Small Moonroofs Are So 2001


Test-driving the latest cars on a weekly basis is generally wrought with highs and lows; there are moments of being surprised and impressed as well as being totally disappointed and wondering "What were they thinking?" One of those regular disappointments lately is the small moonroofs that still seem to be hanging around. They're just as sad as Vanilla Ice's new home improvement show on the DIY network.

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I drove the 2015 Volvo V60 recently. While I generally loved the familiar feel of its ride quality, I was baffled by how small the "normal-sized" moonroof looked. If Volvo can put a panoramic moonroof in the XC60, why not carry this feature through to the V60? Panoramic moonroofs are indicative of contemporary automotive design and certainty not something that's a budget-buster. The Toyota Venza I drove recently had not only one but two small moonroofs, as if that's any better.

I'm not the only one bothered by this leftover feature. A coworker recently complained about the small moonroof in the Lexus RX 450h, griping, "I not only don't like small sunroofs but also hate ones where the opening is so far back from the windshield your head doesn't even get much sun or wind. At least the panoramic ones give the cabin a better sense of openness, plus give light and [a] breeze to backseat passengers."

Of course, there are contributing factors to small moonroofs in cars. Often, vehicles might have DVD entertainment systems that extend down from the roofline behind the front row of seats. This would prohibit a panoramic moonroof (although entertainment screens on the back of the front head restraints would not only suffice, but also prevent visibility issues). One of my colleagues wondered if the added weight of the glass and its effect on the center of gravity could also be a factor.

When I asked Volvo about this, I was told that the size of the V60's moonroof is based on the fact that the wagon is essentially the same design as the S60 midsize sedan from the front of the car to the rear seats, "so from a parts perspective, it makes sense to fit it with the same sunroof as S60 since that is what that particular roof was made for. It's not due to weight issues."

Still, other car manufacturers with the agility to move quickly enough to appeal to today's discerning consumers are managing to juggle all of these factors. Kia, for example, was able to squeeze a panoramic moonroof into the 2014 Soul Plus with Primo Package, and Hyundai is offering it as an option to just about any car it can — the Veloster, Azera and Santa Fe, for example.

Sit in the Azera's backseat for a ride down a tree-lined street and you too may start to see how much pleasure a panoramic roof can add even to mundane drives.

By Kristin Varela | March 11, 2014 | Comments (6)
Tags: Family, Volvo



Volvos are known for smaller sunroofs, even the panoramic on the XC60 is smaller compare to the rest of the competition, the second panel is much smaller. A Volvo body shop guy once told me instead of glass they put high strength steel bars to improve crash test ratings.


I don't know why any person buys a moonroof. It's a poor substitution for a convertible top, and a panoramic sunroof is no better.


Agree with Jett. Go all the way and buy a convertible.

Mike / CTMechE

Most convertibles aren't practical cars. In fact, I'm pretty sure there hasn't even been a convertible on the US market that had 4 doors in decades. To me, any fixed-roof car should have a moonroof, but going convertible seriously limits other vehicle capabilities.

The issue of small vs. large moonroofs to me is obvious, and stated by Volvo - there are fewer and fewer wagons on the road, so "longroof" variant cars that offered bigger moonroof space aren't common anymore. No sense in having more specialized parts by offering two different moonroofs.
The Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen is the exception, as it's still a fairly popular wagon. But the Jetta sedan isn't even the same car anymore, so it's easy to see why the huge moonroof remains.

Even Subaru ditched the big moonroof. I have a 2008 Outback Limited with the large moonroof (two pieces, the front 8" is a pop up glass wind deflector), and I love it. But the current Outback has the same sized moonroof as the Legacy sedan - presumably to save cost on parts and design. (The Forester, however, has a wonderful, large moonroof - too bad they didn't put that in the Outback)

True, they aren't a substitute for a convertible. I have a Honda S2000 that I love as well - but no convertible can compare to the practicality of a wagon, much less other typical family cars.

I give Nissan credit for at least *tring* with their Murano CrossCabriolet, but we all know how well that was received....


My 2012 Maxima has a panoramic roof and I prefer the moonroof of my previous 2010 Maxima.
The moonroof was quiet at almost all speeds and could easily be used while on the freeway.
The panoramic roof suffers from excessive wind noise as the glass pane slides up and over the roof which is obviously an aerodynamic disadvantage.
It is useless above 40mph - far too noisy to listen to music or for conversation. Curiously, Nissan offers a deflector for the moonroof which doesn't need one but not for the panoramic roof which absolutely needs one.
On the positive side, the black all-glass roof looks amazing over the top of the white pearl paint. It really improves the look of the car.
Notwithstanding the looks, from a practical perspective, I prefer the "old" moonroof.


Anyone who wants a sunroof should get a convertible? I'm a huge convertible fan, but that is not just a casual change to pick a convertible. A convertible would cost more, add weight (decreasing performance and efficiency), reduce crash worthiness, decrease the size of the backseat, limit the car to a two door body style (except the Wrangler), subject the passengers to much more wind, and alter the look of the vehicle (almost always for the worse) when the top is up. Not comparable at all...

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