Renault Wind

Debut: 2010
Maker: Renault
Predecessor: No

Wind is the first mass application of Fioravanti roof...

When Peugeot 206CC introduced retractable hardtop technology to mass market a decade ago, the world immediately got in love with its dual-function and magical transition between the two forms. Seeing its sales hit 100,000 cars a year, everybody joined the new gold rush. Within a few years, most European, Japanese and American manufacturers had been producing coupe-cabriolets thanks to the help of engineering consultant/contract manufacturer Webasto, Pininfarina, Heuliez, CTS and Karmann. As coupe-cabriolets became common sights on road, their wow-factor disappeared and their disadvantages started taking attention. People realized their packaging deficiency – weight penalty, loss of luggage space and compromised styling – are not easy to be justified by their merits. As a result, some manufacturers revert to conventional soft tops, which are lighter, faster, more efficient and also cheaper to build. However, apart from CC and soft top there is actually a third option: Fioravanti roof. It debuted on Ferrari 575 Superamerica 5 years ago, but the first mass production application is not seen until today's Renault Wind.

Opening or closing the roof takes only 12 seconds...

Wind is a small 2-seater based largely on the mechanicals of Twingo. In concept and market positioning it is closest to Opel Tigra, though it is even smaller. While the Opel employs a retractable hardtop system called TwinTop (a silly name, by the way), the Renault adopts a rotating roof system patented by design maestro Leonardo Fioravanti. It is essentially a Targa, with the B-pillars and rear screen fixed in place. However, you don't need to detach the roof yourself or find somewhere to store it, because it will stow away automatically into the boot. The operation is quick and simple: 1) turn a swivel handle on the roof to unlatch the roof; 2) press a button on center console; 3) you will see a lid locating between the flying buttresses open; 4) then the small roof panel will rotate about the center line of the B-pillars and drops into the storage space under the lid; 5) the lid closes. The whole process takes only 12 seconds !

Roof panel actually stored above the trunk... no wonder the lid between flying buttresses is positioned so high...

The most brilliant thing of the Fioravanti roof system is, it adds only 22 kg to the car. No wonder the Wind undercuts Opel Tigra by 100 kg. To a small car with a small engine, such weight saving is highly beneficial as it could translate to a one-second advantage in 0-60 mph acceleration. Another advantage of the Fioravanti roof is, it does not occupy any luggage space. Its roof panel is actually stored above the trunk and between the flying buttresses – like Ferrari 575 Superamerica, but this time covered by a stylish lid to protect against dirt and water, and to avoid the odd looks of the Ferrari. This explain why the lid is positioned so high and the rear view is limited. Free of the roof mechanism and benefited by the lack of rear seats, the trunk of Wind measures a remarkable 270 liters no matter with roof up or down.

It is tuned by Renaultsport, no wonder it handles better than other supermini-based CC.

Young people, especially female, will love the Wind because of its funky design. With its 2-seater format and flying buttresses, it could almost deceive people as a mid-engined sports car. Unfortunately, the car is simply too tall to do so. Its very high waist line makes even the optional 17-inch alloy wheels appear to be too small. It also lacks a wide track to deliver a sense of stability. After all, this is a supermini in blood and bones.

Inside, the cabin also looks more Twingo than Alpine. Although the dash is a dedicated design, it is made of cheap hard plastics that other supermini already abandoned. The bucket seats look much better, but you still sit too high and you are aware of the cost savings through the cheap steering wheel and switch gears. Space is okay for regular drivers and a little tight for big guys. Moreover, with a high waist line and small windows, the Wind does not feel as airy as a roadster should. Your head is threatened by a chunky windscreen header. Visibility around the shoulder is predictably poor, blame to the flying buttresses. Forward vision is not perfect either, as the dash top reflects seriously onto the windscreen under sunlight.

With a high waist line and small windows, the Wind does not feel as airy as a roadster should.

The upshot of the Targa structure is less buffeting and wind noise, and the chassis feels stiffer than most other supermini-based coupe-cabriolets. With the roof opened, you still sense some chassis shake and steering vibration over undulations. Roof up, these flaws disappear and it becomes impressively refined. The Wind is tuned by Renaultsport, no wonder it handles better than other supermini-based CC. Owing to stiffer springs and dampers, its low speed ride is firm, but once you up the pace it displays good damping and pretty taut body control. Its 205/40 tires offer plenty of grip. Its electric power steering is still the Achilles' heel, being springy and feel-less, but ignoring its coldness you will find the steering actually reacts sharply to your input. Its nose turns into the corner sharply. Its back end responds to your throttle control. All these make it surprisingly fun to drive.

133hp engine begs you to rev it... and it's quite fun...

Two engines from the Twingo are offered - 100hp 1.2 TCE turbo and 133hp 1.6 VVT. The former is a torquey, low-stressed engine for the majority, but those asking for driving fun matching the good chassis is the Renaultsport-tuned naturally-aspirated 1.6 engine. Its peaky manner and loud exhaust are flawed for everyday driving, but it always beg you to access its 7000 rpm redline, which is fun if your mood is right. Its old-school raw driving fun is rare today. That said, straight line acceleration is not as impressive as subjectively how it feels. It takes 8.7 seconds to go from 0-60, half a second longer than the Renaultsport Twingo RS fitted with the same engine, blame to the extra 120 kg it carries.

The Wind is not meant to be a sports car or a 2-seat hot hatch. It is purely a style-led roadster designed for the entry-level market. Its combination of very affordable price, pretty good driving fun and a clever, less compromising retractable roof guarantee a sales hit, perhaps not as hot as the old Peugeot 206CC, but should be more successful than most other supermini-based CC currently on sale.

 The above report was last updated on 13 Jul 2010. All Rights Reserved.
General remarks
Length / width / height
Valve gears
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
Wind 1.2TCE
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
3833 / 1689 / 1381 mm
2368 mm
1149 cc
SOHC 16 valves
100 hp
112 lbft
5-speed manual
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
1131 kg
118 mph (c)
9.9 (c)
Wind 1.6
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
3833 / 1689 / 1381 mm
2368 mm
1598 cc
DOHC 16 valves, VVT
133 hp / 6750 rpm
118 lbft / 4400 rpm
5-speed manual
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
1173 kg
125 mph (c) / 119 mph*
8.7 (c) / 8.8*

Performance tested by: *Quattroruote

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