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Will the Megane Coupe-Cabrio help Renault?


But Renault Australia operations director Rudi Koenig admits Megane sales have been slow. He says: "We are disappointed with Megane sedan and hatch sales, but it takes time and we need to have consistency."

Koenig says, however, Renault is confident the recent launch of the company's hot hatches – the Clio and Megane sports – will give the brand a boost as will the all-new Megane Coupe-Cabriolet, a car that is seen as very important to the brand's success.

The cabriolet is the first car in the world to feature a fully folding glass roof and is priced from $47,990 for the manual. It is powered by the same 2.0-litre engine found in the hatch and sedan, which produces 98kW of power at 5500rpm and 191Nm or torque at 3750rpm.

The cabriolet comes with a Nissan-sourced 6-speed manual or a 4-speed automatic.

It shares the same face of the hatch and sedan but its unique cabriolet styling sets it apart and its rear remains distinctly cheeky.

Looking at it from behind, the cabriolet's curvy rear end is shaped by the prominent curves that roll in at the sides to a sleek and slim roof line. It has a five-star European crash-test rating and features front, side and anti-submarining airbags.

It has two fixed roll bars in the rear, ABS brakes with electronic brake distribution and emergency brake assist. The steering column is collapsible and covered by deformable plastic, the brake pedal folds away in the event of a collision and foot padding on both the driver and passenger sides protects the occupants' tibias and ankles.

It is 50 per cent stiffer than its predecessor and feels solid on the road, more so than the sedan. The steering is on the heavy side but adds to the overall feel of the car on the road, which points in well. The cabriolet doesn't have traction or stability control but even in torrential rain did not appear to need it. Understeer was minimal and predictable.

With the poor conditions it was only possible to have the roof down for about 50kms but that was enough to impress. At the push of a button the fully automatic roof folds away. No flexing noises or rattles were heard, no scuttle shake felt and steering kickback was minimal.

With the roof down, wind interruption was not overbearing at 110km/h (the windows were up) and despite the drizzly conditions was not unpleasant. With the roof up it was surprisingly quiet inside the cabin, despite the full glass roof.

The automatic version was responsive, kicked down easily for overtaking and used the available rev range. The height- and reach-adjustable steering wheel made finding a good driving position easy.

The glass roof makes the interior bright and comes with a retractable blind for use in full sun. It also features a tint that blocks out 95 per cent of UV rays.

The cabriolet has a large, airconditioned glovebox, a deep centre-console and door-panel storage. The boot has 490 litres of space when the roof is up, which shrinks to 190L when the roof is down, but is still enough to fit luggage for day trips.

Koenig says Renault is considering both diesel and turbo variants in the future but adds that breaking back into the Australian market has been tough.

He says: "Our success in Australia has been slower than we would have liked. But that is what tends to happen – you have a strong start, then it slows down and then will gradually build back up.

"(Selling) 3350 cars is not really profitable. We have 25 dealers in Australia but until last month they were only selling 250 cars a month, which was causing the dealers some concern. The name is well-known but the dealers make their money from used cars, parts and service and finance.

"That is what they need and they don't have the car park (used cars) out the back and the cars sold have only been sold in the past few years so there is not much money in service."

Koenig says the company has cut back on advertising to reduce costs. However, it hopes to sell 30 cabriolets a month.

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