By Jonathan Crouch
Renault's glass-roofed MK2 model Megane CC tried to bring a fresh level of elegance to the affordable folding hard-top convertible market during its sales life between 2010 and 2016. It makes an interesting used car buy if you're after a stylish, affordable drop-top.
You've heard of convertibles with fabric roofs and metal roofs? Well here's one with a glass roof. Renault wanted its second generation Megane Coupe-Cabriolet, launched in 2010, to establish a clear lead over rivals at the relatively affordable end of the drop-top market. With that in mind, they tried with this design to minimise the usual compromises associated with compact open-top cars sporting four seats, paying particular attention to practicality, driving dynamics and integrating a bulky roof mechanism without sabotaging the styling. A difficult task.
But not an impossible one and Renault, with a history of small, inexpensive cabriolets that stretches back to their pretty Floride model of the Fifties, thought themselves well placed to pull it off. This Megane was targeted at hatch-based rival cabriolets like Volkswagen's Eos and Peugeot's 308CC and aimed to suit style-seekers who, the French brand hoped, would appreciate the car's glassy, airy design in enough numbers to make it a class leader. Unfortunately, sales were relatively slow and the car was finally withdrawn from the UK market in early 2016.
What You Get
This is a slightly bigger car than its Megane Cabrio predecessor, 125mm longer with a wider track, large headlights and wrap-over taillights aiming to partly disguise its bulk. Whether it's also more stylish is a subjective call: it certainly looks more premium, thanks in part to the satin chrome surround of the windscreen and the gloss black roof pillars.
But this is a convertible, so we should concentrate on the roof. Some hard-top coupe-cabriolets use their styling to disguise the fact that the roof is removable when the top is in place. This Megane isn't one of those, intentionally looking like an open topped-car whether the hood is up or down. When raised, the two-piece glass roof forms a bubble over the cabin, justifying the 110kg weight of its assembly by bringing extra illumination and an airy feel to the interior. And to allay worries that the glass roof will create a greenhouse of your car's cabin on hot days, Renault have provided a retractable sunblind for when the sun gets too oppressive.
At the touch of a button (which unfortunately only works when the car is stationary), the roof breaks apart and begins its balletic descent into the confines of the boot. 23 seconds later, the Megane CC is an elegantly proportioned convertible. The windscreen structure has been moved slightly forward to maximise cabin space and aid access through the car's two doors, though it's still possible to bang your head on the two thick A-pillars if you're not careful getting in and out. They can slightly get in the way of your visibility at some junctions too.
The windscreen design is also intended to work in conjunction with the fixed glass wind deflector behind the rear headrests, with the aim of reducing the cabin buffeting at speed that will probably determine how often you'll feel the need to enjoy al fresco motoring. If you're travelling two-up and have ticked the box for the additional folding mesh-type net deflector, then your car will be even more serene on the move. Which'll make you more likely to want to take the top down all the year round - and so justify the premium that this car demands over an equivalent ordinary Megane hatch.
Talking of travelling two-up, you probably will be most of the time. An lengthened wheelbase does mean that these two rearmost seats offer more space for adults than you get in some small cabrios, but it would still be stretching things a bit to call this a fully-fledged four-seater. Which means that these two rearmost perches remain probably best left to children, jackets, designer shopping backs or friends particularly desperate for a lift home from the pub. At the wheel, the interior design is basically similar to that of standard Megane hatchback models from this era, with the same classy materials on display.
One of the downsides of a folding hard top roof is usually that when you retract the thing, it munches through all your available bootspace. And sure enough, Renault's designers have been unable to defeat the laws of physics in this regard, providing buyers with a restricted 211-litre boot with the hood lowered. Still, all this model's rivals suffer with the same problem and in this Megane, you do at least get a much heftier 417-litres with the top in place. It also helps that access to this luggage area is enhanced both by a wide aperture and a low sill height, 590mm from the ground.
What to Look For
Don't get us wrong, the Megane CC is a pretty reliable car and many of the owners we surveyed were very happy with their purchases. Obviously in a car like this with a complex metal-folding electric roof, you'll need to make absolutely sure that the roof mechanism is in tip-top working order. Interestingly, during our owner survey, we didn't come across any complaints about this but a few other niggling issues were in evidence. Some were minor; things like the handbrake breaking, wiper arms squeaking and juddering, dashboard rattles and dash lights failing.
