clio Williams actually turns out to be a highly challenging car to drive. It’s not bad by any means, but if it’s anything to go by, I’m probably a bad driver. If you have confidence in your skill, you’ll probably love it. But otherwise…