Back in the day, if a car had a sunroof it would be a small flap above the heads of those in the front, which popped open or slid back. Its purpose was to allow a bit of extra fresh air to come in, without the noisy turbulence you get when you open a window at speed.
It was once a must-have feature and something of a status symbol, but its popularity started to wane during the 1990s as air-conditioning began to gain a foothold. By the turn of the millennium, air-conditioning was no longer a novelty and the humble sunroof largely faded from options lists.
It wasn’t long until the sunroof was reinvented, however. As technology improved, it became possible to devote ever-larger areas of a car’s roof to increasingly bigger sunroofs – and before long, the panoramic sunroof had arrived. They vary from fixed solid glass panels that allow natural light to flood the interior, to retractable glass screens that truly let the outside in.
Today, you can choose a panoramic roof on cars at many price levels, and each has its own spin on the design, with fabric, fixed and opening types available. Each has its own appeal, too, and having one can really lift the ambience of a car’s interior, without necessarily adding hugely to the price.
Here’s our list of 10 of the best cars with a panoramic sunroof on sale today:
1. Toyota Yaris Hybrid review
Thanks to a striking redesign in 2020, the new Toyota Yaris is one of the classiest small hatchbacks on the market. Being a new Toyota, buyers get the brand’s fuel-saving hybrid technology as standard and latest safety equipment. Its 1.5-litre petrol engine and electric motor setup mean the Yaris can run on pure-electric power up to 80% of the time around town, enabling a combined fuel consumption of up to 68.9mpg.
On Design and Excel trims, the Yaris can be specced with a fixed panoramic sunroof for £495. While that may seem pricey, it’s actually quite cheap in comparison to other brand offerings, and since the Yaris already comes equipped with alloy wheels, a reversing camera, automatic lights and and a central touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity as standard, the sunroof is likely to be the only option you need. The blind is manually operated and, when fully retracted, makes the family hatchback feel surprisingly airy.
2. Ford Fiesta hatchback review
Like the Yaris, the Ford Fiesta shows that you don’t need a large car to enjoy a panoramic roof. Pick the luxurious, top-spec Vignale model and you’ll have a panoramic glass roof as standard, making the cabin feel incredibly light and spacious. On lower trim levels, the sunroof is a £995 optional extra. There’s an electric blind and the front section of the roof opens so you can truly let the outside in. In fact, with the addition of a sunroof, the Fiesta becomes one of the brightest superminis available. The Vignale model also includes leather seats (which are heated in the front), a heated steering wheel and a reversing camera – on top of the impressive standard kit available on the Fiesta, our 2019 Car of the Year. A rival to premium hatchbacks such as the MINI and Audi A1, the Fiesta Vignale offers lots of equipment without showing off too much.
3. Tesla Model 3 saloon review
Having been launched as a pioneering electric car back in 2017, it’s no surprise that the Tesla Model 3 is unique in its offering. Instead of donning a basic sunroof, its panoramic windscreen curves fluently into the roofline, creating one large panel that provides greater visibility and means the Tesla has a lighter cabin than pretty much any other car you can buy. This does mean it’s fixed and cannot be opened, however, but it is standard, so you won’t need to part with any additional money to have this feature.
The Tesla Model 3 is the most affordable all-electric car in the brand’s line-up. There are three versions of the car available, starting with the Standard Range Plus in rear-wheel drive form. On a full charge, it can manage 267 miles of range and can sprint from 0-60mph in 5.3 seconds. The mid-range and top tier Long Range and Performance models have two motors instead of one, which means they can manage 360 and 352 miles of range respectively, with the latter’s 0-60mph sprint reduced to just 3.1 seconds.
4. Jaguar F-Pace SUV review
Jaguar was originally famed for its elegant saloons and low-slung sports cars, but the F-Pace, E-Pace and all-electric I-Pace models mean the British marque is now one of the leading contenders in the large, luxury SUV segment. The F-Pace is remarkably accomplished, blending all the luxury, style and handling prowess you’d expect of a Jaguar with extra practicality and more than a modicum of off-road talent.
The F-Pace doesn’t come cheap, however, so our favourite is the entry-level rear-wheel-drive 2.0-litre diesel in Prestige trim. It’s tempting to delve deeply into the options list, though, and we the panoramic roof is a prime pick. You can choose a fixed-glass panel or a more expensive sliding version, but both will flood the upmarket interior with light. Be wary, though – option costs can soon mount up until the F-Pace looks very expensive indeed.
