Winter is by far the best time to understand the advantages of the folding hard-top cabriolet, otherwise known as a Coupe Cabriolet (CC).
You can have open-air motoring whenever you like, yet the collapsible fixed roof means you lose very little in terms of weatherproofing, refinement and security compared with a conventional coupe.
But the compromises of a CC are obvious in any season. Actually, all cabriolets have issues: while two-seat roadsters tend to be purpose-built, cabriolets usually have to make do with the basic architecture of a donor car - most often a humble hatchback.
Since the platform is not especially designed to underpin an open-roof car, there's usually a lot of strengthening added, which detracts from performance and handling.
To these woes the CC adds the requirement for a very large boot to accommodate the complex mechanism that folds the roof. The roof, in turn, has to be small and segmented in order to pack neatly away. Luxury makers don't often bother with folding-roof systems for their cabriolets/convertibles, preferring the tradition and style of a compact fabric top. But many mainstream brands - or rather their image-conscious customers - seem to love the whole CC concept, thanks to that security and (presumably) street-theatre potential.
So that's the background for the new $54,990 Renault Megane CC. Like most CC-type vehicles it's based on a mainstream family car, wears a funny little arched roof and is saddled with an enormous bottom. The CC is 160kg heavier than the Megane five-door but has the same 2--litre engine, so it's quite a bit slower. And while it's reasonably rigid for a car of this type, it still wobbles quite a bit when you go around a bumpy corner.
If you're on board with the whole CC thing, the Megane does serve up some appealing features. The continuously variable transmission (CVT) is smooth, quiet and therefore ideal for gentle driving. There's no getting away from the awkward and bulky look of the rear section, but the thick line of chrome from the windscreen to the windowline does give the car a better sense of proportion with the roof down. The top has a glass centre section (as did the previous model), so the cabin is nice and light even in coupe configuration. The squishy plastics of the Megane interior lend the CC a quality feel, an integrated TomTom sat-nav system is standard and I love the (optional) keyless entry system.
Personally, I don't really see the point of coupe-cabriolets. Surely the whole point of a four-seat open-top car is to carry your friends to Sunday brunch in style. But the Megane certainly deserves some time in the sun.
The bottom line:
The Megane CC folds in the face of the discerning driver, but still manages to hit the target market with a smooth powertrain, a glass centre-section and four-seat cabin.