You can buy a Renault Wind for £2,500. That’s a small amount to pay for a car that was 40 per cent unique and developed by Renaultsport.
Of course, it’s customary to start any article on the Renault Wind with a reference to its unfortunate name. The car industry is littered with excellent names inspired by winds: Scirocco, Bora, Jetta, Mistral and Khamsin, to name but five. Renault’s approach was more route one – and far less inspired.
Although the name wasn’t wholly responsible for the Wind’s demise, it can’t have helped. The Carry on Renault name made it a soft target for motoring journalists, who must have been blown away by the opportunity for some headline writing japes.
The Renault Wind lasted just 18 months in the UK. In 2012, when Renault took a knife to its model range, the Laguna, Espace, Modus and Kangoo were, ahem, gone with the Wind. Sorry.
Would it have stood a better chance with a less end-of-the-pier name? Calling it the Renault Twinster might have lent it some of the positive attributes of the Twingo while highlighting the appeal of the roadster design. Not that it was a roadster in the truest sense of the word.
The overall effect was one of a ‘targa’ – less wind-in-your-hair, and more slight breeze on the top of your barnet. In profile, the Renault Wind looked comically slab sided, with an appearance of something that might have been advertised by June Whitfield on daytime TV. Leave the roof open and the Wind could turn itself into a walk-in bath.
It was also too narrow, which meant it looked rather awkward from certain angles. Worse still, this made it quite cramped if travelling two-up. At least Renault had the sense to make it a two-seater, rather than trying to include rear seats that would left a pair of macaques begging for more space.
Still, the roof mechanism would have impressed the macaques. In a piece of theatre to rival the Ferrari 575 Superamerica, the Renault Wind’s rear deck would rise up, ready to welcome the single-piece roof. This would rotate through 180-degrees to create an open cabin. The process would take 12 seconds, by which time, given the great British weather, it was probably time to put it up again.
Roof up or down, the boot space was on par with the Renault Clio, which is a triumph of fine packaging. This was lost amidst the flatulence-based ‘hilarity’.
Renault must have spent a fortune developing the roof, but it didn’t stop there. While Ford saved money on the Puma by using the Fiesta’s dashboard, Renault created something bespoke for the Wind. It might have featured a steering wheel large enough for the Trafic van, and the quality of the plastics left a lot to be desired, but it was unique.
There were two engines, both of which were borrowed from the Twingo. The 1.2-litre turbo produced 100hp, while the Renaultsport Twingo-sourced naturally aspirated 1.6-litre produced 133hp. Both had positive attributes – the 1.2 was perhaps best suited to those who fancied effortless boulevard cruising, while the 1.6 was on hand for those who craved some open-air RS Twingo thrills. Interestingly, the five speed gearbox was sweeter in the 1.6.
At launch, the Renault Wind cost upwards of £15,500, so it’s hard to see how the company made any money on the car. When you develop a trick roof mechanism, create unique body panels and build a largely bespoke interior, you expect some return on your investment. Given the fact that sales in mainland Europe ended in 2013, it’s hard to see how Renault could have made anything other than a significant loss.
Renault’s loss is your gain. Prices range from £2,500 to £5,000, and because the Wind shares its oily bits with the Twingo and Clio, it shouldn’t be too painful to maintain. Heck, the Renault Wind Gordini could pass as a fun size Alpine, albeit without the A110’s sporting credentials.
Ten years on from its launch, the Wind’s biggest crimes appear to be its name and the fact that it didn’t drive as sweetly as a Mazda MX-5. But contrary to what you might read in some motoring mags, not everyone wants to take their two-seater to the ragged edge. Some just want their car to make them feel good, which is where the Renault Wind excels.
It’ll turn as many heads as a six-figure supercar, especially when you go ‘full peacock’ by engaging the roof. It’s more exclusive than a Porsche, and will be welcome at more posh dinner parties than the contemporary Peugeot 207CC. Like so many other products of Dieppe, the Wind’s stock appears to be rising.
The Renault Wind must be filed alongside cars like the Avantime and Vel Satis as examples of what can be achieved when a manufacturer skis off-piste. Which is why PetrolBlog is considering a Wind as the car to replace the Megane, whenever that time comes.
In the meantime, thank Renault for producing the only Wind that’s not embarrassing to be let out in public. Other wind-based puns are available.