Renault Megane CC dCi 130

Latest coupé-cabrio aims to move upmarket from pioneering original

Combining four-seater practicality with fresh air thrills has become a Renault speciality. The company first pulled off the trick in 1991, when it chopped the roof from its 19 hatchback – and by 2003, its convertibles had hit their sweet spot, when the previous-generation drop-top Mégane appeared in dealers here.

The C-C – short for Coupé Convertible – mixed eye-catching looks with the first folding metal roof Renault had ever produced.

It accounted for 10 per cent of all Mégane sales, and was one of the most popular choices in the compact cabriolet sector, behind the Peugeot 207 CC.

Now, bosses have pulled the wraps off an all-new version – and it’s gunning for the top.

What’s immediately obvious is that the newcomer is unlikely to achieve this success based on its styling alone. Slab sides and a heavy-looking tail add little to the Mégane’s visual appeal, while the messy mix of silver windscreen pillars and black roof rails jars. Things improve when you lower the C-C’s folding hard-top – as the car takes on a long and low appearance, which is more elegant than the short A3.

You’ll have to wait a while to benefit from the open-top look, though, because the Renault’s roof takes nearly twice as long to stow as the fabric set-up on the Audi. Press the switch on the centre console, and the mechanism whirrs and clunks as it folds the metal and glass structure behind the rear seats in a leisurely 22.8 seconds.

Once lowered, the hood is completely hidden away, leaving the Mégane with a tidy rear deck. But the rather cumbersome set-up eats into the luggage space, reducing capacity from a useful 417 litres to only 211 litres.

Our tests also revealed that when the metal roof was in place, the Renault had no real advantage in refinement on the move – our noise meter readings were virtually identical. Wind buffeting with the top down was less of an issue in the C-C, though.

While the exterior design is questionable, the Mégane’s cabin provides a welcome dose of flair and desirability. The dashboard features clean lines and has an abundance of soft-touch materials, and stands out from the A3’s sombre layout. It’s also packed with equipment. Our Dynamique test car was fitted with sat-nav, Bluetooth and cruise control as standard – all of which are extra on the Audi.

It falls behind on space, however – even though the Renault is larger, occupants will find it more cramped than the compact A3. Passengers in the individual rear seats get limited legroom, while the steeply rising waistline means restricted visibility. At the test track, the C-C regained the upper hand, with its punchy 128bhp 1.9-litre engine. It’s mated to a slick six-speed gearbox, and gave the car quicker times in our performance tests. The Mégane covered 30-50mph in fourth gear in only 5.5 seconds – faster than the A3 could manage in third!

The trouble is, this advantage in pace isn’t obvious from behind the wheel, as the Renault’s diesel isn’t happy to be worked hard. Once you go beyond 3,750rpm, power tails off significantly.

As you’d expect, the C-C has been designed for comfortable cruising rather than as a rival to a razor-sharp roadster. The suspension effortlessly soaks up big bumps, although smaller imperfections result in a fidgety ride. Despite the soft set-up, the Renault is surprisingly agile in corners. The steering is direct, there’s plenty of grip and body control is surprisingly good. However, when you lower the roof, there’s an increase in body flex, and the weight it adds at the rear when stowed brings a disconcerting pendulum effect through slower corners.

Yet while the Renault doesn’t deliver the sharpest driving dynamics, it has price on its side. Is this value-for-money approach enough to secure victory?

Details

Chart position: 2WHY: Folding hard-top Renault aims to combine coupé looks and refinement with open-air thrills. Add value pricing and a long kit tally, and the Mégane promises to be a desirable choice.

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