Renault's glass-roofed Megane CC is aiming to bring a new level of elegance to the affordable folding hard-top convertible market. Jonathan Crouch takes a look at the revised version.
Ten Second Review
You've heard of convertibles with fabric roofs and metal roofs? Well here's one with a glass roof. Renault is banking on its heavily-glazed Megane Coupe-Cabriolet offering a clear difference over rivals at the affordable end of the drop-top market. To do so, it needs to minimise the usual compromises associated with compact open-top cars sporting four seats, paying particular attention to practicality, driving dynamics and integrating a bulky roof mechanism without sabotaging the styling. A difficult task that remains so for this revised version.
It seems that after a decidedly shaky start, we're getting there with folding hard-top convertibles. The idea can be traced back to the 1930s, as Renault's rivals at Peugeot never tire of reminding us, but it's much more recently that the technology has started to become commonplace on vehicles with mainstream price tags. The best exponents to date have been two-seater roadsters but the presence of a solid roof big enough to cover a genuine four-seat cabin is much more problematic for designers - especially at the accessible price-point where Renault's Megane operates. Early folding hard-top models like the Peugeot 307CC and the previous generation Megane Coupe-Cabriolet placed major restrictions on rear passenger and boot space. They also tended to look rather rotund around the hindquarters and you could really feel the extra weight in action when you stomped the throttle or pitched the car into a corner. In time-honoured fashion, the leading manufacturers have been busy learning from past mistakes and the modern Megane Coupe-Cabriolet should give a good indication of where they're at. Let's check out this smarter, more efficient version.
Stiffness is the friend of sharp, responsive handling but it tends to go walkabout when a car is divested of its roof. To help the Megane Coupe-Cabriolet retain as much of the road-going poise of the three-door Coupe and five-door Hatch models as possible, Renault took a number of steps to stiffen the chassis and the suspension. The body of the car is a full 80% stiffer than that of the previous generation Megane CC while the MacPherson strut front suspension features the Megane'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. You probably won't expect this Renault to be especially rapid. But a car can still be responsive, even if it isn't downright quick and the 130bhp 1.2-litre TCe petrol variant we tried is a perfect example of that. Although it takes 11.2s to cover the rest to sixty mph sprint, its roll-on pace through the gears is actually pretty impressive thanks to the engine's ample torque. The petrol engines need a bit of revving to produce their very best, which inevitably has an impact on fuel economy, so you may well feel that a diesel would be a better bet. The 110bhp 1.5-litre dCi option (which comes complete with option of Renault's clever EDC twin-clutch auto) might struggle a little of you're doing lots of open-road work, but the 130bhp 1.6 dCi unit is as flexible as you would hope.
Design and Build
This improved version gets the front end re-style recently introduced to other Megane models. What's important though is that roof. 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 extra illumination and an airy feel to the interior. The translucent glasshouse gives the car a bottom-heavy appearance for a more purposeful stance on the road. 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 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. Elsewhere, the interior design is similar to the Megane hatchback models with the same classy materials on display. 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.
Market and Model
Renault's usual raft of technology and safety features is featured in the Megane Coupe-Cabriolet. All variants now get the R-Link infotainment touch screen and, depending on the version concerned, 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. 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. Folding hard-top cars are widespread these days and there's a select group of vehicles that the Megane CC will need to face down if it's to win the battle for sales. The Peugeot 308CC is probably the key rival. Then there's the Volkswagen Golf Cabrio and more expensive premium-brand models like the Audi's A3 Cabriolet and the BMW 2 Series Convertible.
Cost of Ownership
Both of the diesel engines in the Megane Coupe Cabriolet come fitted with DPF particulate filters to keep a check on emissions. Despite the extra weight of this convertible model, economy shouldn't be a million miles away from what's achieved by Megane hatchbacks with the same engines. The 1.6 dCi 130 diesel returns 62.2mpg on the combined cycle and puts out 115g/km of CO2. The 1.5 dCi unit manages 62.8mpg and 115g/km and comes with the option of an EDC automatic gearbox option that's designed to bring minimal fuel consumption penalties. There's also a 130bhp 1.2 TCe petrol unit that manages 44.1mpg and 145g/km.
Affordable folding hard-top cars used to ask some pretty big sacrifices of their owners. Today's models are beginning to look and feel less like they're built around a hefty, complex roof mechanism and more like fully-developed cars in their own right. Which ought to bode well for this improved Megane Coupe Cabriolet with its well integrated folding glass roof, four-seat layout and great emphasis on preserving the driving dynamics of the Megane hatchbacks. Looking for a more laid back open-top family hatch-based cabrio? This one might well suit.