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Telegraph / Tech - Game

Throwback Thursday: remember the Renault Williams Clio, the archetypal Nineties hot hatch? 

This is the Renault Clio Williams. At first glance you'd be forgiven for thinking it's just a standard Clio, a competent if slightly bland Euro-box from the Nineties. But look closer, at this picture in particular - see how it's cornering, note those muscular haunches, those gold alloys, that bump on the bonnet. This is something very special; in fact many people would say it's among the most important cars of its type. 

This week's Throwback Thursday feature is an ode to the greatest hot hatch ever made. Possibly. Read on for more.

SAUTELET, Patrick 

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The Renault Clio itself was a seminal hatchback that has been one of Europe's best-selling cars since its launch in 1990. It arguably rejuvenated Renault's position in the market after a dreary spell in the Eighties and, now in its fourth generation, remains a cheap, attractive, pleasant supermini that rivals the Fiesta and Polo. 

That's not what we're here for, though. Renault introduced the Clio Williams around three years after the launch of the vanilla car, building over five thousand souped-up versions. 

It came with a 2.0-litre straight four engine that produced around 145bhp. Maximum power could be found at over 6,000rpm, and peak torque was 175Nm at 4,500rpm. None of these figures are particularly notable now (indeed, the new Ford Focus RS hot hatch produces well over twice the power) but considering the Clio weighs just over a tonne, that's a big dose of poke. 

A raft of other modifications were made to the Clio in order to enhance its performance. Better handling, parts from the Clio Cup racing cars, a front anti-roll car, and low-profile Michelins. 

What's more, weight was kept down by omitting such luxuries as ABS and a sunroof. Initially, at least - later versions (the Williams 2 and 3) came with a few more mod cons.

Aesthetically, it's aged extremely well. Those charismatic boxy looks are so charming in comparison to the unseemly bloat suffered by modern cars, 

The Clio Williams and the Clio 16S Group A car.

It's good for 134mph and it'll hit 60mph in under eight seconds. That means it can still hold its own against modern hot hatches on a spirited drive. Great traction, an obedient chassis and relatively communicative steering make this an incredibly fun car to drive fast. In fact, it rewards you more as the speedometer creeps upwards.

In all honesty, most buyers would probably get more from the upcoming Suzuki Swift Sport, which follows a similar recipe but which will undoubtedly be 'better' in many ways than a car which is in its late twenties. However, if you're interested in procuring one, you can follow Honest John's in-depth buyer's guide.

It's hard to overstate the importance of the Clio Williams in terms of its contribution to the world of performance hatchbacks. The fact that it's still remembered fondly (in a way that few Nineties cars are) is testament to its brilliance, timeliness and all-round likeability. 

For more Throwback Thursday features from the Telegraph motoring desk, please click here.

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