Peugeot were the first company to produce a hardtop convertible car way back in 1934 with the Peugeot 401 Eclipse. Of course technology has moved on from this stunning but impractical classic car; its roof folded away in one peice taking away any practcal use of the large car’s luggage space.
In more recent times Peugeot have returned to the coupé-cabriolet concept of drop-tops with a metal folding roof in place of the conventional canvas hood. First with the 206CC, the first super-mini to use a modern folding hardtop which was replaced in 2007, by the best selling open top car, the 207CC. The 206CC was rapidly followed in 2003 by the larger 307CC. The 307CC became a popular choice in the mid sized convertible market for its modern looks and high level of equipment. We now get to look at the Peugeot 308 CC, the latest in the line and see if Peugeot can expect similar success.
The 308 CC continues the Peuget family styling while using all the coupé-cabriolet expertise they have built up over the years. With its four seats it offers practical family motoring although space in the back is limited. It certainly offers more space than the 207CC whose rear seats are practical only for a couple of bags of shopping.
The styling of this new car is a little more aggressive and sporting to its predeccesor. Sadly, as a result the windscreen os so steeply raked that some of the open-air convertible feel is lost. Never the less it looks good with the roof either up or down. The overall feeling is that this is something quite apart from the average 308 hatchback.
The ‘quality car’ feeling continues inside. The seats are well-shaped and supportive and feature Mercedes-style inbuilt air vents which diffuse warm air around the occupant’s neck. Air conditioning, alloy wheels, remote central locking, and a leather steering wheel come as standard on all models. Those selecting the SE version over the base ‘Sport’ get their hands on a host of extra goodies including 17″ alloys, automatic wipers and headlamps, an auto-dipping rear-view mirror, rear parking sensors, cruise control, climate control, an alarm, an upgraded stereo and ambient lighting.
The top of the range GT model has leather upholstery, wind stop, 18″ alloys, front and rear parking sensors, tyre pressure monitoring and a JBL audio system.
Those who will buy the 308 will be looking for a fun way of enjoying open air motoring without loosing any creature comforts or practicality. The engines therefore are geared more towards relaxed cruising than hard driving. The 1.6 litre petrol engines come from the BMW-PSA joint venture, with both VTi and THP being the same basic units used in the new Mini. Peugeot’s diesels are equally well thought out and reputably tough.
The chassis is noticably firmer than that of the 307CC and along with much improved suspension its a smoother and more predictable ride. The steering remains light but gives a reasonable amount of feedback to the driver. There’s plenty of power and torque for overtaking or hill-climbing, and a pleasing rasp from the exhaust at higher revs. However, it is not really as sporting to drive as the styling might suggest and although it takes corners with confidence its natural pace is relaxed summer cruising.
On the road you’ll also notice very acceptable levels of noise and wind buffeting. With the roof down and windows up it is quite easy to have a normal conversation even at motorway speeds.
While you’re cruising around, soaking up the sun you can rest assured that you are driving in one of the safest cars on the road. Peugeot take safety seriously and the 308 CC has scored a full five stars (to the 2008 standards) in the Euro NCAP crash tests and collected 36 out of a possible 37 points for overall adult occupant safety. It also scored three stars for child protection. The only weak area is pedestrian protection where it won only two stars.
Like many convertibles these days there are active rear roll-over protection bars which pop up from their hidden away spot if the car should reach an angle where it is likely to roll over. In addition there are even head-protecting airbags for the front-seat passengers, housed in the seat head-rests.
It’s hard not to find something to like in the 308 CC. It may not be as sporting as some convertibles but it makes up for it in being a genuinley useable car. Ideal for those who like the idea of a convertible but don’t want to make any sacrafices. It measures up well to the competition with an elegance matching the likes of the VW Eos, an excellent safety score and a pleasant driving experience.
The Peugeot 308 CC will be available from 1st June 2009.