When it comes to Coupe-Cabriolets Peugeot lead the way. It introduced the world’s first folding hard top way back in the thirties, and made the technology affordable nine years ago with the massively successful 206CC, followed by the more recent 307CC and 207CC. In 2008 one in every four CC’s sold worldwide was a Peugeot, and its latest offering – the 308CC - has arrived just in time for summer 2009.
A major factor for buyers of these cars is style, so this four-seater sun-seeker has to be desirable above all else… And there’s no denying that it’s a striking car in the flesh. Following on from the 307CC it features Peugeot’s bold family face with the wide-mouth grille, oversize headlights and heavily sculpted bonnet. A subtle crease along the side and steeply raked windscreen give the car a sleek profile, but the bulbous rear end - a necessity to stow the large two-piece roof – is less successful. It’s a love it or hate it design.
Sure to impress though is the electric folding hard-top, which tucks neatly into the boot in just 20 seconds, and at up to speeds of 7.5mph. An advantage of the large back end is boot space - there’s a cavernous 465-litres with the roof up, and still a perfectly useful 266-litres with it down.
Climb inside the cabin of our top-spec test car, and it’s the build quality that stands out. The materials are all top-notch, from the supportive leather seats to the aluminium-topped gearlever. Peugeot put particular emphasis on improving quality with this project – and it shows. There’s a raft of innovations too, including a Mercedes SL-style ‘Airwave Scarf’, which blows warm air around your neck and face so you can enjoy top-down motoring even in the coldest weather.
From the first corner it’s obvious this car puts more emphasis on cruising ability than a sporty drive. The steering is fingertip light – perfect for manoeuvring at low speeds, but up the pace and it doesn’t inspire confidence. The manual gearbox is satisfying and the brakes, which include vented discs at the front, are strong – but there’s no hiding the portly 1,600kg kerbweight. It feels like a big car and needs to be eased around bends rather than thrown into them. However, the supple ride makes this an excellent long-distance companion.
We drove the 140bhp 2.0-litre turbodiesel, which proved noisy at idle but surprisingly smooth on the move. Like any good oil-burner should, it offers its maximum 260Nm of torque from just 2,000rpm which is useful for maintaining a cruising speed – but put your foot down and the underpowered unit runs out of puff at just 4,000rpm. Other engine choices include the less economical, but much sweeter 1.6-litre turbocharged THP 150.
Three trim levels are available at launch – Sport, SE and GT – and even the base-model gets 16-inch alloys, air-con and six airbags, while range-topping GT’s are lavished with leather trim, parking sensors and the Airwave Scarf. So with prices expected to start from around £19,000, and Peugeot’s pedigree in this field the 308CC looks like the four-seat CC of choice – as long as you can stomach the dubious styling that is.
Rival: Ford Focus CC
The Focus’ folding roof has been dogged with reliability issues since its introduction, and the styling has failed to win over any significant number of UK buyers – but it is a sharper drive than its rival from Peugeot. Considering it’s based on the best hatchback in the business, this was an opportunity missed for Ford.
* Price: £21,500 (est)
* Engine: 2.0-litre turbodiesel 4-cyl
* Power: 140bhp
* Transmission: Six-speed manual
* 0-62mph: 11.1 seconds
* Top speed: 129mph
* Economy: 47.9mpg
* CO2: 155g/km
* Equipment: leather trim, 18-inch alloys, airscarf heaters, cruise control, air-con, premium JBL hi-fi, automatic wipers and lights.
* On sale: June