Renault Megane CC's blue-sky thinking

The sky's the limit for Renault's new Megane cabriolet with its glass roof, says ANDY RUSSELL.It never fails to amaze me how many people pay a lot of money for a convertible and then drive around with the roof up on clear, warm days.

The sky's the limit for Renault's new Megane cabriolet with its glass roof, says ANDY RUSSELL.

It never fails to amaze me how many people pay a lot of money for a convertible and then drive around with the roof up on clear, warm days.

It was understandable when it was a real palaver undoing clips and physically having to fold down a soft-top roof but in an age of power hoods and folding rigid roofs they simply stow away in seconds at the press of a button.

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It isn't a fact lost on Renault for its second-generation Megane Coupe-Cabriolet, the final model to join the latest Megane line-up, has a huge panoramic glass roof which means it's sunny side up without being open to the elements even with the roof up.

It also gives the Megane CC a rather special selling point and gets it noticed against a host of tin-top convertibles.

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Renault has an impressive record in the convertible market, dating back to the 19 and original Megane soft-tops to the first-generation coupe-cabriolet which last year in its segment accounted for one in every 10 sales.

It's a good platform from which to launch the new model which, with Renault's revised family styling, is extremely elegant, roof up or down, with strong, sleek lines, a steeply-raked windscreen and head-turning looks.

And there's no excuse for not getting the roof down with the transformation from couple to cabriolet taking just 21 seconds as the glass roof panel and rear screen fold neatly into the boot. It's all very slick and while the standard rear glass wind deflector cuts buffeting in the back with the roof down, it's disappointing there was some wind whistle with the roof up at speed.

A wide range of engines sees 130hp 1.4 and 180hp 2.0-litre turbo and 140hp 2.0-litre CVT automatic petrol units and 110hp 1.5-litre automatic and 130hp 1.9 and 160hp 2.0-litre manual turbo diesels.

The cheapest diesel is actually the 1.9-litre model, mated to a smooth-shifting six-speed manual gearbox, and while this engine has been around a while it still does a fine job with low-down flexibility, punchy mid-range acceleration, quiet motorway cruising and 47mpg overall.

While GT models get a Renaultsport-tuned chassis, entry-level Dynamic models are more geared for comfort with supple suspension that soothes away bumps and lumps yet gives good body control through corners while the steering is light to take the strain out of parking but feels meatier at speed. Unfortunately it does feel quite as good to drive with the roof down, losing some of its body stiffness.

When I first looked in the back I thought there was no way it could carry four adults but how wrong I was. There's not a lot of legroom but shapely rear seats with upright backs make the most of what's available and it can accommodate four average-sized adults on long journeys in reasonable comfort provided those up front give up some of their ample inches. That said, it's quite tricky getting in and out of the back with the roof in place even though the front seats tilt and slide forward.

Coupe-cabriolet boots are always going to be compromised by the roof mechanism but with the roof up the Megane offers a useful 417 litres and with careful packing will hold a decent amount of luggage. With the roof down, there is just under half as much but still enough for three small cases beneath.

With a wide range of seat and steering wheel adjustment it's easy to find a comfortable set-up and the well-trimmed dashboard is easy on the eye with its conventional rev counter and large digital speedometer while controls fall readily to hand and you soon find your way round the audio and heating and ventilation switches. That said, the control panel for the standard integrated TomTom satellite navigation system take some getting used to and is not ideally placed between the front seats. The handbrake is on the passenger side of the centre console, angled away from the driver, clearly designed for left-hand drive, and it's very difficult to use it without brushing the passenger's knee - well that was my excuse!

Offered in Dynamic TomTom and GT trims, all models come loaded with electronic driving aids, airbags and safety equipment including roll hoops that pop up automatically. Dynamic also includes four electric windows and heated door mirrors, air-conditioning, keyless ignition, 17in alloy wheels, cruise control and speed limiter, automatic lights and wipers, front fog lights, Bluetooth phone connection and TomTom sat-nav. GT models add 18in wheels, sports bumpers and rear parking sensors but the sat-nav is optional.

The Megane has always been a popular cabriolet but that huge glass roof means the sky's the limit and opens up a whole new world.

Renault Megane Coupe-Cabriolet 1.9 dCi 130 Dynamique Tom Tom

Price: �23,095

Engine: 1,870cc, 130hp, four-cylinder turbo diesel

Performance: 0-62mph 10.6 seconds; top speed 127mph

MPG: Urban 39.8; extra urban 56.5; combined 48.7

Emissions: 149g/km

Benefit-in-kind tax rate: 21pc

Insurance group: 23E (out of 50)

Warranty: Three years/60,000 miles

Will it fit in the garage? Length 4,485mm; width (including door mirrors) 2,072mm; height 1,434mm

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