You get into your car, a splendid sedan or a crossover, you stretch out in your comfortable seats, but feel a little clumsy. You don’t want to open the windows to prevent spoiling your well-dressed hair with the air assault. But then you look upon, and hurrah, there’s an innovative yet simple feature, a ‘sunroof’. You press a button or slide the moonroof, and voila, suddenly the dull cabin feels both light and airy.
Aside from the dramatic reel above, sunroofs don’t have a valid purpose. Besides ambient lighting, they can be counted as the luxury or fancy options, that the automakers let the buyer's option into their vehicles. But where did it start?
The origin of the sunroof dates back to the early 20th century when horse carriages had evolved into the car body, in the interest of priority comfort of both the driver and the passengers. An extraordinary body style, Coup de Ville, from the vintage era, had a fixed roof for the rear passengers and the driver compartment had an open cabin. These open cabins functionalized as part-time roofs which could be slid on to protect the driver in bad weather conditions.
But what started as a comfort creature, turned into a noble option. Brands like Rolls Royce and Bentley introduced a bespoke option in their opulent cabin with the help of coachbuilders.
The first modern-day sunroof was offered in the Nash car in 1937, since then sunroof has been one of the many optional accessories that automakers offer. But over the years, there have been a handful of innovations in technology and the sunroofs have evolved into various types. These innovations also involved the use of glass and metals, instead of cloth from the old-times.
The Hyundai i10 was amongst the first cars to introduce the concept of sunroofs in India.
Recommended - Oxygen Sensor: Everything You Need to Know [O2 Sensor]
In layman's terms, a sunroof is a solid, body-colored panel that manual tilts out or slides, it is an opaque metal panel. The panel opens to unveil a wide, roof opening for natural ambient lighting and fresh air.
Unlike the sunroof, a moonroof is a transparent, sliding, tinted glass panel. The panel is not removable but can be tilted slightly, for a fresh passage of air. Many people considered them the same thing, and they can be deemed correct as many automakers avail this modern-day roof window with characteristics of the two.
The panoramic style of moonroof has gained quite a popularity, in which most parts of the roof is a glass panel, but only the panel over the front two seats will slide/open, while the rear part of the roof remains intact. Often the interior of the car is shielded with retractable shade, in the headliner, which can be either manual or electric. This lets the cabin have the bright rays of the sun, but also block the sun, during the hottest days.
Now that we are familiar with both sunroof and moonroof, let’s jump into the types of sunroof available in India.
Inbuilt Sunroof: The sunroof of this type features a retractable panel that slides within the gap intentionally created between the roof and the headliner of the cabin. This enables the panel to completely disappear, which looks aesthetically clean, but often this compromises the headroom inside the cabin. The inbuilt sunroof has been featured in popular cars in India like Mahindra XUV 500, Tata Nexon, and Honda City.
Pop-up Sunroof: The pop-up sunroof, as the name is self-explanatory, can be popped-up, manually only. The panel can be tilted upwards from the rear end, which befits for extra ventilation in the cabin.
Spoiler Sunroof: The ‘spoiler’ name hints towards the actuation of the sunroof. This type of sunroof combines the tilt and slide mechanism. Hence, instead of sliding into the hollow space between the metal roof and the headliner, the spoiler sunroof slides outwards, above the car’s roof. These sunroofs prevent from compromising headroom, as in the case of the in-built sunroof, but don’t open completely. These can also be titled slightly for ventilation purposes.
Panoramic Sunroof: The majority of the automakers are adding this type of sunroof as options in their top-spec models. The panoramic sunroof stretch and cover almost the entire length and width of the car’s roof. These are multi-paneled and are segmented into two parts. Often, these are accompanied by a retractable headliner, which acts as a sunshade when required. Many popular cars like Jeep Compass, Hyundai Creta, and Tata Harrier offer this type of sunroof.
Folding/Rag Top: The folding/ragtop sunroof comes with integrated foldable fabric, which folds back to open the roof. These can be considered an cheap, yet practical alternative to convertible cars because unlike the foldable roof, they don’t eat up space in the cargo space.
Top-mount Sliding Roof: In this type of sunroof, the metal roof panel slides open above the car’s roof using tracks, thus this saves the cabin from compromising headroom, as in the case of in-built sunroofs. These are also fitted with wind deflectors that pop-up automatically, when the roof is opened, thus it banishes wind noise and small objects from entering the cabin.
Solar Sunroof: Similar to any sunroof, this can also be tilted and slid. However, the solar sunroof consists of photovoltaic cells that generate electricity in sunlight, like solar panels, Hence these can store energy from direct sunlight falling on the roof, and power various electronics inside the car.
Besides the above types of sunroofs, one can also fit aftermarket sunroofs to shower the cabin with natural sunlight. But, it is highly suggested to avoid such options. A sunroof can certainly help with car claustrophobia, but an aftermarket sunroof compromises the rigidity of the car. The automakers test their design and even drop their sunroof-fitted cars for safety tests. While the aftermarket sunroof misses out on the same tests.