Peugeot 308 CC 1.6 e-HDi Active

Does metal folding roof give French car the edge here?

Peugeot was quick to embrace the folding metal hard-top trend. Its 206 CC and 307 CC both played key roles in broadening the appeal of coupe-cabrio models, and the 308 CC builds on these solid foundations.

The good news for family convertible buyers is that the Golf isn’t the only new option. The entire 308 range received a makeover this year, and the CC hasn’t been ignored. Fresh styling has given it renewed appeal, with fashionable LED daytime running lights at the front.

As before, though, the Peugeot’s design works best with its roof folded, as the hard-top’s dumpy roofline and large rear deck give it a peculiar profile.

The 308 CC is at a disadvantage once you climb aboard, too. The cabin looks good and has high-quality plastics, but the switchgear is below par, the fiddly stereo controls are muddled and the driving position is flawed. Worst offenders are the pedals, as they all sit at different heights, which makes getting comfortable behind the wheel tricky.

Compensation comes in the form of kit, as Active trim all but matches the Golf SE’s. A wind deflector (£210) is the only major omission, yet this is standard on the higher-spec Allure (along with leather upholstery and Peugeot’s Airwave Scarf neck-level heating system). Unfortunately the new e-HDi we tested is available only in entry-level Access and Active trims. This motor uses a range of fuel-saving features, including stop-start, to slash emissions and boost economy. Its shut-off system is the smoothest around, and fires up almost imperceptibly before you pull away, but it doesn’t provide the same efficiency as its rivals. Official emissions of 128g/km tell their own story, while 40.1mpg was the poorest economy on test.

In return, you get strong straight-line performance. At the track, the car accelerated from 50-70mph in fourth gear in eight seconds; 2.7 and 3.7 seconds faster than the VW and Audi respectively. The 308 CC’s six-speed gearbox takes most of the credit for these livelier responses, and the Peugeot feels quicker on the road.

When the sun comes out, you have to stop if you want to fold the roof. Unlike the 308 CC’s soft-top rivals, it only works when stationary – and takes 24 seconds to open. Once it has, the model’s huge windscreen takes the edge off the roofless experience. It reduces buffeting, but extends so far back you don’t feel close to the elements. And tall drivers have to duck beneath the windscreen frame to avoid bashing their head on the way in. Improved rear visibility and a more airy cabin with the roof in place are the folding hard-top’s chief benefits.

On the move, the lack of wind-in-the-hair thrills isn’t the only complaint. The slack gearshift and oversensitive brakes combine with a numb, springy clutch and light steering. This doesn’t bode well against its classy rivals.

Details

Chart position: 3WHY: The whole 308 range has been given a makeover. Sharp new looks and the addition of stop-start boost its appeal.

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