Car reviews - Renault - Megane - Coupe-Cabriolet
Styling, roof mechanism, standard equipment, safety features, price, ride comfort, ergonomics
Room for improvement
Rera seat legroom, flimsy sunblind, steering, auto transmission, rigidity with roof down
22 Oct 2004
MORE exciting to look at than Megane sedan and exuding a classic beauty that’s less controversial than Megane hatch, the Coupe-Cabriolet is easily the best executed Megane II design we have seen.
Making the talented Astra convertible’s soft-top appear dated and the sexy 307 CC look simply deficient, it’s folding metal and glass roof treads a new path in convertible design that even the more expensive cabrio offerings from BMW, Benz and Audi cannot match.
Not just an aesthetic masterpiece, Megane CC combines the practicality of a folding steel roof and the benefits it brings in terms of rigidity, security and civility, with the visual advantages of panoramic sunroofs like those seen on SUVs such as X3 and Discovery.
In short, along with the ability to be both coupe and convertible depending on its driver’s mood (or the weather), Megane CC adds a third dimension by offering an unprecedented level of visibility. Like the $200,000-plus Porsche 911 Targa, it brings the outside in, but also doubles as a convertible.
Sure, this is easily the most expensive Megane and it’s no small change for a small car. But an abundance of clever design is evidence of the value the CC represents, even when compared to its closest rival, which also happens to be French and offers similar performance and handling, but less equipment.
Quick and super-quiet, the roof mechanism is fully automated, working at speeds of less than 5km/h by simply pressing and holding the centre console button, which also opens and closes the fully lined glass roof without manual latching as well as activates the four separate windows. Stowed in the boot, it leaves enough space for overnight bags even when the roof is down.
Inside, Megane CC occupants sit noticeably lower up front than their hatch counterparts thanks to lowered seats, which provide a little extra headroom. And it’s easy to find a comfortable seating position in the supportive, leather clad buckets that are fully (manually) adjustable, including for height.
A comprehensive trip computer, climate control, cruise control with handy speed limiter and plenty of storage compartments add practicality to the feeling of quality provided by the likes of the leather steering wheel and shiftknob cladding.
Combined with a height and reach-adjustable steering wheel and driver’s lumbar support, the familiar Megane cockpit is a pleasant and highly ergonomic place to be.
Not so the twin rear bucket seats which despite offering double the legroom of the previous Megane cabrio, remain tight for the long-legged and, like most four-seater convertibles, are a kids-only zone on long trips. Compensating somewhat is good headroom, memory slide and recline positions for the front seats to make entry/exit easier and outboard armrests.
Rear passengers also benefit from side windows and will appreciate the glass roof more than front passengers, who will barely notice it as its front edge begins directly overhead of them. The full-length manual sunblind is a little flimsy as well as being a stretch to extend from the driver’s seat and fiddly to slot into its two locating hooks, but should provide reasonable sunlight and heat protection.
When the roof is up, it could easily be mistaken for a coupe, with grey bumper inserts cheapening the otherwise classy look. With the steel and glass top down, the shoulder line is broken only by the windscreen and a pair of fixed rear rollover hoops, giving the Megane a true cabriolet profile. On the road there’s very little wind buffeting despite lacking a wind blocker, and winding the windows up reduced noise levels enough to permit easy conversation.
There’s a big difference in body strength when the roof is up, however, with the Megane CC’s generally taut feel disappearing once it’s folded away. The bane of most four-seater (and some two-seater) convertibles, scuttle shake, is virtually absent with the roof up, but presents itself in the form of a wobbling windscreen on bumpy roads, revealing just how much the steel roof aids the open-topped Megane’s structural rigidity.
While the general looseness doesn’t extend to the steering column and is perhaps not quite as disconcerting as the body flex found in the 307 CC, Megane CC is not as solid as the much older Astra convertible without its roof. As a result, variations in suspension geometry and wheel location as road conditions deteriorate mean the Renault is not as accomplished in the handling department as the Astra.
And we’ve never liked Megane’s electrically variable, speed-sensitive power steering, which feels a little springy during regular use, lacks communication and is prone to some bump steer during hard cornering on lumpy surfaces.
Otherwise, Megane lives up to its premium promise, its MacPherson strut front/torsion beam rear suspension offering supple low-speed ride quality and a good compromise between sporting agility and comfort. There’s a tight, 10.15-metre turning circle and a full-size spare wheel too.
Megane CC’s long-stroke 2.0-litre engine does a good job of hauling the heavier convertible body about, and feels more tractable than the 307 despite similar specifications. While it betters both the Peugeot and Holden by offering a slick six-speed manual as standard, its four-speed auto can be indecisive and Astra remains the convertible performance benchmark under $50,000. As is the norm for many European engines these days, Megane CC requires premium unleaded.
On the surface, Astra convertible is still the stand-out performer in this class, offering better performance and handling at a lower price than Megane CC. Similarly, the Renault betters the more expensive 307 CC in both respects.
But with top-class noise, vibration and harshness levels, more equipment than both rivals, a high level of passive safety features and a unique glass roof, Megane CC is more than just a pretty face, even if it lacks the brand equity offered by both the Holden (Opel) Astra and Peugeot 307.
Representing yet another sensible choice in the increasingly popular cabriolet market, Megane Coupe-Cabriolet is the style, image and value leader Renault has long needed.
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