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Peugeot's latest drop-top driven

2009-07-01 07:18

Lance Branquinho

Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Peugeot
Model 308 CC
Engine 1.6l turbo
Power 110kW @ 5 800r/min
Torque 240Nm @ 1 400r/min
Transmission six-speed manual
Zero To Hundred 10.4 seconds
Top Speed 215km/h
Fuel Tank 60l
Fuel Consumption 7.5l/100km
Boot Size 465l
Tyres 225/40R18
Front Suspension Pseudo MacPherson struts, dampers, anti-roll bar
Rear Suspension Torsion beam, anti-roll bar
Warranty 3 year/100 000km
Price R336 500
For most ardent motoring enthusiasts open top motoring means driving an open cockpit racing car - in F1, preferably...

Convertibles, cabriolets, soft-tops (whichever jargon suits you best) just seems like a rather silly idea most of the time.

In Europe and North America for much of the year roofless driving makes little sense, with grey skies and single-digit temperatures banishing any designs on the idea of wind-in-hair driving to the deepest recesses of the insane or phoney brave.

Within the South African market though, a convertible car is nearly justifiable.

Generous sunlight and an abundance of mountain passes and coastal byways afford South Africans the ideal excuse to indulge in some hairstyle vanquishing open top driving.

An odd thing to say, but 308CC's best view is rear-three quarter with the roof in place. Styling lines converge neatly into a V-shape around the bumper line.

CC makes sense?

All things considered, a canvas top convertible is rather undesirable though.

You want something with all the security and sound insulation of a traditional metal roof, yet seamless convertibility. Which is the reason coupe-convertibles (CCs) are so in vogue.

Blame it all on Peugeot too, as the company’s 206-, 207- and 307CCs practically democratised the folding metal-hardtop solution during the last decade – selling 650 000 combined units in the process.

Now the company which started the CC craze all the way back in the 1930s, with the sophisticated and elegant 401, 403 and 601 Eclipse CCs, has a new folding hardtop available for local Pug CC fans.

Based on the company’s 308-series, the 308CC is Peugeot's latest folding metal roof toy.

Roof up the coupe profile finally tames that outlandish front grille. Neat 18-inch alloys standard.

Subtle design touches

After the generous and unbalanced front-end of both the 308 hatch and station wagon derivatives, 308CC finally brings about balance to the apparent styling madness Peugeot has ushered in with its ludicrously oversized lower front fascia grilles.

For a start, the CC is 72mm lower and 124mm longer than the 308 hatch, with Peugeot’s CC styling heritage strongly evident in the awfully neat side profile view.

Around the rear 308CC is quite alluring too, especially with those vertically stylised LED lights. Although those pseudo diffusers embedded into the rear bumper break up the shape neatly, they are a decidedly faux pas styling element.

Inside CC is very much standard 308 fare.

Heated leather seats, dual zone climate control, a multifunction steering wheel (reach-around controls though), refrigerated glove compartment and six airbags round off a pretty comprehensive cabin equipment list.

Unlike the 207CC, 308’s roll-over hoops are not exposed as part of the cabin’s styling embellishments. They operate via pyrotechnic actuation, deploying into view (and harm’s way) within 200 milliseconds of the ESP detecting a greater than 50-degree rollover angle.

Bootspace up from 308 hatch, sporting 465l and retaining 266l with the roof retracted. Check the branding on those boxes (they’re shoes) and you know exactly which customer profile Peugeot is aiming 308CC at…

Proven engine

Powering the 308CC is a detuned version of the joint venture BMW/PSA 1.6l turbocharged in-line four which knocks about in Mini products too.

For the French application this 1.6 produces 110kW and 240Nm of peak rotational force from a rather amazing 1 400r/min…

We evaluated the 308CC on the wonderful and diffuse roads around Tzaneen, with some neat open sweeps mixed up with delightfully tight sections near Magoebaskloof.

Considering its 308-series lineage, the CC is not a dynamic overachiever.

It has obviously been conceived to appease a customer who demands style and comfort with open-top versatility instead of the last word in tactile dynamism.

With Peugeot still assembling and loading its own dampers, ride quality is good – which is key for a beachfront cruiser. Road holding is fair too, primarily thanks to the generously sized Continental rubber (225/40R18) rotating at each wheel corner.

On the debit side, although 308CC’s steering is accurate, it renders as much steering feedback as driving your spoon through a bowl of Pronutro in the morning. There is scuttle shake too (with the roof retracted) and 308CC is not independently suspended at the rear axle either…

Beyond these dynamic foibles (and they’re foibles when measured against pure, unadulterated driving expectation) 308CC does what I suspect most customers would expect of it.

Despite height adjustable seats and rake adjustable steering wheel, driving position is still odd, with the wheel angled too far foward on the vertical axis. Centre console sound system controls are frustratingly undersized, reach around steering wheel satellite controls maddening too.

With the roof retracted, cabin airflow management is outstanding - enabling some rather hefty straight-line speeds without sending objects into air-wash animation or drowning out passenger audibility.

The blown 1.6l engine provides reasonable urge, and is especially keen from low engine speeds (I mean, it does 240Nm at 1 400r/min after all) ensuring seamless progress in traffic and a neat safety margin when overtaking slower heavy-duty transport.

308CC feels appreciably quicker in real-world driving conditions than the 10.4 second claimed 0-100km/h time suggests.

As an open-top cruiser with everyday hardtop practicality 308CC is well conceived and deftly executed.

Both driver and front passenger footwells are charitably spacious and broadly accommodating, with the presence of a proper footrest for the driver a surprising boon for something emanating from a traditionally left-hand drive market.

Priced at R336 500, 308CC is cheaper than its chief rival and fellow French offering, Renault's Megane Coupe-Cabriolet 2.0T, at R343 000.

VW’s Eos 2.0 FSI remains a very compelling alternative at R341 000 though, yet it lacks the 308 CC’s maintenance plan and a few standard features.

This latest CC from the company who started the craze is a fair to decent effort and probably the most convincing incarnation of the 308-series yet. Peugeot’s latest CC is sure to graduate many 207- or 307CC customers, but how many neutral buyers, or alternative brand loyalists, the company will be able to cannibalise remains to be seen.


308CC R336 500


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