Renault Wind 2010 Road Test

Despite the ever presence of the Mazda MX5, Peugeot’s 206 and 207CC and Vauxhall’s Tigra, the demise of the last generation Honda CR-X left a gap in the market for small two-seat roadsters that weren’t necessarily all-out sportscars. So Renault has filled it, with the Wind.

You can choose an economical, low CO2 and low tax 1.2 100PS turbo, or a much sportier, higher CO2 and higher tax 1.6 VVT with 133PS. The price gap between the two engines is £900, which also happens to be the price gap between the two trim levels.

So £15,500 buys the decently equipped 1.2 100PS turbo in Dynamique trim, £16,400 buys the 133PS 1.6 in Dynamique trim, or the 1.2 100PS turbo in Dynamique S trim, while £17,300 buys the 133PS 1.6 Dynamique S. A further £900 puts you into the ‘Collection’ limited edition versions of either.

All share quite a clever one-piece electric ‘flip top’ that takes 12 seconds to open and park itself inside the boot lid. So when you open the 270 litre boot there’s no roof in the way of your luggage and you can get quite a lot in there without having to worry about the top and your bags arguing about the space.

The cabin is a lot roomier than an MX-5’s, the seats go back further and there’s more length behind to recline the backrests. It’s also no consolation for a lady when she wants somewhere to put her handbag. The lack of a centre armrest cubby means she can stow it safely behind the handbrake. Try that in an MX-5.

We drove the 1.2 100P turbo first and initially it didn’t feel remotely sporty. The steering was light and the promised low speed torque was notably absent. (Though, talking to everyone else on the launch, it transpired that we may well have had a faulty pre-production car.)

At the French Autoroute speed limits of 110 and 130kmh we were well aware of the lack of a roof over our heads. And the curious flyscreen contraption between the seat backs, while depriving the mirror of a rear view, did not entirely eliminate it. However, removing the flyscreen created a vortex that made the buffeting far worse.

But, it’s an open top car and we were getting a suntan, so we didn’t worry too much. Until we reached the mountains.

There, a combination of over-active ABS and an engine that can’t have been delivering its power and torque the way it’s supposed to rather took the edge off the experience.

Don’t get me wrong. Power and torque can only have been down a bit. But often, having braked for a tight corner we couldn’t see round, the 1.2 turbo felt reluctant to pull out of the bend.

The next day, we tried the 1.6 133PS VVT and, as the French might say. “C’est la difference entre la crai y le fromage.” With exactly the same gearing (21.7mph/1,000rpm in 5th), the 1.6 felt gutsy enough to pull through corners, round uphill hairpins and was a thoroughly joyful little car.

In theory, the 145Nm torque of the 1.2 turbo at 3,000rpm should have been a fair match for the 160Nm torque of the 1.6 at 4,400rpm. But in our cars this just wasn’t the case. The 1.6 was the sports car. The 1.2 was the hairdresser’s car.

Yet that wasn’t the experience of literally everyone else on the launch. To a man (and to a woman), they all preferred the 1.2 turbo. So the only conclusion we could draw was that there had to have been something slightly wrong with ours.

Of course, you can’t sensibly have the 1.6 as a company car. 165g/km CO2 is above the company write-down limit and lands you in the wrong kind of Benefit in Kind. It also puts it into the £180 a year VED bracket.

Whereas the 145g/km of the 1.2 turbo is company write-down acceptable, BIK friendly and, if you buy the car yourself, will only cost you £125 a year in tax.

Both our cars rode extraordinarily well for 205/40 R17 tyres. Which, coupled with the gummy grip at the front, was very impressive. So was the complete lack of body flexing (sometimes called “scuttle shake”). No worrying rattles at all.

But the Wind is not easy to see out of. You get virtually no over the shoulder view, and with the flyscreen in place you can’t see directly behind, so you have to rely on the door mirrors. The screen pillars are very thick, too, and the window ledges too high to rest your arms on.

That said, £15,500 gets you a cute, very well equipped little mobile solarium that opens up in 12 seconds flat and isn’t likely to start leaking like some of the multi-piece folding hard tops.

A lot of people will be getting suntans this summer without having to fry themselves on a sunbed.

More at Renault Wind Website 


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