From £15,920
Accept the C-C for what it is — a stylish cruiser with a very up-market roof — and it doesn’t disappoint. Thrill seekers look elsewhere

Our Verdict

Renault Megane

The Renault Megane looks bland, and it's not that good to drive either

23 September 2003

In a bygone era of political incorrectness, the new Renault Mégane Coupé-Cabriolet might have been disparagingly referred to as a hairdresser’s car. The connotations of the insult were hard enough to work out then – a car that tousled your hair so badly you needed to stop off at Toni & Guy – but, in a broader sense, I suppose it inferred that "very pretty" came several places above "very fast" and "handles like a dream" on the design wishlist.

It would be a brave commentator who tried to pin the put down on the most elegant new member of the now fully fleshed-out Mégane range, even though the prioritisation of style over speed and sportiness still holds true. Mégane the hatchback is a serious player, not merely Europe’s current Car of the Year but also, for the first six months of this year, its best seller. And, of course, it takes more than radical rear-end styling to accomplish that.

Anyone expecting similarly challenging aesthetics from the C-C, though, is going to be disappointed. Its relationship with avant garde is about as distant as Sacha Distel’s is with Nu-Metal. Nowhere does the shape cause gasps of disbelief, just a nagging feeling you’ve seen it somewhere else. And in profile from a distance, its kicked-up tail and general proportioning is reminiscent of the Vauxhall Astra Cabrio’s.

Close up, though, the Renault leaves the Vauxhall for dead. The flair is in the detail, and from some angles, especially with its glass-panelled roof in place, it’s exceptionally handsome. And like the Peugeot 307 CC Andrew Frankel drove last week, the Mégane C-C piles on the owner appeal by offering true Merc SL-style coupé-cabrio duality, and all the whirring kinetic-art roadside theatre that goes with it.

For our punt on the fabulously smooth roads that snake and squirl through the hills outside Seville, we’ve ticked the boxes marked 136bhp 2.0 VVT petrol engine, six-speed manual transmission and Dynamique trim level with elements of the comfort, luxury and handling packs (including 17in "Nervasport" alloy wheels, ESP/ASR traction control and CSV understeer control), giving an all-in price of £20,850 (£18,200 sans options). Prices start at £16,500 for the 115bhp 1.6VVT, five-speed Extreme and £19,000 for the 120bhp 1.9 dCi diesel.

If the C-C has a headline problem it’s one it shares with the bulkier-looking 307 CC: weight. All that structure stiffening, roof-folding hardware and, indeed, the glass roof itself have piled on the kilos, taking it to 1390kg.

It’s reflected in the claimed 0-62mph time of 9.9sec and the 127mph top speed: hardly in the nose-bleed zone. Subjectively, the 2.0 C-C barely feels that quick. Lots of revs and a close working relationship with the sweet-shifting six-speed ’box are your only allies if you want to travel briskly. It’s a real shame because the chassis, although set up for comfort (which it delivers in spades), has great poise, induces minimal scuttle shake, disguises its bulk well and even shows a glimmer of enthusiasm – with crisp turn-in, good balance – if you give it a hard enough kick.

I suspect that’s missing the point, though. Best switch your mindset to cruise, snuggle down into the lowered and extremely comfortable seats, enjoy the Mégane’s sussed dash design and ergonomics, let the balmy breeze do an Art Garfunkel on your rug and look forward to the moment you pull up outside T&G and hit the roof button. Sweet.

David Vivian

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