The Renault Wind has caused quite a lot of excitement in the CAR office, and not (as you might be thinking) because it gives us a legitimate excuse to make flatulence-based puns.
Silly name aside, the Wind is a good looking little coupe-convertible, with a clever flipping roof and a chassis tuned by Renaultsport. Add in competitive pricing – the range starts at £15,500 – and Renault potentially has a bit of gem on its hands. Plus it’s on sale now in the UK (and Slovenia, of all places), just in time for the summer sun, while the rest of Europe must wait until September before they can buy one.
So, is the Wind any good or is the hype a lot of hot air? Read on for CAR’s first drive review of the new Renault Wind.
So what is the Renault Wind, a Twingo or a Clio?
Both, effectively. The second-gen Twingo was based on the Mk2 Clio, so deep down it’s a Clio. However, just as that Clio platform was tweaked to become a Twingo, so the Twingo chassis has been adapted to become the Wind. And Renaultsport has been solely responsible for developing the Wind – the current hot hatch kings have done all the tuning and tweaking on their own, away from Renault’s main engineering team, so we’ve got high hopes.
So the chassis is sorted, and it looks pretty good too…
It does, at least in pictures where it appears squat and purposeful. Everything seems just right – the 17in wheels more than fill the arches, the hidden door handles are cool, and the rear styling (from the sloping B-pillars, to the flying buttress deck) is particularly interesting and attractive. It’s very stylish.
But in the metal it’s just a bit too tall and a bit too narrow, the nose looks like a bad copy of the Ferrari California, and when we passed an old 206CC near Nice (the launch location), the Peugeot suddenly seemed rather attractive.
Inside you’ll find Twingo bits and pieces (steering wheel, air-con controls, door handles, etc) but the dash architecture is unique and so are the dials. But it feels built to a price – the plastics aren’t brittle, but they are hard. There’s also a terrible reflection off the instrument shroud and onto the windscreen in bright sunlight, and with two big blokes on board it feels rather cramped. Plus you sit too high (as in a Twingo) so if you’re tall like me you’re going to headbutt the windscreen header rail in a crash, before snapping back and smashing your head on the rear rail. Then again, I’m not the target market and shorter, skinnier women will be fine.
What about stuff like the spec?
Apart from a limited edition Collection model (just 200 are coming to the UK), the Wind is available in Dynamique and Dynamique S trim levels, both of which are offered with either engine. The base model is the £15,500 1.2 TCe Dynamique, undercutting the cheapest 207CC by £1595 and the most basic MX-5 by £1745, while another £900 nets you the 1.6 VVT engine. The Dynamique S with the turbocharged 1.2 is also £16,400, and again another nine hundred notes will upgrade you to the more powerful 1.6.
Dynamique cars come with 16in alloys, ESP, air-con, electric and heated door mirrors, cruise control, fog lights, and an AUX input, while the S adds inch-bigger wheels, an alarm, auto lights and wipers, a better stereo, a USB connection and Bluetooth connectivity. The only notable options are metallic paint (£405), and heated leather seats (£950).
>> Click ’Next‘ below to read more of our Renault Wind first drive
Tell me about this fancy Ferrari-style roof
Yes, you may indeed see the similarity to the flip-top hood of the limited-edition Ferrari 575 Superamerica – both the Italian and the much cheaper French offering have roofs that pivot from the B-pillar and flop backwards. But while the 575’s roof merely sat up-ended on the rear deck, catching dust and debris to dump back on the occupants, the Wind’s twin-buttress back end lifts up from between the rear lights to let the one-piece roof tuck safely away. The stowed roof then lifts up with the boot lid, and gas struts make sure it’s not too much of an effort.
And to make all this happen you manually unlatch the roof on the windscreen header rail, before a 12-second press-of-a-button sees the top flip away under the rear deck. The B-pillars and rear screen stay in place, which effectively means the Wind is more of a targa than a full convertible like the Mazda MX-5 or Peugeot 207CC.
Does it matter that it’s not a full drop top? Probably not, as most owners probably won’t care as long as the sky is clear above their heads, but the set-in-place B-pillars and sloping windscreen can make the cabin a little claustrophobic. The upshot is less buffeting and wind noise than something like the Mazda MX-5, while a rather odd clip-on wind deflector serves to increase noise but reduce the abuse on your hair – we’d live with the blown-about look in exchange for a bit more hush.
Without a two- or three-part metal roof that needs to tuck away behind the seats, the Wind has a 270-litre boot, which the roof doesn’t eat into when folded away – the Mazda manages 150 and with the roof down the Pug can only carry 187 litres. Ignore the photo that makes the boot look like it’s got a narrow aperture and two strut bars in the way – in reality it’s a big and genuinely useful boot. Renault also claims that the market doesn’t demand four seats either – rather than try and squeeze a +2 row into the Wind, the company has opted to make its new roadster a strict two-seater.
What’s the Wind like to drive?
Not as good as we’d hoped, but then we’d probably got carried away and were expecting some sort of open-air Twingo RS – it’ not anywhere near as sharp or exciting as its more focused sibling. It’s not bad (the steering is quick, and it can be rushed along at a reasonable lick), and most buyers will deem it perfectly acceptable, but the ride is quite stiff and the brakes offer two inches of dead travel and then you need the legs of Lance Armstrong to get any retardation. It won’t prove as involving as an MX-5, or as exciting as a Mini, but it’ll match a 500C.
The Wind is available with the rev-hungry, naturally aspirated 1.6 from the Twingo RS, or a 1.2 turbo for those who want some mid-range grunt and a less manic driving experience. We only had a chance to try the 1.2 today (we’ll get our go in the 1.6 tomorrow), and unfortunately there’s not much going on below 3000rpm. Get beyond that and there’s some power, but the Wind’s extra weight over the Twingo really blunts performance and you constantly have to shift gears. In a Twingo RS this would be great, as the notchy ‘box can be rushed, but it doesn’t feel right in the Wind – in needs (but isn’t getting) some sort of automatic.
Frankly, we feel a little disappointed by the new Renault Wind. Those expecting Renaultsport to have worked its charms and created some sort of astonishingly good open-top Twingo RS won’t find that here.
However, the Wind provides a reasonable drive, looks pretty good, and is something new in a fashion-conscious segment where market trends are all important. Fit for purpose, and that’s not to be sniffed at.
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