Spring is the perfect time for a drop-top introduction, and so arrives the updated Renault Megane Coupe-Cabriolet.
Just after winter but before a summer blaze, the sun rediscover the best of its baking heat, the evening air is balmy and the days are magically an hour longer than they were just a few weeks ago.
While far from new – the current third-generation Renault Megane CC has been around since 2010 – the mid-life update freshens it compared with the likes of the Mini Cooper Cabrio, Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet and the Peugeot 308 CC, all of which are a generation older than their hatchback namesakes.
The simplified 2015 Megane Coupe-Cabriolet range kicks off with the $38,490 plus on-road costs Dynamique, which makes the folding hard-top Renault almost $9000 cheaper than the brand-new Audi A3 Cabriolet with its fabric roof.
Tested here is the $43,990 Megane CC GT-Line, however, which has a less-significant circa-$3000 advantage over the good-looking, great-driving A3 Cab.
Standard features across the Megane CC range include 17-inch alloy wheels, auto headlights and wipers, LED daytime running lights, rear parking sensors, cruise control with speed limiter, dual-zone climate control, USB input, and Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming.
The $5500 premium for the GT-Line adds leather upholstery and heated front seats, a 7.0-inch colour touchscreen with satellite navigation, an enhanced Arkamys audio system, Renault’s clever keyless entry and push-button start system that unlocks the car as you grab the door handles and locks automatically as you walk away, and a (highly inappropriate) Renault Sport analogue speedometer.
As with the GT-Line versions of the Megane hatch and wagon, satin grey alloy wheels and trim finishers and a carbonfibre-look dash panel create a sportier look inside and out.
Disappointingly, neither is available with a reverse-view camera – a necessity given the Megane’s high boot line and (with the roof on) broad rear pillars.
Unlike its fixed-roof GT-Line siblings that feature a newer and more fuel-efficient 1.2-litre turbo engine, the CC carries over its old naturally aspirated 2.0-litre four-cylinder.
The engine produces 103kW of power at 6000rpm and 195Nm of torque at 3750rpm, which proves merely adequate for hauling the Megane CC’s 1631kg heft – 9kg more than a Holden Commodore.
The Megane CC is tardy off the mark and demands a solid boot for overtaking, all while sounding raspy and asthmatic. It pulls more strongly when pushed higher in the rev range, however, and settles well when cruising.
The automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT) joins the chorus with a whistle as you accelerate. It’s capable, but neither responsive nor particularly clever, leaving the engine languishing at low revs as you approach hills, for example, and providing little resistance down the other side.
It’s not the most efficient powertrain either, with an official combined cycle rating of 8.1 litres per 100 kilometres. We recorded 10.3L/100km across a range of driving conditions, and saw as high as 13.7L/100km around inner city suburbs.
The steering is heavy, particularly at low speeds where it demands plenty of effort. But it’s also one of the Megane CC’s highlights, as in more spirited driving conditions it’s pointy, direct and consistent.
The Megane disappoints dynamically with its roof off. Vibrations reverberate through the steering wheel and seat base as the whole car jitters over rough roads, falls heavily into holes, and thumps loudly over surface joins.
On the positive side, it feels just as a French car should over rounder bumps and undulations: soft and comfortable, if a little bouncy.
The CC feels more structurally sound with its roof on. While far from refined, its reactions to imperfections in the road are less pronounced, and more settled than the too-firm GT-Line Megane hatch. Road and wind noise are also kept to acceptable levels with the roof in place.
Unlike its open-top rivals, the Renault’s folding glass roof means you can keep the lid on and still enjoy a light and airy cabin – brilliant for those scorching summer days when you want the air conditioning set to high, or when you just want to see stars.
You’re best to keep an eye on cowering clouds, too, because the CC’s roof takes roughly 20 seconds to close (on the slow side for a cabrio) and can only be done when the vehicle is stationary and the blind in the boot is closed.
With the roof up the boot capacity is 417 litres, which is 48L less than the hardtop 308 CC, though 97L more than the A3 Cabriolet, 167L more than the Golf Cabriolet, and 45L more than the Megane hatch.
Drop the top, however, and that falls to 211L, trailing the Pug in open-air configuration by 55L, while the German soft-tops are unchanged (A3 320L, Golf 250L). The Megane’s boot is also difficult to access with the roof down – its low, tight aperture forces you to bend down and feed items into it rather than simply drop them in. A space-saver spare sits beneath the boot floor.
Adult passengers will be cramped in the back of the Megane CC. Legroom is very tight, even with the driver’s seat relatively close to the wheel, though soft seatbacks mean that knees and shins can press into them without too much discomfort.
There’s loads of toe room beneath the seats and headroom (roof on, of course) – which allows 180cm passengers to sit without stooping – is also impressive given the Megane’s swept silhouette. Heavy side bolstering around the narrow backrests squishes your shoulders, however, making the rear seats best for small bodies and short trips only.
The front seats, by contrast, are very comfortable and offer good torso and thigh support.
Cabin quality is impressive, with soft-touch plastic covering the dashboard and door uppers, silky hard plastics on the centre stack, and soft centre and door armrests. Red steering wheel stitching and a matching strip across the dash inject extra sporting flair.
It’s let down in the storage department by a tiny glovebox, equally small door pockets, a deep but skinny centre bin, and its single cupholder that is positioned so awkwardly at the base of the centre stack that you can’t even squeeze a regular takeaway coffee into it.
Renault Australia’s strong aftersales program means you won’t have to kick the daily caffeine habit, however, with the Megane CC coming standard with a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, five years of roadside assistance, and servicing for the first three years/45,000km capped at $897.
It sweetens the deal, and combined with its fresh looks, decent equipment list and quality cabin, the Renault Megane CC holds fresh appeal among a group of ageing rivals.
They can do only so much to distract from the underwhelming drivetrain, heavy body, average ride, and tight passenger and storage space, however.
If you’re set on the Megane CC, we recommend the entry Dynamique over the GT-Line, as the Audi A3 Cabriolet at just a few thousand dollars more makes the top-spec topless Frenchy a tough sell.
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