10 March 2014
Despite our somewhat unpredictable climate, we Brits do love a convertible. This might seem a little odd, but if you drive in hotter southern European countries, regular alfresco driving will only get you sunstroke: what you really want there is a good aircon system. But as we only get really strong sunshine for a couple of weeks a year in total, as long as itís dry, we can drive topless with impunity. As convertible sales have risen in the last decade, manufacturers have added variants to the model line-ups, which means drop-tops are no longer the sole preserve of sports cars: now you can get everything from a supermini to an executive saloon in convertible form. It is against this background that we greet the Renault Megane CC (coupe-cabriolet), the sixth and final member of the Megane family.
Powering the Megane CC is a range of three petrol and three diesel engines. Petrol engines comprise a 1.4-litre TCe that produces 128bhp and a 2.0-litre TCe producing 177bhp, both of which are turbocharged, plus a naturally aspirated 2.0-litre unit producing 138bhp, which is only available with a CVT (continuously variable transmission) gearbox. The diesels are a 1.5-litre dCi 110 producing 108bhp and 177lb-ft of torque, which is mated only with Renaultís new EDC dual-clutch automatic gearbox, a 1.9-litre dCi 130 with a 128bhp output and 221lb-ft of torque, and a 2.0-litre dCi 160 that generates 158bhp and 280lb-ft of torque. We were able to test just one of each type of engine, the turbocharged 1.4-litre TCe 130 petrol unit and the 2.0-litre dCi 160 diesel, both of which were fitted with six-speed manual gearboxes. The TCe 130 frankly struggled to pull the Megane CC along: the 128bhp just isnít enough for what is, at over 1,500kg, a heavy car for its size (thanks to a folding metal hard-top). Better is the 158bhp 2.0-litre diesel that is very refined and smooth, and offers as much punch as most owners will need. In fact, it makes for a very casual, relaxed drive and matches the personality of the car almost perfectly.
To drive, the Megane CC is perfectly decent, if unexciting. It handles well, with light but accurate-enough steering and decent levels of grip. However, itís just too heavy and when the metal roof is folded away, the car feels a bit too weighty at the rear, especially if you take bends or corners at a decent lick. If youíre expecting the driving dynamics of a sports car, youíll be disappointed: it will never stir the soul in the manner of a Mazda MX-5, for example. The ride is very good though, soaking up all the bumps, humps and potholes to leave the carís occupants unruffled. Itís definitely a comfort-oriented car and most owners will buy it for that reason, rather than because itís a sporty little number. Renault has also made a good fist of stiffening up the chassis to ensure that thereís not too much scuttle shake, the tell-tale sign of the shaking rear-view mirror being largely absent.
The Megane CC seems well screwed together and the perceived build quality is pretty high. The cabin is especially good, with decent-quality plastics and leather used in combination to create the kind of environment buyers of boulevard cruisers such as the Megane CC will appreciate. However, Renaultís performance in customer satisfaction surveys in recent years does pose a number of awkward questions about the reliability of its cars. The most recent JD Power customer satisfaction survey placed the company 22nd in the list of 27 manufacturers, and the Megane 87th in the list of the top 104 cars. The French carmaker is attempting to address these issues with a new programme of measures, but itís currently too early to tell if itís working. If there are problems, the intricate folding metal roof is one area that could be tricky to fix (there is anecdotal evidence of failures in the last iteration) and the previous version suffered from ignition coil failures. However, that said, this is an all-new version and the current quality initiative should address at least some of the old issues.
Safety is an area that Renault does tend to do well in, so while the Megane CC hasnít yet been tested by Euro NCAP, the standard Megane has a five-star score for adult occupant protection, four stars for child occupant protection and two stars for pedestrian protection. The coupe-cabriolet variant is unlikely to be any less safe. The new Megane CC also benefits from a newly engineered platform with an architecture that Renault claims will maximise occupant protection in frontal impact, side impact and rollover situations. There are also energy-absorbing features and the specific strengthening of areas of the car exposed to high stresses. In addition, there are numerous active and passive safety features, including front seatbelt warning lights, a tyre pressure monitoring system, bi-Xenon adaptive headlights, automatic headlights and wipers, seatbelt pretensioners, airbags (front, head/thorax/groin and anti-submarining Ďbags), rollover hoops that deploy in automatically, plus ABS, emergency brake assist and electronic stability control.
Despite the folding metal roof fitted to the Megane CC, thereís still a decent amount of bootspace, with 211 litres when the roof is folded and stowed away, or 417 litres with the roof up. This means that thereís certainly enough room for two peopleís luggage for a long weekend (and possibly longer). However, the back seats are going to be a bit of a squeeze for adults as rear space is at a premium. Thereís not much legroom Ė unless the occupants up front are very short Ė and headroom is also in short supply when the roof is up. Small children will also feel cramped - and if you fit a wind deflector, use of the rear impossible for anyone. No, the Megane CC is, for all intents and purposes, a two-seat boulevard cruiser with some extra luggage space in the back. The front seats are comfortable and thereís a good driving position to be had thanks to plenty of adjustability of the seat and steering wheel. However, visibility isnít that great, with large A-pillars and a high boot obscuring the view fore and aft. The roof, despite the extra weight it adds to the Megane CC, is very practical, offering better security than a canvas unit and adding an element of refinement. Obviously, open-topped motoring should be the default mode when the weather behaves itself, but when you do have to raise the roof, the cabin takes on a different character. The lid is almost entirely glass, so it makes the cabin very light and it adds an element of quiet calm. Itís perfect for cruising, especially if you fancy a break from the wind noise.
The Megane CC isnít cheap to buy, starting at £21,595, rising to £25,830 for the range-topping GT dCi 160. Thatís an awful lot of money, especially when you consider that class-leading coupe-cabriolet, the superior Volkswagen Eos, is priced at similar levels. Running costs wonít be that cheap, either: apart from the dCi 110 entry-level diesel, which returns a respectable 56.5mpg and emits just 130g/km of CO2 (which means it will cost £90 a year in vehicle excise duty), most versions are going to cost a fair bit to run. The three petrol engines have official fuel consumption figures in the 30s, with the more powerful diesels managing mid-40s: CO2 figures mean annual VED costs of £110 to £235. Residuals are likely to hold up fairly well after three years/60,00 miles, ranging 40-42%, our propensity towards convertibles allowing demand to stay strong.
Submitted: 06/09/2010 09:25:13
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