Tuesday 21 February 2017

Not quite on the button

Megane Coupe Cabriolet 1.5 Dci

Published 25/09/2010 | 05:00

Let there be light: The massive panoramic glass roof folds at the touch of a button
Let there be light: The massive panoramic glass roof folds at the touch of a button

I took an instant dislike to this car the first second I sat into it. I was wet, tired and miserable. I could not have cared less if it was a cabrio or a coupe (it is ingeniously both) so long as it had a roof and a radio with music to soothe my jagged edges.

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This had a roof all right but some demon ensured I could not get the radio to work. I pressed buttons in increasing frustration and words like 'searching for device' came up on the sat nav screen (you're stuck with that bloody thing no matter what).

Nobody who sat into the car liked it. They all called it a woman's car, a girlie's car, they all pushed buttons and all but two were unable to get the radio to work. The two who did looked at me like I was a bit thick. I was. I am.

So let me introduce you to the Renault Megane Coupe-Cabrio, which has just gone on sale here. It is based on the same technical specification as the other Meganes. Mmmmmmmmmm, I'm tempted to say something . . . but let me tell you a little more about my time in it first. It was that sort of week -- in and out of town, flitting here and there between the extended family, being there for a special girl starting college (she didn't like this either) and powering to Roscommon to meet a marvellous visiting friend and to be greeted by, I hope, new ones.

It is extraordinary where time and distance can go and how many lives touch on one's own in the space of just 48 hours. I took little or no notice of the car. I'll be honest about that. It served its purpose.

In particular, it gobbled up kilometres in a fairly mad old dash to the midlands on Saturday and then a wet and windy gallop to be in time for the food (gorgeous, heart-warming) and the welcome across the Shannon.

Now maybe it was because one bright young man sorted out the radio for me in the depths of a car park or because of that warm feeling generated by gorgeous food and company, but I began, grudgingly, to admire the engine. Well, it's a start -- a 1.5 litre that packs just 110bhp, which is a big ask because this is a substantial motor.

Anyway, as I left Roscommon and cast a rearward glance in my mirror at Lecarrow, and as the wind drowned my last hope for an Indian summer, I must admit I allowed myself to begin enjoying this. And I recalled how it had behaved itself exceptionally well over the rough surfaces as well as the smooth tarmac of the motorways and dual carriageways of the midlands.

I was grand in a big, comfy driver's seat (so long as I left the maddening fiddly nosebleeds of audio dials alone) and so were any of those who accompanied me in the other front seat.

But Renault are making 'un grande joke' by claiming the rear two seats are anything other than emergency slots for those above eight years of age. Not only that but, try as we might, we could not get the front seat from sliding back and forth after we let college girl and younger sister in there for a mad dash to Trinity. The poor little creature put up with the needless discomfort.

I set those thoughts to one side, however, when I had it to myself and gave that 1.5-litre some welly. It is a brilliant engine, with tonnes of low-down pulling power and a feeling of plenty of zip. The cabin is absolutely fine in a Renault sort of modern-clever way.

The massive panoramic glass roof sheds lots of light and folds magically at the press of a button -- to switch from coupe to convertible. But opportunities to do so were few and far between.

Frankly I don't know why so many people called it a girl's car. I think the only thing that gave it a whiff of perfume was the white body colour. In black, silver or bronze (such as the one Volvo use so effectively) it might not register gender as strongly.

There was certainly nothing girlie about the way this handled (is that a politically correct statement?). They tightened up the suspension a bit and stiffened beams with the result that this reminded me a bit of the Ford Focus for the way it responded. That is a big compliment, believe me. So where are we now? Well, we have an initial reaction bordering on rage, now being soothed by a couple of fine performances from engine and chassis.

I never got over all that ould eejitin with the feckity dials and being told repeatedly 'DEV' (I haven't a clue what it means either) and watching techno hour glasses spiralling for eternities.

I would praise the interior for its comfort and I think the idea of the panoramic roof gives it a big dimension -- you get a sense of sky even when you can't drop the roof.

Which brings me to the key question. Allowing that I could come to overlook the rage-inducing audio/sat nav stuff and that the passenger seat could be put in its place, would I recommend anyone here should buy it?

First they have to simplify the feckities and make the interface between car and driver simple and straightforward. Then I might say mmmm . . . maybe. But the price is probably too much for a country where it rains nearly as much as it owes.

What

Megane Coupe-Cabriolet 1.5Dci (110bhp) 2 + 2.

Cost

From €31,900. Delivery, related charges extra.

Target market

Singles, young couples.

Plus

Looks, engine, handling.

Minus

Maddening audio dials/system, poor rear seat space, price.

As standard

Open-top/hard roof option at push of button. Several airbags, automatic dual-zone air con, automatic parking brake, built-in Carminat TomTom navigation.

Others to consider

Peugeot 307CC

Ford Focus CC, plus range of ‘pure’ cabrios or coupes.

Rating: 69 / 100

ecunningham@independent.ie

Irish Independent

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