Renault's improved Megane Coupe Cabriolet features a glass roof that could provide an edge over the competition. June Neary explains.
Will It Suit Me?
Contrary to popular belief, the cardinal motoring sin isn't exceeding the speed limit, carrying out a ram-raid on PC World or driving a Humvee. Shameful though these activities are, they're nothing compared to the heinous act of buying a convertible car and constantly driving it with the roof up. Now, the Police might well have a different view on this but seeing people driving convertibles with the hood closed on sunny, dry days makes my blood boil like nothing else. Why choose a drop-top in the first place if you aren't going to make the most of it when the opportunity arises? If motorists are going to behave in this unreasonable manner, at least they could have the good grace to do so in a Renault Megane Coupe-Cabriolet, a convertible that feels like the roof's down, even when it's up. There are lots of affordable convertible cars based on ordinary family hatchbacks but the Renault Megane Coupe Cabriolet has a feature that helps it stand out from the rest. The roof is made of glass. Renault has engineered a folding glass hard-top canopy for the car that fills the cabin with light when it's raised. It's no substitute for a proper wind-in-the-hair drive but the experience is different to that encountered in an ordinary hard-top or a convertible car with the roof raised. Is this enough to give this recently restyled Renault an edge over the likes of Peugeot's 308 CC and the Volkswagen Golf Cabrio?
You give up a lot when choosing a convertible. Passenger and boot space are invariably reduced, the handling can come over a bit wobbly and the cost tends to be significantly more. As a result, it makes sense to stow that roof whenever possible. In the Megane, this is done at the touch of a button, the roof breaks apart and begins its balletic decent into the confines of the boot. 21 seconds later, the Megane CC is an elegantly proportioned convertible. The windscreen is a long way forward to maximise cabin space and aid access through the car's two doors. It's also designed to work in conjunction with the fixed glass wind deflector behind the rear headrests to reduce air flow through the cabin at speed - keeping your hairdo intact. The boot is only 211 litres with the hood lowered but rises to 417-litres with it raised and access to this luggage area is enhanced both by a wide aperture and a low sill height 590mm from the ground. The glass roof gives the Megane an unusual look, one that I like. Some hard-top convertibles set out to disguise the fact that the roof is removable through their styling but the Megane Coupe-Cabriolet intentionally looks like an open topped-car whether the hood is up or down. When raised, the glass roof forms a bubble over the cabin bringing an airy feel to the interior. The translucent glasshouse also gives the car a bottom-heavy appearance for a more purposeful stance on the road.
Behind the Wheel
The chassis of a car can loose rigidity when the roof is removed but in launching this Megane, Renault took a number of steps to keep it stiff and nimble on the road. The body of the car is a full 80% stiffer than that of the previous generation model while the MacPherson strut front suspension features Renault's innovative 'horned' subframe arrangement to improve lateral rigidity. There's also an electric power steering system designed to provide more feedback from the road surface. There's a choice of petrol and diesel engines available to fill the engine bay of the Megane CC. These start with a 110bhp 1.5-litre dCi unit, also available with Renault's clever EDC twin-clutch auto. Pokier is a 130bhp 1.6-litre dCi diesel. In between, Renault's impressive TCe (Turbo Control efficiency) technology is employed in the 130bhp 1.2 TCe unit.
Value For Money
Renault tends to give its cars a plentiful supply of gadgets and the Megane CC is no exception. Depending on the model, there's the Renault keycard keyless entry and start system, dual-zone climate control, an Arkamys 3D sound stereo system and the Carminat TomTom satellite navigation technology. All models now get the clever R-Link infotainment touch screen. And safety kit is also generous with ESP stability control fitted as standard along with a full complement of airbags. The car is also designed to protect occupants in the event of a roll-over with specially reinforced windscreen pillars and body structure. You pay quite a premium over a standard Megane for that convertible roof (prices start at around £23,500) but it is quite a feat of engineering and provided they use it as often as the British weather permits, owners should get their money's worth. The Peugeot 308CC is probably the key rival for this Megane. Then there's the Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet and more expensive premium-brand models like the Audi's A3 Cabriolet and the BMW 2 Series Convertible. None have a glass roof, so who can blame Renault for making big play of it.
Could I Live With One?
With its retractable glass canopy serving as a handy unique selling point at the affordable end of the convertible market, the improved Megane CC is an impressive effort. The glass roof makes for a lighter, airier cabin than most convertibles and contributes to the Renault's well-resolved exterior styling. Reasonable practicality for a convertible of this type also counts in its favour and the car looks to have a fighting chance of success.