Panoramic sunroof pros and cons

Looking to brighten your driving experience? The sky's the limit with a panoramic sunroof. Check out the pros and cons of a glass roof here

James Wilson
Nov 10, 2021

Panoramic sunroofs are an increasingly common feature on modern cars and are desirable to many drivers. It’s clear as to why they are so popular, too. Lots of natural light, lots more sightseeing potential, a less enclosed feel and even the ability to stargaze at night - there are indeed a lot of plus points.

Panoramic sunroofs are not without drawbacks, though, as they can negatively affect the practicality of the car, and even impact the running costs. If you’re deciding whether a panoramic roof is right for you, keep reading to find out more.

While panoramic sunroofs come in a range of shapes and sizes, they are generally all large rectangular panes of glass that span most of the width of a car’s roof. We say ‘generally’ as there are some oddballs out there, such as Tesla’s panoramic windscreen, which combines a windscreen and sunroof into one expansive piece of glass that curves up and over the front seats.

Some panoramic roofs, meanwhile, extend over both front and rear passenger areas with some even having the option to open them, much like a traditional sunroof. These extra-long and openable panoramic roofs are usually split into two sections of glass - one part is usually fixed while the other can slide and tilt open. Such roofs are very desirable but complicated to make - as a result they typically cost more than smaller fixed panoramic roofs.

Irrespective of which type of panoramic roof a car comes with, most include a blind to keep out sunlight. Some models, such as the Kia Sportage, have electronic blinds while others require manual operation to open or close.

Pop-up wind deflectors that go along the front edge of the hole left by an open panoramic roof are commonly found on upmarket cars from brands such as Mercedes. They appear when the roof is open and are designed to reduce wind noise in the cabin.

Happily, though, you don't need to blow the budget on an expensive upmarket car to get a glass roof. There are a wide range of makes and models that are available with a panoramic roof that should suit most budgets, such as the Audi A3, Kia Sportage, Volkswagen Tiguan, BMW X3 and Ford Fiesta.

What are the differences between a panoramic sunroof and a regular sunroof?

Panoramic sunroof

Regular sunroof

Larger size

Only covers a portion of the roof above the front seats

Always made of glass

Can be made of glass or painted metal/plastic

Not always openable

Always openable (when over the front seats)

Heavy: can negatively impact fuel economy and performance

Typically less of an impact on fuel economy and performance

Roof racks can still normally be used

Roof racks can still normally be used

 
Some people use the term ‘moonroof’ to describe a glass sunroof or a panoramic sunroof. If you are unsure which type that the car you are viewing has fitted, it's best to check with the seller.

Panoramic sunroof pros

Extra light One of the biggest benefits of a panoramic sunroof is that it allows extra light into a car’s cabin - when the blinds are open, of course. As a result, a panoramic glass roof can make the interior of a car feel more spacious. Some even claim that a brighter cabin can help improve the mood of drivers and passengers.

Extra ventilation Cars with opening panoramic roofs offer an excellent method of ventilating a cabin on hot or particularly sunny days. As heat naturally rises, opening up the roof is a great way to let hot cabin air escape. Similarly, when driving, opening a glass roof can result in less wind noise than opening windows, which means there is less to get in the way of enjoying your favourite dancefloor fillers. Additionally, keeping the windows closed can get more fresh air into the car while preventing young children from throwing things out of the window.

 Extra visibility Let’s not forget one of the main benefits of any glass is that it allows people to see what is on the other side. When parked, panoramic roofs allow a car’s occupants to have much more sightseeing potential. They can also help you to make sure that you're not going to scrape the roof if you're trying to take a particularly tall car somewhere with low ceilings, like a multi-storey car park.

Extra style Panoramic roofs often come with some degree of tinting, with the glass being darker than normal windows. Not only can this help shield cabin occupants from intense sunlight but it can make for rather sleek and sometimes sporty styling - especially on cars which are painted in a lighter contrasting colour, such as white or silver.

