Renault Wind Gordini roadster
Feel the air in your hair
Review Thumbing its nose at yet another grim British summer, Renault has added a Gordini model to its Wind roadster line-up and so given us all an excuse to put on our best French accent, pretend to be Maurice Trintignant and ponder why Renault didn’t name it Le Vent and dodge the inevitable flatulence jokes.
Corners like a Fiat 500 Abarth
In fact, the arrival of the Gordini isn’t quite the most interesting Windy thing to happen to this summer. No, that would be the £2500 price drop applied to the rest of the range, which now starts at under £13,000 for the basic 1.2-litre turbo model.
The Wind follows the Twingo and Clio in getting a Gordini makeover which brings a raft of largely cosmetic changes. For the extra £2000 over the base model, you get 17in black alloy wheels, leather seats and steering wheel, and more blue and white body detailing than you can shake a half-smoked pack of Gauloises at.
Exotic looks for very little money
Usually I’d scoff at spending that sort of money on appearance, but in the case of the Wind Gordini it makes a little more sense because it turns what is already a highly individual piece of automotive design into the epitome of French racing chic without getting too twee.
To be fair, the Gordini pack also adds a few useful features, including a Bluetooth phone connection, USB media playback and a more powerful 2 x 35W sound system. All essential bits of kit in my book.
A high rear deck and slot rear window makes reversing fun
Underneath the visually arresting two-thirds scale supercar body, the Wind is essentially a Twingo - which is itself based upon a heavily revised Mk. 2 Clio chassis. And that’s taking us right back to the late 1990s.
The budget origin and age of the underpinnings do show through in places. It’s easy to hear the turbo spinning unless you have the stereo turned up, which you will have to do to drown out the road noise. Even at 70mph with the roof up, the Wind is not what you'd call quiet.
Torque is cheap
As with all the best hot Renaults of recent years, development of the Wind was undertaken by the folks at Renaultsport, who know a thing or two about making quick, small, front-wheel drive cars. Making the most of the aged underpinnings, Renaultsport has created a car that is rewarding when grabbed by the scruff of the neck.
The Wind has to be hustled down the road to get the most out of it. This may not be the most relaxing way of getting between points A and B, but it’s certainly entertaining and encourages you to coax the most out of the Wind’s warm rather than hot performance which sees 0-60 covered in 10.2 seconds and lets you reach an eventual top speed of 118mph.
Renault’s boast for its 100PS, 16V 1.2-litre turbo is the economy of a 1.2 combined with the power of a 1.4 and the torque of a 1.6. I’ll give them points two and three, but I only managed 36.8mpg over a week so the claim of 44.8 over the combined cycle seems a tad optimistic. CO2 emissions are a very average 145g/km.
On the positive side, there’s plenty of torque available - 152Nm at 3500rpm - very little in the way of turbo lag and the short-throw five-speed manual gearbox is extremely positive. The engine also makes a pleasingly sporty growl all the way up to the red line.
Compared to other folding tin-tops like the Peugeot 207CC and Mercedes SLK, the Wind’s roof is a simple design with no amidships hinge. You simply unlock the clip in the middle of the windscreen frame, make sure the handbrake is on and hit the switch. Then the windows drop and the one-piece roof flips back into the boot lid in 12 seconds.
How can I leave this behind?
To put the roof back up, simply do the reverse. A helpful beep sounds at the end of each operation to let you know everything is in place and locked down before you move off.
The downside of the design is that you end up with a Targa-like affair rather than a flat deck from the A-pillars back. The upside is that it’s simple, reliable and doesn’t take up too much boot space.
Inside the Renault Wind Gordini
Note the phone wedged between gear shift and USB stick - there are few other places to put it
Pull to open the lid
The 1.2-litre turbo - spritley but thirsty
The boot is spacious despite the struts
Speaking of which, with 270 litres available - albeit with a couple of bracing struts getting on the way - you can get a fair amount into the Wind’s rear storage. There’s even a full-sized spare wheel under the floor, which surprised me.
Another benefit of the Targa-esque design is the general lack of buffeting when driving with the roof down. Even at speeds of up to 60mph you can hear the stereo and don’t reach your destination looking like you’ve been standing in a wind tunnel that’s been running at full chat.
The white Gordini highlights look the biz
Behind the wheel, you find yourself sitting low but not too low. Which is just as well because the thick frame of the windscreen and the buttress-like B-pillars don’t do any favours for visibility, especially over the shoulder. Going backwards in a Wind is a bit like trying to reverse an Atlantic Wall pillbox.
The cabin itself is comfortable and surprisingly spacious, but Renault seems to have forgotten that drivers have personal possessions because there is nowhere to put a mobile phone or wallet let alone a cup of coffee or bottle of water. Yes, there is a parcel shelf behind the seats, but if anything slides along it you need the arms of a Gibbon to retrieve it.
One piece roof neither up nor down
Also rather strangely, the 12V power outlet is hidden away in the glove box. And I’m not sure I’d be happy shutting the lid on my phone’s charge cable over an extended period of time.
What the Wind really delivers is cheap open-air driving. Even in Gordini trim, the Wind is cheaper to the tune of £1500 than the Peugeot 1.6-litre 207CC and it’s really no sacrifice to go for the entry-level version, which, at only £12,995, is the open-air motoring bargain of the decade.
The ageing and cheap underpinnings may show through in places, but as an affordable and sporty little drop-top the Wind Gordini takes some beating. With it’s unique looks and new, overtly Gallic racing livery and interior, it looks and feels the part while the simple roof mechanism should allay fears of the mechansim jamming. ®
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