There were a few mechanical issues too though. One owner reported an engine injector fault with his 1.5 dCi unit, another had a suspension knock issue that required a sub-frame realignment. One reported a steering hub bearing issue, which also required the wheel bearing to be replaced. And we also came across a diesel particulate filter fault. Apparently, the brake discs on this car can wear quite quickly and the electrics can be prone to water damage. On that subject, there have been reports of water leaks around the bootlid joint. And issues with the electric windows, plus one owner had to replace the heater resistor pack.
(based on a 2014 Megane 1.5 dCi - ex Vat) Brake pads are between £10-£20 for cheap brands or between £25 to £30 if you want an expensive make. Brake discs cost around £85 and a radiator is around £190. A drive belt is in the £8 to £15 bracket. Air filters are in the £11 to £20 bracket. Oil filters cost around £5 and fuel filters just over £50. A water pump is around £55 - or in the £75 to £80 for a pricier make. You'll pay around £8 to £15 for a wiper blade - or between £20 to £30 for a pricier make. A starter motor would be about £365, a thermostat around £5, a shock absorber around £90 and a cylinder head gasket in the £40 to £45 bracket.
On the Road
By and large, fixed top folding roof cabrios don't place driving pleasure as a priority. That would, after all, be rather difficult. True, an open roof isn't usually too much of an impediment to driving dynamics when it's small enough on a two-seat sportscar not to affect overly affect chassis rigidity but history suggest that those tops which must be big enough to cover a four-seater tend to create wobblier result. Which is why you get all that shaking about when you drive over a pothole in older examples of cars from this sector. More recent models from this segment are much better in this respect, thanks to extra chassis strengthening and, sure enough, this Megane CC has an impressively solid feel, a full 80% stiffer than its Megane Cabrio predecessor. But all that has come at the expense of weight. This car weighs over 180kgs more than that direct predecessor, tipping the scales at over one and a half tonnes.
So you wouldn't expect it to be especially rapid. But a car can still be responsive, even if it isn't downright quick and the 130bhp 1.4-litre TCe petrol variant we'd recommend is a perfect example of that. So though it takes 10.7s to cover the rest to sixty mph sprint, through the gears in many of the important overtaking increments, the impressive torque of this engine creates a car that's actually quicker than a 1.6-litre Lotus Elise weighing 600kgs less. We'd live with this powerplant quite happily if we wanted petrol power, though those needing a pokier response do have the option of the 2.0-litre 180bhp TCe petrol unit based on that used in the potent Megane Renaultsport. This model was also launched back in 2010 with a 140bhp 2.0-litre unit for automatic transmission buyers.
Given this cabrio's bulk, all its petrol engines need a bit of revving to produce their best, which inevitably has an effect on fuel economy, so you may well feel that a diesel would be a better bet. The 110bhp 1.5-litre dCi option (which comes complete with Renault's clever EDC twin-clutch auto) might struggle a little of you're doing lots of open-road work, but the 130bhp 1.9 and 160bhp 2.0-litre dCi units are as flexible as you would hope. The 1.9 manages sixty in 10.6s on the way to 127mph. Which might mean that you'll find yourself enjoying this car on twistier roads more than you might expect. If that's the case, the slick 6-speed gearbox and the enhanced, more feelsome electric power steering set-up will be a welcome improvement over the anaesthetised feel offered by this car's predecessor. Later in the production run, this car received more up to date and efficient engines, including Renault's usual 110bhp 1.5-litre dCi and 130bhp 1.6-litre dCi units.
Affordable folding hard-top cars used to ask some pretty big sacrifices of their owners. Today's models though, cars like this Megane Coupe Cabriolet, look and feel less like they're built around a hefty, complex roof mechanism and more like fully-developed designs in their own right.
This one has a quality feel and a light, airy interior courtesy of the innovative two-piece glass top that'll get the neighbours talking. In fact, all the reasons people buy cars of this kind are the reasons they might like this one. It's a little different - and more than a little desirable. And at the end of the day, for coupe-cabriolet buyers, that's usually all that matters.