In the first decade of the 21st century there was a brief fad for what were known as coupe-convertibles. These were more or less the same as ordinary convertibles but a lot more complex. Instead of fabric roofs, they had metal ones made up of several sections which could be folded or unfolded at the press of a button, usually in somewhere between 20 and 30 seconds.
The main advantage of these cars over regular convertibles was that they were a lot stiffer with the roof up, which prevented the dreaded ‘scuttle shake’ and helped with the ride and handling. Another plus point was that they let in far less road noise.
It wasn’t a particularly new idea, and you can still buy coupe-convertibles today. The Mazda MX-5 RF is a popular example, the Vauxhall Cascada perhaps less so.
The cars we’re going to look at here weren’t quite like that. They weren’t sports cars, and they weren’t premium models either. Instead, they were generally based on quite ordinary hatchbacks and aimed at a mainstream customer base. They didn’t exactly flood the market, but potential buyers had a lot to choose from.
Unfortunately, they were not very successful. They didn’t sell in great numbers, possibly because their complicated roof mechanisms made them quite expensive, and on the whole the manufacturers abandoned the idea.
They’re part of motoring history, though, and that’s all the reason we need to remember a selection of the better-known ones.
Ford Focus CC
Ford was a late arrival to the coupe-convertible party. It displayed a concept car called the Vignale at the 2004 Paris Show but didn’t launch the production version until three years later.
Like most cars of this type, the Focus CC (a derivative of the second-generation Focus) had far less room for rear passengers than its maker liked to claim. It was unusual, though, in that it had a great deal of luggage space.
Even with the roof tucked away in the boot, there was 248 litres of this. When the roof was in its usual place, the capacity was a very impressive 534 litres. Today’s Focus hatchback doesn’t even come close to that.
The flipside was that the CC had a large rear end (literally and figuratively it had a lot of junk in the trunk) and it looked quite ungainly when the roof was up. In open-air form, though, it was quite attractive.
Mitsubishi Colt CZC
Making a supermini-sized coupe-convertible look attractive was a big challenge, as Mitsubishi proved.
The CZC’s odd appearance led to it being known in some quarters the Tadpole, or – in the case of the high-performance CZC Turbo, which cost £2000 more and had an additional 40bhp – the Flying Tadpole.
The CZC was less practical than its most obvious rival, the Nissan Micra C+C, and rear legroom was close to zero. It was decent enough to drive, though, and it had better rear visibility than the Colt hatchback on which it was based.
Nissan Micra C+C
The C+C was an international effort. Despite the Japanese badge, it was built at Nissan’s factory in Sunderland, where German coachbuilder Karmann established its own facility to fabricate the roof.
Of all the junior coupe-convertibles, this one surely the strangest-looking, with its bulbous front end and extended rear. The latter helped with practicality – when the roof was up, there was 457 litres of luggage room.
The C+C was more cramped inside. Nissan said that the back seats were suitable either for children or for adults going on short journeys, but this was questionable to say the least.
Peugeot 206 CC
Peugeot first built a car with a folding metal roof as long ago as the 1930s, and was an enthusiastic producer of them in the early 21st century.
Its first attempt in the modern era was the 206 CC, which was launched in 2000. Since the trend for this type of car had not yet been fully established, the little Peugeot was often compared with the Mercedes SLK even though there was almost no chance that a potential buyer would spend a moment trying to choose between them.
Nice if not exactly sporty to drive, the 206 CC was one of the more attractive small coupe-convertibles, though far more so with the roof down.
Peugeot 207 CC
The 206 CC was replaced after six years by the 207 CC. This was a larger, more modern and generally better car which appealed to reviewers who hadn’t thought much of the earlier model.
Most of the available engines were on the modest side, but one version had a 172bhp 1.6-litre turbo petrol which was co-developed with BMW and used in high-performance versions of the MINI.
With this unit under the bonnet the 207 CC was quick, but the devices used to raise and lower the roof made it quite heavy, and it didn’t feel as much like as a hot hatch as you might have expected.
Peugeot 307 CC
Between the introductions of its two smaller coupe-convertibles, Peugeot brought out the 307 CC in 2003. It was quite stylish for its time but had very limited room for passengers or luggage, and its early popularity was threatened when Ford, Vauxhall and Volkswagen entered the market.
Peugeot used the CC’s basic shape, though with a solid roof, for its World Rally Championship contender, the 307 WRC, partly because in competition form it looked a lot more elegant than the 307 hatchback would have.
Unfortunately, it was unreliable during its first season and canned after its second, when Peugeot decided to withdraw from top-level rallying, so it didn’t have the chance to become as successful as the earlier 206 WRC.
Peugeot 308 CC
The 308 CC was Peugeot’s fourth and last car in this category. Its styling wasn’t much of an advance over that of the five-years-older 307 CC, and while the luggage space was quite impressive at 465 litres with the roof up this didn’t compare well with the 534 litres of the Focus CC which had already been on sale for two years.
Like many cars of this type, the 307 CC looked much better when the roof was down. More expensive versions were fitted with 18-inch wheels which ruined the ride quality.
Renault Megane Coupe Cabriolet
Renault first gave the Megane the coupe-convertible treatment in 2003, and did so again with the next-generation model a few years later.
The later car was better-looking, but despite a large rear end it had less luggage space than the contemporary Ford Focus CC.
Renault dropped the idea once this car came to the end of its life cycle. There is no coupe-convertible version of the current Megane.
Vauxhall Astra TwinTop
The TwinTop surely had the best name of all the twin-tops in this era. It also had a very complex roof mechanism, with bits of metal and plastic whirring constantly into and out of view for the 26 seconds it took to complete the raising or lowering process.
While looking on at this in awe, you might wonder how reliable the mechanism was. After intensive testing, Vauxhall claimed that the roof could be folded and unfolded once every day for 27 years without failing, though this did not take age or wear and tear into account.
At different times, Vauxhall sold two cars called Tigra, both of them based on the contemporary Corsa.
The second, launched in 2004, was a coupe-convertible. It was known as the Tigra TwinTop, but only when badged as an Opel in markets outside the UK.
Although it was a close relative of the Corsa, the Tigra had a completely different body. Its designers were therefore able to avoid the awkwardness that sometimes happens when you try to convert a supermini into a coupe-convertible.