5. Volkswagen Tiguan SUV review
Volkswagen’s Tiguan is a popular small SUV amongst British drivers. It’s available with a variety of petrol and diesel engines producing between 128bhp and 242bhp. These units can be linked to both manual and automatic gearboxes and power can be sent to the front or all four wheels. The German carmaker has also recently introduced a four-wheel drive R model, which is powered by a 2.0-litre petrol turbo engine and produces a punchier 316bhp.
In terms of equipment, all variants are well-specced as standard, featuring an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, DAB radio and Bluetooth. Range-topping Elegance models get a panoramic sunroof as standard, but this is an optional extra across the rest of the range, costing between £960 and £1,175, depending on the trim level. It opens, too – tilting and sliding depending on your preference. It’s also programmed to close in the event of a collision.
6. Mercedes E-Class Coupe
The latest Mercedes E-Class Coupe is a far more elegant machine than its predecessor, trading the former’s bulky, sharp edges for a streamlined, fluid look – like that of the larger Mercedes S-Class Coupe. You can also choose a Mercedes E-Class Convertible, but adding the panoramic roof option to an Coupe version will give you a great taste of open-air motoring without incurring the expense or inconvenience of a folding fabric roof.
The E-Class Coupe has a gloriously high-tech interior, especially if you go for the twin 12.3-inch displays that help you make the very most of Mercedes’ COMAND navigation system. The E-Class Coupe has a virtually endless options list, but this means you can tailor a car to your exact taste. And if the price tag starts to run away from you, at least the economical E 220d’s 2.0-litre diesel engine will help you claw some money back with low running costs.
7. Skoda Octavia Estate review
The Skoda Octavia has become something of a default answer to the question “can you suggest a good family car?” In both hatchback and estate form, it offers heaps of space for both passengers and luggage alike and you get plenty of bang for your buck. The estate, unsurprisingly boasts the bigger boot space, totalling at an impressive 610 liters, or 1,740 liters with the rear seats folded. It’s also the only version of the two that can be specced with a panoramic sunroof; but it’s not cheap.
The glass roof will cost you an additional £1,175 regardless of the trim you choose but, if having a light and breezy cabin is important to you, then it’s likely a worthy one-off price to pay; the panoramic sunroof extends almost the entire length of the car.
8. Range Rover Evoque SUV review
The Range Rover Evoque is one of the most luxurious SUVs available, so it’s no surprise that the new model, like its predecessor, is offered with a panoramic sunroof. But unless you opt for the range-topping models, it’s an expensive optional extra.
That sunroof is available on all trim levels, but only standard on Autobiography and HST trims. Buyers have a choice as to which type they want on the new model, too, and this will have an impact on how much additional cash they spend on it. A fixed sunroof, which was all that was available on the old model, is standard on the latest Autobiography variant, but will cost £1,150 on all other models, while a sliding roof is standard on the HST, but a pricey £1,600 across the rest of the range.
That said, if you can afford it, a sunroof is certainly worth having. Rear-seat passengers in particular will really benefit from the amount of light it lets into the cabin.
9. Volvo XC90 SUV review
The Volvo XC90 is one of our favourite luxury SUVs. It’s good to drive despite prioritising comfort over sportiness, and the interior is a very special place to spend time. Everything has a calming quality about it, and the Volvo, as we’ve come to expect from the Swedish carmaker, also impresses with its build quality. A new Recharge model now sits at the top of the XC90 range, featuring a petrol-electric plug-in hybrid powertrain. Though it’s expensive, it’s equipped with all the latest tech.
A large, double panoramic sunroof is available as an option – costing between £2,350 and £3,150 across the mild-hybrid Momentum, Inscription and R-Design models. It’s slightly cheaper on the plug-in hybrid inscription and R-Design models, however, costing between £1,500 and £2,150. The front part of the sunroof can open, with the ability to tilt and slide, and there’s an adjustable blind, too.
10. Fiat 500 review
There is a convertible version of the Fiat 500 with a folding fabric roof, but the standard hatchback is also available with a retractable glass panel. It’s an expensive option on an already expensive car, though – you’ll pay £1,250 for the privilege. It’s not all doom and gloom, however, as it lets in almost the same amount of light but without restricting rearward visibility; the convertible’s hood concertinas over the rear end, which makes it tricky to see anything out the back. In its latest guise, the 500 city car is fully electric. There’s a choice of two zero-emissions powertrains, plus four trim levels. One of these is the launch edition La Prima, which comes with a price tag of £27,495 after the government’s Plug-in Car Grant (PiCG) has been taken into account. That’s pretty pricey for a city car, but a cheaper entry-level Action is available for nearer £20,000.