Renault's Wind breath of fresh air

PETER FRANZEN believes the new Renault Wind coupe-cabriolet could win itself a few admirers.When it comes to 'pushing the envelope' on car design, Renault's recent history has been, shall we say, interesting.

PETER FRANZEN believes the new Renault Wind coupe-cabriolet could win itself a few admirers.

When it comes to 'pushing the envelope' on car design, Renault's recent history has been, shall we say, interesting. Remember all the Renault marketing hype about 'shaking that ass' (a euphemism for does the bum look big on my Megane)?

Then there was the plain bizarre. The Renault Sport Spider, a two-seat roadster, debuted in France and eventually came to the UK in 1998. It looked straight out of Wacky Races, but they at least added a windscreen for the right-hand drive models.


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The Spider was the first real sports car from Renault since the Renault Alpine GTA, but now they have put that right with a new two-seater called the Wind Roadster. Once again it features bold styling that will turn heads, hopefully for the right reasons this time.

The first Renault to bear the name Wind was a 2+1 roadster concept car, presented at the Geneva motor show in 2004. However, the new production coup�-roadster only shares its name with the concept.

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In terms of design, packaging and engineering, the Wind Roadster's true heritage is Renault's long-established excellence in building small cars with sporting character. The dynamic performance and out-and-out driving pleasure that are signature qualities of Renault Sport engineering are fundamental to the car.

Renault Sport, based at the Dieppe factory, has been the creator of a whole range of 'hot' Renaults sold worldwide. This was originally the Alpine factory that Renault gained when they acquired the brand in 1973.

The Wind Roadster uses the same platform as the Clio II Renaultsport. Furthermore, the skills of Renault Sport Technologies (RST) have been exploited to give the sporting chassis the best possible balance of weight and structural rigidity. Thanks to this input, the Wind Roadster keeps its visual promise of rewarding performance.

There are two engine options - a flexible 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol unit and a more powerful, naturally-aspirated 1.6-litre VVT 133, the same feisty engine that powers the Twingo Renaultsport. It was this latter unit employed under the bonnet of my Dynamique S specification test car.

Exterior styling is one of the key considerations for customers considering this type of car, and Renault's designers knew from the start that the Wind Roadster had to be dynamic, robust and modern.

In profile, the Wind Roadster catches the eye with its sporty lines, steeply raked bonnet, high waistline and muscular profile.

The rear of the car incorporates a distinctive wing, which forms an integral part of the boot lid, and those who recall the Lotus Europa of the 1970s will recognise echoes of the past. Measuring just 3,833mm long, in size terms, the compact Wind Roadster slots into the Renault range between the Twingo and Clio.

Apart from the striking design, the Wind Roadster also has another 'party trick'. The hard top folds down but instead of compromising load space it retracts into the boot lid, and does it in just 12 seconds thanks to its ingenious yet simple design. It shares the rotating roof principle with the Ferrari 575 Superamerica, but at less than a tenth of its price.

So with roof up or down the boot space is constant and was plenty large enough for my golf bag, folding trolley and other golfing paraphernalia. But (Renault designers please note) it is difficult to close the large boot lid because there is nothing to get hold of.

Inside, the Wind Roadster is strictly a two-seater, and while the cabin area is generous, nick-nack space is at a premium - limited to two small door bins and an inaccessible 'crevice' behind the rear seats. But like the exterior, the dash design is flowing and contemporary with the main instruments housed in recessed binnacles.

Out on the road, the Renaultsport-tuned chassis gives remarkable handling and grip, yet the ride is firm rather than harsh even over poor road surfaces. It corners 'on rails' but the downside of the low-profile 17in alloy wheels is that they generate quite a lot of noise when moving at motorway speeds.

The 1.6 engine is a plucky little 16-valve unit matched to a short-ratio five-speed gearbox, revving nicely up to the red line at 7,000 rpm. That means 0-60mph comes up in a respectable 9.2 seconds propelling the Wind Roadster to a top speed of 125mph. This performance notwithstanding, combined cycle fuel economy is 40.3mpg.

This Dynamique S model comes with plenty of standard equipment including climate control, cruise control, trip computer, auto headlights and wipers, Bluetooth connectivity and a multi-function connect for MP3 and USB. Additionally, full leather sports seats are included in the price until the end of September.

The Wind Roadster opens up a new market segment for Renault and this fun-to-drive, but practical coupe-cabriolet, could win itself quite a few admirers with its striking looks and immaculate handling.

RENAULT WIND ROADSTER DYNAMIQUE S

Price: �17,300

Engine: 1,598cc, 133hp, four-cylinder petrol

Performance: 0-60mph 9.2 seconds; top speed 125mph

MPG: urban 31; extra urban 47.5; combined 40.3

Emissions: 165g/km

Benefit in kind tax rate: 21pc

Insurance group: 20E (out of 50)

Warranty: Three years/60,000 miles

Will it fit the garage? Length 3,833mm; width (including door mirrors) 1,913mm; height 1,381mm

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