Although Peugeot has had a folding steel roof in its 206 CC for some time now, that car can hardly be classed as a four-seater.
Neither can the very first folding tin-top, the
1952 Ford Fairlane hardtop convertible. That one had a massive boot to house the roof, but there was little rear seat space and, ironically, no boot room either with the top down, and very little with it up!
The very first car I saw with a folding steel roof was the Honda Civic de Sol, but that one was more of an electric targa top, and very much a two-seater. I saw it in Japan more than 10 years ago.
And the other folding hardtop cars, the Mercedes SLK, the Mercedes SL, and the tiny Daihatsu Copen, are also only two-seaters.
There is of course the Renault Megane CC, featured at the Frankfurt Motor Show in October, but that's not here yet. Watch this space.
Back to business
Anyhow, back to the Peugeot 307 CC.
This has the sensational streamlined front end of the 307 hatchback, but grafted onto a new rear end that gives a smooth tail.
One feature that immediately stands out is the very large windscreen, and this means you have to duck your head beneath the trailing edge when you get into the car. Some people found this awkward, but I merely used the windscreen edge to swing myself into position.
Another is the rear seat space, with enough headroom and legroom for two in the back with the top up.
Boot space is remarkable for this sort of car, with 204 litres with the top stowed, 350 litres with it up. And there's a full size spare wheel.
The roof raises or lowers in just 25 seconds, and locks into place automatically.
On the move
Although not the fastest around, it has one feature which none of the others have - you can lower or raise the roof while travelling at up to 10 km/h. This means if you're in a traffic jam and it starts to rain, you can put the roof up while inching forward.
That's a really great feature - all the others have to be standing still with the brakes on, which can be awkward if you're in a slow-moving traffic queue.
The tail treatment is special The rear lights use light emitting diode (LED) technology that also provides the rear with a futuristic appearance. There are four diagonal strips, each with 20 LEDs, as well as a third brake light consisting of 32 LEDs.
Another feature we noticed on the road that there is little wind buffeting at normal driving speeds, which negates the need for a rear diffuser.
Reason is that the windscreen, as mentioned, comes quite far back and is quite high compared to the front seats, which are 40 mm lower than in the 307 hatchback.
Exclusive rear seats
The two rear seats are exclusive to the 307 CC and consist of a bench with contoured profiles, separated by a central strip and a fixed seatback with two head restraints.
They have flexible armrests and a support handle that makes it easier to get in and out. Rear access is further assisted by a larger door opening and by front seats that can be moved forward, with memorised positions .
There are pyrotechnic rollover hoops to protect passengers, especially in the rear.
Other safety features include an electronic stability programme (ESP) that includes an anti-skid function, ABS, electronic brake force distribution (EBD), and emergency brake assistance (BAS).
There are also SMART front airbags, head and chest side airbags, 3-point seat belts with force limiters, active front head restraints, rear head restraints, fog lamps, automatic activation of hazard lights and automatic activation of dipped headlamps.
The 307 CC uses technology to improve comfort and convenience.
When opening a door, a sensor detects the hand even before it grips the handle and lowers the window by a few millimetres so the door can be opened with ease.
Other specific functions include the butterfly windscreen wipers with flat wiper blades, a central control to open all four windows simultaneously, remote opening for the boot, and a radio aerial concealed in the rear spoiler.
Inside the leather-rimmed steering wheel has metallic inserts, while the instrument panel features four chrome-ringed dials on a white background, and there are aluminium foot pedals and gear lever knob.
Owners will have a choice of different interior trim options that includes a full leather option consisting of leather lining on the fascia panel, door capping, and on the armrests.
Other features include climate controlled air conditioning, electric mirrors and windows, remote door locking, and a full audio system which features a front loader CD player for single CDs, plus a multi-loader for up to six CDs. There are satellite controls.
There are three versions of the car available - two 100 kW derivatives, with either a 5-speed manual gearbox or a 4-speed auto (with manual sequential mode), and a sporty 130 kW model which comes out only with a 5-speed manual.
From the outside, the only way to distinguish between the 100 kW modesl and the 130 kW version is the difference in the alloy wheels. The 130 kW 307 CC is equipped with larger 17-inch wheels.
A closer inspection at the rear end of the 130 kW version will reveal four park distance control sensors in the rear bumper.
On the road
Although this is not a sports car - it's a tourer - the 307C C handles beautifully, thanks to the extra 86 kg of steelwork built into the chassis to ensure it has the same torsional rigidity as the hatchback.
And that's with the CC's top down - put the top up and it's even stiffer, resulting in pinsharp handling and point-and-squirt steerability.
The extra steel also ensures there are no rattles or squeaks, and absolutely NO scuttle shake, the bane of sports cars old and new.
I drove the auto version first, and along the famous Bains Kloof Pass just outside Wellington in the Cape the ability to use left foot braking was a big plus factor.
On the minus side, though, that extra weight in the chassis, plus the additional mass of the roof mechanism, meant acceleration out of the corners wasn't ideal.
This showed itself even more on the open road, where circumspection was often required in overtaking situations.
Choice of engine
As mentioned, in South Africa, the 307 CC is available with a choice of two petrol engines with the same capacity of 1 997cm³. The first is the tried and tested EW10 J4 version as used in the 307 hatch, with 100 kW at 6 000 r/min and maximum torque of 190 Nm at 4 100 r/min.
Peugeot says the 307 CC automatic will reach 100 km/h in 12.7 seconds and on to a top speed of 204 km/h.
It was a different story with the manual we had at the launch.
This was not the 100 kW manual - this won't be available here immediately, although it will follow soon - but the 130 kW model. And here we found power was plentiful, and more in keeping with the image and character of the car.
Its EW10 J4S engine has cylinder head, air intake system, exhaust system, and engine management system changes which give it 130 kW at 7 000 r/min and maximum torque of 202 Nm at 4 750 r/min.
Peugeot claims the 0-100 km/h sprint in 10 seconds and 225km/h top speed.
Limited numbers of the new 307 CC are available now at all Peugeot's 24 dealers across Southern Africa at R311 900 for the 100 kW auto version and R329 900 for the 130 kW.
The 100 kW manual version will soon be available at R299 900.
The 307 CC is covered by a 3-year/100 000km factory warranty, and like all other Peugeot petrol engines, the 100kW version will only require a service after every 30 000km while this distance is reduced to 20 000km for the 130kW CC.
A Peugeot 5-year/60 000km full maintenance plan is now standard.