A storm is brewing in the coupé-cabrio market! This is the Wind – a
clever two-seater based on the Twingo which seeks to offer a real
breath of fresh air for drop-top buyers. Auto Express was first to
drive the desirable roadster.
Renault has taken a new look at folding hard-tops and come up with a unique and surprisingly practical solution. Twist a handle above your head, push a button on the dash and in 12 seconds the single roof panel flips back on its hinges, resting on top of the boot, before a cover slots neatly into place. The Ferrari 575 Superamerica used a similar mechanism, but it’s never been seen on a car in this class.
The benefit of ditching tiny rear seats is that with the roof up or
down there’s an impressive 270-litre boot – roughly the size of the
Clio’s. And at only 22kg, the roof and its mechanism keep the car’s
weight to a minimum.
The chunky, aggressive design is certain to turn heads. Chrome cowls on the roof cover and an integrated boot lip spoiler give the rear its unique identity, while there’s an entirely new front end and steeply raked screen. On our South of France test route the car caused quite a stir, with style-conscious residents reaching for their camera phones.
Inside, familiar switchgear faces you as you sit low in heavily bolstered seats. The trade-off is limited visibility; the pillar box rear window gives you little idea of what’s going on behind, and the gauze wind deflector obscures what you can see.
You can choose from two petrol engines: the high-revving, 133bhp 1.6-litre unit lifted from the Twingo Renaultsport or a smoother 100bhp 1.2 turbo. We drove the former, which needs to be worked hard to produce its best. However, past 5,000rpm it races to the red line accompanied by a brilliantly raspy exhaust note. For most buyers, though, the smaller, quieter engine will be easier to live with around town.
Despite weighing around 150kg more than the Renaultsport Twingo, and lacking the more extreme hatch’s hard-edged suspension, the Wind is huge fun in bends. The Renaultsport engineers’ input really shows: while the electric steering offers little feedback, the nose turns in sharply and the car feels light on its feet. It has clearly been infused with Renaultsport DNA, despite there being no RS badge on the boot.
The French firm deserves plenty of credit. It’s created a car which appeals to both keen drivers and style-conscious buyers alike – something that’s guaranteed to win the Wind many admirers.
Rival: Peugeot 207 CC
The craze for affordable coupé-cabrios began with the 206 CC in 2001. This variant picks up where its predecessor left off, with good looks and entertaining dynamics. It’s just a shame roof-down driving robs you of a usable boot.
* Price: £17,300
* Engine: 1.6-litre petrol
* Transmission: 5-spd manual, fwd
* Power: 133bhp
* Torque: 160Nm
* 0-62mph: 9.2 seconds
* Top speed: 125mph
* Economy: 40.3mpg
* CO2: 165g/km
* Equipment: Auto lights and wipers, 17-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning, cruise control, heated rear screen, aluminium pedals, CD with iPod connection
* On sale: Now