It’s fair to say that most people, even trainspotters like motoring columnists, don’t get too excited about car roofs. People don’t usually queue to buy a specific car because of its roof but Renault’s new Wind coupé-roadster may be about to change that.
Traditionally, sports car design and practicality are at odds with each other. By their nature small sporty cars are not great load luggers and practical cars – with enough stowage space – are frequently dull to drive. Yet the new Wind successfully manages to be both sporty and practical, thanks to the cleverest roof design I’ve seen. Instead of some convoluted, folding stacking tin-top (the kind that moves balletically, marvellously and all too slowly into the boot of other roadsters and ensuring you have almost no space at all for weekend luggage or shopping once the roof is folded), the Wind has a marvellous roof system. You turn a handle above your head, push a button and watch as a single roof panel pivots back like a hinge, before resting atop the boot under a special cover. It’s all very tidy and takes only 12 seconds. It also means that the 270-litre boot still has 270 litres of space available from that trip home from Bluewater so you can store all your shopping in the boot and still drive with the roof down, weather permitting.
If you think this isn’t important, you are wrong because for many, many people – particularly single people and younger couples – the two-seater just moved confidently out of second car territory and into primary and only-car practicality. That’s a big step and one that Renault hopes will translate into increased sales.
Even aside from the roof, Renault’s sporty two-seater is an intriguing and unique option. The exterior is muscular and angular so not to everyone’s taste, but there’s no doubt about it, the steep bonnet, high waist and twin roof cowls ensure the car is a real attention grabber and should appeal to both men and women.
The Wind was engineered with the help of the company’s Renaultsport wing, masters of Renault’s RS hot hatches. The two-seat convertible rides on the Twingo’s underpinnings and comes with a choice of a 1.2 litre, 100bhp turbocharged petrol engine or the more powerful, conventionally aspirated 1.6, 133hp engine from the Twingo Renaultsport 133. We’re driving the 1.6, 133hp VVT engine and though the car is not quite as quick as I would have liked, it is pokey enough to be fun and with the passenger airbag off, my baby daughter next to me in the passenger seat and the roof down on a lovely cold, bright, sunny October day, an awful lot of fun it was too.
The interior, though sparse, has a cockpit that feels more spacious than it is thanks to low sports seats and elements like the clever leather pull handles which open and close the doors without demanding sizeable plastic door pulls. There’s even stowage cubbies behind the seats. But regardless of the Wind’s unusual and aggressive looks – even if the car does make your hair fly back – it’s the amazing roof that will blow you away.