18 February 2004

Renault is eyeing up the Mazda MX-5 and Fiat Barchetta roadster market with this affordable soft-top concept named Wind, to be unveiled at the Geneva show next month.

The baby convertible, codenamed Z15, could become a showroom reality and is strong evidence that Renault has moved into a second phase of its design redefinition.

Wind was styled by Michel Jardin’s design team. Design senior vice-president Patrick le Quément said its lines were inspired by a ‘a pebble in a river’, as can be appreciated from an aerial perspective (picture).

Le Quément refused to commit on any production version, but hinted that it was production feasible. ‘This is a reasonable dream,’ he told Autocar. ‘It’s not the start of a production car at this stage, but a very interesting and realistic proposition.’

Based on the B-platform borrowed from the Nissan Micra and next-generation Renault Clio, Wind has a 136bhp 2.0-litre engine transversely mounted in the front and driving through a robotised six-speed ‘manumatic’ to the front wheels.

Renault claims 0-62mph in 8.5sec and le Quément suggested a final production car could be tuned for greater horsepower and a Renaultsport badge.

The roadster is distinguished by rounded corners, plunging bonnet and boot lines, and a Chris Bangle-aping mixture of concave and convex surfaces punctuated by prominent creases.

Other exterior highlights include slender, LED-equipped head- and tail-lights, a subtle bonnet-mounted air dam, and a split front air intake hiding dual radiators that allow a lower front end with a shorter overhang. Supplier Valeo says it can provide dual radiator components for Renault’s existing road cars straight away.

Inside, the emphasis is on design simplicity. Renault says it has tried to minimise the switchgear that often litters modern fascias. Its ‘touch design’ is an attempt at intuitive clusters of controls.A panel between the front seats lifts and reverses to make a third pinion seat for an innovative 2+1 arrangement. The front chairs are fixed, so the pedals and steering wheel adjust electronically toaccommodate each driver.

Wind is one of two sports concepts Renault will exhibit this year, the other rumoured to be a larger, rear-wheel-drive sports car due at Paris.

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