Although its predecessor had only been on sale for four years, Renault realised that the Clio formula needed a radical freshening rather than a nip and a tuck here. Huge incremental sales increases for cars like the Honda Jazz had shown that when it comes to superminis, size mattered. Customers were no longer content with rear seats that fitted only children, nor were they particularly interested in luggage bays that forced them to buy a roof box if they were going away for anything longer than a weekend.
Making a suitably sizeable car and making it feel well built and safe at the same time as being sprightly and economical may have seemed like an unsolvable task to Renault's designers at first but the compromises they thrashed out work extremely well. The Clio III lifts the car into a new realm of sophistication and buyers have responded. The three-door cars started arriving in dealerships in September 2005 with some diesel engines delayed until November of that year. January 2006 saw the introduction of the more family-friendly five-door models but it wasn't until June 2006 that we got the racy Renaultsport 197 three-door car, followed by the even more focused R27 version in June 2007. Slotted between these two fire breathers came the high-spirited 138bhp Dynamique S trim in November 2006. In Summer 2007, Renault introduced a 100bhp 1.2 TCE powerplant charged with replacing both the 1.4-litre 16v 98 and the 1.6-litre VVT 111 petrol engines.
Winter 2007 saw the arrival of the Renaultsport 197 Cup model. A stripped down version of the 197 with firmer suspension, this model was aimed at trackday fans. At the same time, all Renault 197 models were given taller 5th and 6th gears to answer criticism that the car was noisy when cruising at high speeds. The Sport Tourer estate model made its debut in summer 2008 with 50% extra boot space in tow.
Whatever Clio III you want, finding a used example shouldn't be too hard. There is a lot of stock to choose from, so be fussy and negotiate hard.
In August 2008, Renault introduced a new line-up for the Clio III, with improved specification and more standard equipment. The Clio three-door range consisted of four trims, Extreme, Rip Curl, Dynamique and Dynamique S, whereas the five-door now had five trims: Expression, Rip Curl, Dynamique, Dynamique S and the range-topping Initiale. Prices were changed to include more standard equipment for a lower price.
In August 2008, Renault announced a change the trim level line-up in the Clio 111 range. Extreme became the entry-level trim for the three-door models while Expression became the starting point for the five-doors. Rip Curl, Dynamique, Dynamique S and the range-topping Initiale completed the line-up.
More significant changes surfaced in May 2009 with a comprehensive facelift bringing a more angular front end, better refinement and improved interior quality. The GT trim level was introduced as a bridge the Renaultsport hot hatch which in turn got more power and Renaultsport 200 branding.