For some people buying a product is as simple as knowing it’s original manufacturer. If they want fleece-lined footwear they buy Ugg boots, if they want a flying disc they buy a Frisbee and if they want to hear Knocking on Heaven’s Door they buy a Bob Dylan CD. If these same people were in the market for a coupe cabriolet (CC) vehicle with a folding hard top, then they would have to buy a Peugeot. Why?
Peugeot has a long history as an innovative automaker and was responsible for the very first metal retractable roof vehicle in the mid 1930s. While the 1934 Peugeot 401 Eclipse is fairly basic by modern standards, the concept of open-top motoring with hard top practicality remains as relevant as ever. To see just how far coupe convertible vehicles have come, Car and SUV plays purist with Peugeot’s latest offering, the 308 CC.
When the 308 CC first touched down in NZ it was only available with a 2.0-litre diesel mill, now for 2011, Peugeot is offering the 308 CC with a peppy petrol powertrain. It’s an exciting prospect for those who want top down motoring but have a diesel phobia. More about the mechanicals later, firstly lets examine what really drives the 308 CC – dramatic style.
Peugeot’s convertible coupe is a visual feast of curves and shapes with a pouncing stance and sporty design cues. At the front, a chunky bumper features recessed fog lamps and an exposed middle section with a toothy chrome air intake. Squinting headlights, pronounced Peugeot badging and dipping bonnet lines round off a highly styled front aesthetic. At the rear, large jeweled taillights dominate with a distinctive LED illumination. A subtle boot spoiler houses a high brake light and a broad plastic diffuser signals speedy intent.
Visually the 308 CC hasn’t entirely escaped the awkwardness that affects most compact coupe vehicles. Because length is required in the boot for the folding roof the 308 CC has a cab-forward, wedge shape and a high rear deck. With the roof up the styling is certainly very striking but may not suit all tastes. That said, once the top is dropped the design instantly makes more sense and the vehicle appears more elegant, elongated and balanced.
In the cabin, the French flair continues with a fashionable, quality interior. Touch surfaces are softly tactile and it all feels well screwed together and substantial. The black dashboard mixes in silver trim, gloss black inserts and orange illuminated display screens to fine effect. A retro-inspired instrument cluster is easy to read and gives a feeling of occasion to driving the 308 CC. The central control stack looks great but the switchgear is small and can prove fiddly for big hands. Cabin storage is very limited with a shallow glove box, slim door pockets and a small centre console the only areas to keep anything larger than a cell phone. There’s also no cupholders, which can present a problem for coffee lovers.
Interior space is ample for front seat passengers and while the footwells are compact there’s good legroom. In the rear two occupants are treated to nicely bolstered individual seats but they best be short because legroom and headroom is quite limited with the top up. With the top down, only the headroom situation improves. The 308 CC is definitely best suited to two occupants especially with the leather seats that our test vehicle sported. These thickly stitched cowhide seats are well bolstered, comfortable and are sporty styled. They also have two memory settings are heated and have multiple electric adjustments so you can get them nice and low to give the car a roadster feel.
In terms of equipment the 308 CC has a six-speaker stereo with auxiliary input, dual-zone climate control, rear parking aid, automatic windscreen wipers and air vents in the front seats that blow warm air on the back of your neck so you can go topless in colder conditions. There is also a keyless entry remote control system that upon locking the car also locks the glovebox and centre console so you can safely park with the roof open.
Dropping the roof takes the Pug 20 seconds in total, the operation can be performed on the move but not at speeds exceeding 12km/h. Luggage capacity in the boot is 465-litres with the roof up, drop it down and that figure’s reduced to 266-litres. But it’s worth packing lightly so the roof can come down, even if that means fitting your stuff in around the intricate mechanism and panels.
Under the 308 CC bonnet lays the new engine option for the NZ market a 1.6-litre twin scroll turbocharged petrol motor. It’s a small but willing unit that produces 115kW of power and 240Nm of torque. It’s peppy but with a hefty 1605kg kerb weight the 308 CC isn’t a high performance machine. That’s not to say it’s not an enjoyable steer, the motor pulls smoothly and quietly from low rpm and enjoys being pushed high in its rev range. The 0-100km/h sprint is achieved in 9.8 seconds and top speed is a toupee-losing 215km/h. But the 308 CC isn’t about drag racing from the lights it’s about being a comfortable and relaxed cruiser, something it does very well.
Changing the gears is a slick six-speed auto transmission that delivers closely spaced ratios and is seldom caught in the wrong gear. There is a sports mode to hold lower gears longer and manual shifts are available through a sequential function on the gear stick.
The well-sorted gearbox teams up with some slippery aerodynamics to give the 308 CC a fuel economy figure of 7.7l/100km combined.
Peugeot worked hard to give the 308 CC chassis rigidity without a permanent roof and while successful, the extra weight may have cost the vehicle some agility. To compensate the suspension is set quite firm which helps handling but is at odds with the vehicles otherwise relaxed nature. That said, the 308 CC has good compliance over bumps and exhibits impressive overall handling with tenacious grip and a flat feel in tight corners. There is a tendency to understeer when pushed hard but there is little body roll or flexing. The rack and pinon steering may be a touch vague for spirited drivers but around town it is accurate and suitably weighted.
In terms of refinement the 308 CC scores highly, with the roof down and the windbreak installed there is no buffeting and conversation is easy in the cabin even at motorway speeds. The engine is quiet, the seats comfortable and it’s just a very pleasant place to be.
For safety the 308 CC is well covered and has a 5-star Euro NCAP rating. Standard kit includes a six airbag package, ABS braking, stability and traction control systems and pyrotechnic roll protection bars that pop up in the event of a rollover.
Priced from $55,990 Peugeot’s 308 CC is a proposition that will tempt those looking for fashionable alfresco motoring. This isn’t a performance car and won’t be as exhilarating a drive as say, a Mazda MX-5. There are also practical concessions to be made with very limited room in the rear seat and boot. But the 308 CC does have a sports car cockpit feel, competent handling and a distinctive French charm. If you love the striking design, love open top driving and just enjoy cruising – then live a little and take a closer look at Peugeot’s 308 CC.
Price: From $55,990
What we like:
- Styling has ‘wow factor’
- Elegant and stylish interior
- Very good fuel economy
- Refined ride with top up and dropped
What we don’t like:
- Where are the cup holders?
- Sports car looks without sports car performance
- Minimal rear seat legroom
Words and Photos: Adam Mamo