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Reader test: Renault Megane CC

2009-07-01 06:52

Desmond O'Connor, Cape Town

Buying a new vehicle is always a big decision that takes some time to make. Having owned various cars, three years ago I became the proud owner of a Renault Megane CC 1.9dci.

Before I tell you more about this car it is important to note that I have never owned a car not manufactured in “Deutschland”. I've always believed that no one else could get it right.

My last über car was a 1999 BMW 328i Cabriolet which I traded for the Renault. At this point many of you may have scoffed or sniggered at the move to a Gallic chariot.

Well, it was simple. I wanted to buy a new cabriolet and BMW, Mercedes and Audi are not in the playing field for us ordinary hotel general managers any more. After three years, I have covered more than 90 000 km in it.

The roof started rattling within the first six months of ownership, which, after much correspondence with Renault SA, was rectified.

About a year into ownership the roof mechanism stopped working. After a few trips to the local dealership the entire “brain” was replaced.

I replaced the factory-fitted Michelin tyres at 75 000 km with Goodyear Excellence tyres and must admit the Goodyears have improved the ride and made it that much more pleasant. Not that the ride was harsh or anything...

Party trick

So, in terms of maintenance and faults, up to now (touch wood, oh, not my W140 S320L dash…) problems have been really minimal.

The car is extremely economical; this is my “party” trick. Most folks do not believe me when I tell I them I can cover 1 000 km on a 60-litre tank of diesel with suburban traveling.

This is when the log book comes out and the mouths drop open in disbelief and wonder.

Most traditional South African petrolheads still believe that a cabrio cannot be a diesel. I, on the other hand, do not think it should be any other way.

On a trip from Cape Town to Knysna last year, I managed to get 1 132 km out of this tank, which amazed even me. I am not a heavy footed driver, but where and when I can I also like to test the long arm of our law and exceed the speed limit within the 10% “allowed range”. And even with this, the return in consumption is fantastic.

The little motor is a real gem. It puts out a mild 88 kW, but it is the torque that I love - 300 Nm of it. It makes overtaking a doddle and traversing hills child’s play.

The six-speed gearbox is a bit notchy, but strangely I like this. It gives a reassuring “click” every time you select a gear, and then you know it is in place.

It is no boy racer, make no mistake, and I seldom attempt taking on the traffic like a dicer. It is more suited to long distance traveling and also to being a boulevard cruiser, even though my partner recklessly spun it up well passed 180 km/h with four of us in the car, and the roof down…

Mon pue de soleil
(My little sunshine)

The fold-away roof of the Renault is entirely glass, which is a nice break from the canvas roofs I had previously on my Audi and Beemer. I don’t think I could go back to a canvas roof - or as my friends always jokingly called it, a “knitted top” car - again.  

I opted for black leather and with the roof up the cabin still feels spacious and airy.

I do not like the key card system much, but can live with it. I suppose I might be a bit old fashioned, but I still prefer a key being turned in an ignition slot. What I do like is the self-locking feature when you pull away.

Some other little irritating things about the Renault are that you cannot wind the windows up or down once the car's ignition is off and you cannot unlock the boot if the doors are open. Silly.

The back seat is small, and although I have had four people in the car, this is ideal for short distances only. The interior build quality is very good (nothing has begun disassembling like in the Mercedes), the design is simplistic and everything is easy to operate. Although the sound system is superb, I do think I should have opted for the CD shuttle.

Overall the cabin is a nice place to be in when travelling with the roof up or down. The boot has lots of packing space when the roof is not stowed, however when the roof is stowed one has to become very creative with packing your luggage and/or shopping into the car. 

Petrol vs diesel

I would like to add that on the two occasions my roof was being repaired, Renault kindly gave me a CC to use. These were both 2.0l petrol models with an engine that leaves a lot to be desired, in my opinion. If the diesel was not available, I don't think I would have bought the car.

The Megane CC is definitely well worth the purchase, but Renault still needs to work on its after sales service. I must admit though, that this has also improved over the three years I have owned the car.

The feature that I especially like is Renault's new “fixed” pricing for services, which gives you a relatively good idea of what your next service will cost you. I would recommend buying a CC now as a used car. They age well and the resale values are depreciating in a hurry.

Whether I would buy another Renault or not, well let’s wait and see what the new CC will look like. Overall I am very happy with my Regié and I would buy another French car.

I feel more German car companies should consider bringing out their cabriolets with diesel engines, as this would change the playing field tremendously, and for the better.

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