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Renault Wind review (2010 onwards)
Summary - New Renault Wind two-seater coupé-roadster slots into the range between Twingo and Clio, aiming to upset more staid coupé-convertible rivals - but will buyers see it as a breath of fresh air?
We like - 1.2 TCe, fast and clever roof, surprisingly practical for two, fun to drive, comfortable, head turner
We don't like - 1.6, interior quality could be better, visibility, not as sharp as the looks and the heritage might suggest
Opinion here is split: some of us think the Renault Wind is a cool looking little car, others that it's too much of a toy. Sure, it's got that 'wants to be a Lotus Elise when it grows up' vibe going on - but is that really such a bad thing?
Either way, it's an attention grabber: put the two-seat-only Wind next to a Peugeot 207 CC or a Mini Convertible, and it will appear much more exciting than either of them. Closer, in theory, to Mazda's MX-5.
In spite of this, the Wind is still eminently practical, with a large 270-litre boot - almost as big as a Clio hatchback. And the neat retractable hardtop roof design means the luggage space stays the same come rain or shine.
Pivoting round the B-pillar in a single motion, the one-piece roof is cost-effective, of low complexity, and fast - taking just 12 seconds to open or close. Hiding under the rear deck lid when not needed keeps it clean and dry.
The only other car to ever feature a similar system is the Ferrari 575M Superamerica from 2005. So that's pedigree for you. In Renault terms this is further enhanced by the Wind's development being solely undertaken by Renault Sport Technologies.
It even shares its platform with the previous generation Clio II Renaultsport and the current Twingo Renaultsport, meaning our expectations for sporty performance are high. Can the Renault Wind deliver?
The Wind launches with a choice of two engines: 100hp 1.2 TCe turbo petrol and 133hp naturally aspirated 1.6, also from the Twingo Renaultsport. With those high performance hopes and a longer test route, we immediately opted for the range-topper.
Big mistake. Save yourself the £900 the upgrade costs and buy the 1.2 turbo instead; it's not that the 1.6 is utterly dreadful, it just doesn't suit the character of this car. At all.
In the Twingo Renaultsport its gruffness and its 7,000rpm redline are hilarious thanks to a 1,049kg kerbweight and an ultra grippy chassis. In the 1,173kg Wind, the supposedly more potent 1.6 is gutless and tiresome.
No doubt the steep gradients of the French mountain roads didn't help, but low down response from this unit is so poor at times we thought it was broken - and makes safely overtaking slower traffic almost impossible.
Simply put, you have to rev the absolute nuts off this engine to get any go out of it, which in most real world driving situations just isn't realistic. Especially given the small chasm between second and third gear.
We got out of this car feeling so disappointed, surprised that Renault could make such a misjudgement. Gladly, our faith was restored the instant we set off in the 1.2 TCe.
This may look less potent on paper - 0-62mph in 10.5 seconds versus 9.2 for the 1.6 - but in reality the turbo puff turns this version of the Wind into by far the better car.
Peak torque of 112lb ft is just 6lb ft shy of the bigger engine's 118lb ft maximum, but arrives much lower down the rev range, and even includes an overboost function. As a result its throttle reactions are far keener.
The engine is less noisy, more willing, and builds speed quicker from lower rpm. Combined with a considerable 42kg reduction in kerbweight it all adds up to a much more satisfying machine.
Plus you'll see greater fuel economy, and be more relaxed at the wheel. In the Wind's case bigger really isn't best. This is high-tech progress versus old school engineering, and the new technology has comprehensively won.
Ride and handling
The 1.2's reduced weight and more urgent response also helps you make more of the Wind's impressive chassis, which combines acceptable ride comfort with limited body roll and eager direction changes.
To compensate for the lack of a fixed roof, Renault has added bracing throughout the structure (most obvious are the struts you can see in the boot), reinforced the sills and added a proper rear bulkhead.
The faintest of wobbles remains detectable through the steering - which mostly goes away with the lid on - but the rear-view mirror is steadfast and refuses to shimmy, no matter how hard you hustle.
This helps build an immense sense of security about the car, further reflected in the handling. Not as razor reactive as a full monty Renaultsport product, the genes are nonetheless there - with loads of grip to lean on and a really chuckable feel.
It thumps somewhat over bumps, but rarely loses its composure and never approaches harsh - even on the larger 17-inch alloy wheels (16s are standard). The steering is light, but faithful, reflecting the cruiser character Renault has clearly tried to instil.
Underlining the 1.2 TCe's superiority, it's willing and nimble and light on its feet, where the 1.6 seems hunkered down and recalcitrant unless you can find space to give it the total beans.
Neither is as much fun as an MX-5 - or even a Mini. But then, Renault claims its aim was comfort ahead of ultimate thrills, and in this regard the balance seems highly successful. A UK test will say for sure.
The five-speed gearboxes are notable for their rubbery action (worse, again, on the 1.6), while the brakes caused a few raised eyebrows on launch for appearing overly keen to trigger the ABS.
With its high-sided doors that curve upwards at the rear to meet the B-pillars, getting into the Wind is like shutting yourself into a bathtub. But this does lend it a sense of excitement and intimacy, so shouldn't be much of a concern.
The overall look of the inside does rather lack character, however, though Renault has tried hard with straps for door pulls, deep-set dials and translucent red or black cowls. And the seats manage to be both comfy and supportive.
Rear visibility is compromised by the roof design requiring those thick fixed pillars, but this only serves to remind you you're driving a baby Elise, and the over-the-shoulder view is similar to a Porsche Boxster Spyder - useless, but cool.
The fixed mesh windbreaks look like an afterthought, but help keep the buffeting to a minimum. Still it's a shame the switchgear isn't higher quality, and why are the electric window buttons so far away?
You'll notice this last soon enough, as the roof mechanism doesn't raise the windows back up whenever you go through the opening or closing procedure - part of the trick of securing that 12-second time.
We like the countdown in the instrument display, though, which is like a computer status bar in reverse. The angle of the big windscreen pillars means forward cornering visibility is also compromised, but that's the price you pay for style.
Economy and Safety
No Euro NCAP crash test yet, and Renault appears non-committal about whether the Wind will go up for one. However, four airbags and stability control are standard, and the rollover bars can withstand the force of five tonnes.
As for the economy, Renault says the 1.2 TCe will return 44.8mpg combined and emit 145g/km CO2, and the 1.6 40.3mpg with 165g/km CO2 - neither of which is especially jaw dropping by modern standards. But not bad.
The MSN Cars Verdict
For the Renault Wind it's very much a tale of two cars: the 1.2 TCe proving so effective that to us it makes the sub-par 1.6 all but irrelevant.
Sure the bigger engine might be a blast at maximum revs on a totally clear road, but for everyday driving that's still fun the 1.2 turbo is by far and away the better option.
Prices start at £15,500, and undercut the major folding-metal hardtop opposition right across the range. If you like the looks, can get by with just two seats and appreciate the additional boot space the Wind is well worth your time.
|Need to know|
|Engines petrol||1.2 TCe turbo, 1.6|
|Power hp||100 - 133|
|Torque lb ft||112 - 118|
|0-62 mph secs||9.2 - 10.5|
|Top speed mph||118 - 125|
|Mpg combined||40.3 - 44.8|
|CO2 g/km / Tax %||145 - 165 / 16 - 20|
|Rating||Renault Wind 1.2 TCe Dynamique S|
|Ride and handling||****|
|MSN Cars verdict||****|
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