Panoramic sunroof cons

 Extra weight Glass is heavy and putting a large panel on a car’s roof adds weight. This has a negative impact on fuel economy as well as performance, as the car has more weight to carry around.

Extra complexity Compared to a simple metal roof any panoramic roof adds complexity, which ultimately means there is more potential for things to go wrong. Panoramic roofs can also increase the chances of having a leak - although cleaning the exterior of a car regularly can go a long way to preventing this as it stops dirt and vegetation building up and preventing water from draining normally.

Extra expense Being a desirable feature, a panoramic roof can drive up the price of a car - either new or used. This is especially true of new cars, where a panoramic roof might be an optional extra that costs £1,000 or £2,000. For example, a panoramic sunroof costs four figures.

Less headroom Adding in a panoramic roof can reduce the amount of headroom in the cabin - which is often most noticeable for taller passengers in the rear seats.

Example panoramic roof setups

As the world of panoramic roofs can be quite confusing, below are explanations of how four typical systems operate.

Audi A3

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Audi launched a new version of its A3 in 2020 and higher-spec models are available with a panoramic glass sunroof. To be specific, it is an optional extra on S Line and Edition 1 trims but standard on the Vorsprung model.

The A3 is a great example of an opening panoramic roof that only extends over the front seats. Opening and closing the roof is done via a button in the roof (near the rear-view mirror). It can be pushed forward and back to slide the glass to and fro, or it can be pushed up to raise the rear of the glass a little. There is also a retractable blind to keep out excess sunlight.

In addition to this, if you hold down the unlock button on the key it will lower all the windows and slightly open the sunroof. This is great for helping let hot air escape in warm weather. Similarly, holding the lock button shuts the windows and sunroof.

AUDI A3 BUYERS' GUIDE

2012-2020 AUDI A3 BUYERS' GUIDE

Kia Sportage

Used deals from £7,194
Monthly finance from £0*

Most of the current Kia Sportage range (2, JBL Black Edition and GT-Line S trims) come with a panoramic sunroof as standard. It extends over the front and rear passenger seats and the glass is split into two sections, though only the front section is openable.

Operation is similar to the Audi A3 above, with opening and closing controlled via a roof-mounted button. Opening or closing the blind and sunroof can be done together or separately depending on whether the button is slid to its first or second position - the latter is for opening both at once.

Momentarily pressing the control button with the glass closed will tilt the rear of the glass up slightly. If you briefly press the sunroof button during opening or closing the sunroof will stop moving.

KIA SPORTAGE BUYERS' GUIDE

Volkswagen Tiguan

Used deals from £16,800
Monthly finance from £435*

The VW Tiguan offers a panoramic roof on all models from 2021 onwards, but it is only an option on Standard, Life and R-Line variants. It is included on Elegance trim. The roof itself is very similar to the Kia Sportage sunroof in appearance and how it operates.

For instance, it extends above the front and rear seats, it is in two sections - although only the front part opens - and it has an electric blind that comes out underneath the glass. Some models, for example R-Line versions, even have LED lights that run along the length of the sunroof, which adds a bit of class at night time.

VOLKSWAGEN TIGUAN BUYERS' GUIDE

BMW X3

Used deals Limited stock

You can specify a panoramic sunroof across the BMW X3 range. This includes SE, xLine, M Sport and M trims. The glass itself covers the front and back seats and is split into two sections with an accompanying electric blind. The front section opens, while the rear section stays in place.

Opening and closing the roof is done using a switch located near the rear-view mirror. Assuming the roof and blind are closed, pushing the button backwards once will open the blind. Pushing it again will open the glass.

You can pull back the switch twice and both the glass and blind will slide out of the way. Sliding it forwards has the reverse effect. To tilt open the sunroof, the control button needs to be pressed upwards once. Repeating this will close it. If the blind is closed when the tilting function is used it will automatically open slightly.

BMW X3 BUYERS' GUIDE

*Representative PCP finance - Ford Fiesta:

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