Thursday, September 9, 2010
The Renault Wind
The new Renault Wind rekindles a tradition of building fun, affordable sports cars from the humble bones of their hatchback siblings.
Expensive parts such as the engine and crash structures dictate that the "Renault Wind" has the same high bonnet line and windscreen base as the upright city car. To give the impression of sitting in a cocooning sports car, Renault’s designers have raised the side window line as high as possible, creating a very deep body side.
This system avoids the problems usually associated with folding hardtops, namely weight, cost and lack of boot space. With the Renault Wind, the large boot remains unaffected by the position of the roof, while the simple system weighs just 21.8kg.
Thankfully very little of the Twingo’s cheap-feeling interior has found its way inside the Renault Wind. The driving position is the lowest of any current Renault model but steel feels more hatchback upright than sportscar bum-skimming.
So does the Renault Wind drive like a Twingo? It shares both its 1.2-litre TCe turbocharged engine and the larger, un-turbo’d 1.6-litre from the Twingo RS 133. The lack of roof has been countered by extensive body strengthening, meaning that Renault Wind feels impressively stiff even over broken surfaces, while the handling has the same precise, playful and well-resolved quality as cars like the Clio 200 and Twingo 133.
It is better-suited to everyday driving with good pulling power from low revs but it sounds whiney and lifeless at higher revs.
More seriously, the Renault Wind braking performance is unacceptable. Good value fun The Renault Wind has no real rivals currently. Overall the Renault Wind is a surprisingly characterful, fun and practical two-seater sports car. Renault expect most Renault Wind buyers to be urban-dwelling females and the styling, practicality and clever roof are spot-on for the target audience. However, the engaging driving experience and the lure of the RenaultSport association may open the demographic to include more serious driving enthusiasts.
Car manufacturers are always plugging gaps in their ranges with models that you never thought you needed, and generally don't, but Renault might just have found a little niche that is worth exploiting with the Renault Wind - the small budget convertible that sits between the Twingo city car and supermini Clio in size.
Strictly speaking there are a few of these on the market at the moment, with Smart, Mini, Peugeot and Fiat all making tiny droptops. The Renault Wind is refreshingly different and, dare we say it, trendy compared to the rest of the Renault range, and is aimed squarely at younger drivers. Part of the cost cutting that permits this price tag is a simple range that consists of just two engines and three trim levels, with the top spec model still coming in well under £20,000. The pick of the engines is the 1.2-litre 99bhp turbocharged version. Beyond the low price, the roof will be what appeals to most of the Wind's buyers.