Ask men of a certain age to name five famous Nicoles and they’ll give you a knowing wink and a Carry on France chuckle, before mentioning “that there Nicole from those Renault Clio ads.”
It’s thanks to the television ad campaign – which first aired on 1 April 1991 – that Nicole and the Clio will be forever joined at the hip.
There was just something about Nicole. She had that ‘girl next door look’, which meant that – to this 16-year-old author – there was the slimmest chance she might give you a friendly smile if your eyes happened to meet in crowded Parisian café. Of course, to live next door to Nicole and her Papa, you’d have to be wealthy enough to afford a Provencal Chateau.
The ad campaign worked, with the Renault Clio thrust into the public consciousness. The Renault 5 was dead, long live the Renault Clio. Indeed, between 1991 and 2000, the Mk1 Renault Clio shifted 3,751,981 units, of which 334,944 happened to be in the UK. This makes it more successful than the Mk3 Clio, which was sold over a longer period.
For a while, PetrolBlog has been looking at the Mk1 Renault Clio in much the same way as teenagers looked at Nicole in the 1990s. It’s just so pert, so pretty, so compact. A bit like Nicole, then? It also looks great with a pair of yellow fog lights. A bit like… No, that doesn’t work. And we’re certainly not going down la rue of Nicole and a great pair…
The question is, who or what has aged better: Nicole or the Mk1 Renault Clio?
It’s a tricky question, because while the Mk1 Renault Clio has just turned 25, Nicole – or rather Estelle Skornik – is 44. And sadly, PetrolBlog doesn’t move in the same circles as Nicole, so while it’s easy to hang around outside Asda, waiting for a Mk1 Renault Clio to pass, you’re unlikely to catch a glimpse of Nicole.
This photo was tweeted in 2014 and looks to be a good representation of a 40-year-old Nicole.
Nicole et Papa. Estelle Skornik pic.twitter.com/Aq7fWKh3Q9
— adewilliamsdesigner (@ade73) May 1, 2014
Will the Mk1 Renault Clio look this good in 15 years time? It’s debatable. Rust, blue smoke, ‘tasteful modifications’ and Scrappage are things Nicole need not concern herself with, but for the Clio, they linger like the whiff of a stubbed-out Gauloises.
Of course, the Williams is the most famous and therefore most desirable of the Mk1 Renault Clio breed, but there’s joy to be had further down the range. A tidy three-door phase 1 Clio is a thing of real beauty, especially with a pair of yellow fog lights perched beneath the bumper.
And there’s good news, because solid and cared-for examples do appear on eBay and most are sensibly priced. More often than not, they are one-owner cars, originally bought by women who fancied themselves as a British Nicole. That’s opposed to the men who just fancied Nicole.
It is destined to age so much better than the subsequent models. Unlike Nicole, the Clio has grown fatter and stodgier over time. The current Mk4 Renault Clio is a fine supermini, but we had to keep reminding ourselves we weren’t driving a Renault Megane.
So, good reader of PetrolBlog, is the Mk1 Renault Clio worthy of PetrolBloggy status? For us, it has to be the phase 1, built between 1991 and the launch of the phase 2 in 1994. A Clio Baccara would do nicely, thank you very much.
Ponder this question for a while, as we head across the Channel to hang about outside certain branches of Carrefour, on the off chance that Nicole might be doing some shopping. In a Renault Avantime.
Think of that – Nicole in a Renault Avantime. Sweet dreams…