Back in 2000, there were only two coupe-cabrios, and the Peugeot 206CC was one of them. Now there are 14 and Peugeot continues to lead the market by building two. The 308CC is the latest, taking over from the old 307, and acting as bigger brother to the baby 207CC – which outsells the second best-selling VW Eos across Europe by nearly 60%.
The new car is based on the sub-structure of the 308 hatch, with a cross-braced floorpan and strengthened sills to compensate for the electric folding hardtop. Rigidity is up by 8% over the 307, the roof will fold in 20sec at speeds up to 7.5mph (so you can tan in dense traffic) and the seats incorporate an ‘Airwave’ neck heater, as well as integrated head airbags.
Prices will start at around £19k when the 308CC goes on UK sale in March. We drove the 138bhp 2.0-litre diesel in best-selling SE trim (around £21,500), and the 148bhp 1.6 petrol turbo in top GT trim (£23,000). A 110bhp 1.6 diesel and 118bhp petrol will follow.
Okay, who’s going to buy the Peugeot 308CC then?
You might not be surprised to hear that Peugeot expects the majority to be private sales to female empty-nesters. And I think they’re going to like it. Safety and comfort have been prioritised (the CC scored a 5-star NCAP rating in the outgoing tests), so all models come with a head airbag integrated into the head restraint – a world first. Like in the 307CC, there are pop-up roll-over bars hidden in the rear head restraints too.
Peugeot has followed Mercedes’ lead in making sure your head and neck stay warm when you’re driving roof-down: the ‘Airwave’ is a vent in the seat at neck height that spews out warm air. It’s standard on the top-spec GT, and optional (packaged with leather trim) on the mid-range SE (expected to take 60% of sales).
One thing those empty-nesters need to bear in mind. If they’re thinking of trucking the grandkids about, better make sure they’re not of the lanky kind. Peugeot claims the 308CC is a genuine four-seater, but with the driving seat set for me (a stumpy 5ft 10in tall), the rear seat was hardly spacious: my knees were splayed and my head cranked forward. Lots of glass arcing over me too, thankfully athermically tinted.
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Will they like the way it looks?
Hmm. Not sure. The 308CC shares the hatch’s beaky front end – and the long, flat windscreen and flabby arse-end that are typical of most coupe-cabrios. Peugeot makes much of the stylists’ attempts to emphasise its length (there’s a swage line that rises from behind the front wheels arch then falls to the rear bumper), width (widely spaced tail lights) and lack of apparent height (rear bumper cut-outs slim that rear end). We’d call it distinctive rather than pretty, as we would most Peugeots.
It’s better inside though. The dash comes from the 308 hatch (a good thing), enhanced with a black lacquer centre console and optional ‘integral’ leather that swathes the dash and doors. The doortrims are new and unique to the CC, with chrome-effect pulls. It feels decently put together and well-finished; tonnes better than the old car.
Will they like the way it drives?
They might. But, as a CAR Online user, you’d probably be a bit underwhelmed. As we were.
That feeling begins as soon as you settle in – which is difficult in itself because achieving a decent driving position is pretty much impossible, despite the multi-adjustable seats and steering column. For a start, the seat base is too high on its lowest setting (especially as the top corner of that long front screen is eye-worryingly close), you can only get near enough to the steering wheel if you’re prepared to sit unpleasantly upright, and the pedals feel too close and work through an uncomfortable range and angle.
Once you’ve got moving, you’ll soon realise that the seat (though it looks enormously inviting) will make your lower back hurt, and you’ll constantly feel as though you’re sliding forward. The optional electric seats tilt. They all should.
But it’s a Peugeot. Surely it’ll be a dynamic treat?
You’d hope so, but the 308CC never quite gels. The steering is the main source of blame because it’s so utterly, frustratingly numb. The weighting feels too artificial and you’ll find yourself constantly tweaking your wrists during long, constant-radius bends because there’s absolutely no signal path between the tyre/tarmac interface and your hands. Disappointing.
The ride is firm and flat, more VW than trad Peugeot but not uncomfortable. That trait of the old 306 to glide as speeds increase has well and truly gone though. The 308CC nibbles and shudders gently at motorway speeds, never quite settling down.
>> Click ‘Next’ below to read more of our Peugeot 308CC first drive
Fine, you’d think. Sporty suspension settings. So let’s find some bends…
We did. And we soon wished we were back on the motorway. The 308CC corners securely and safely but completely without verve. There’s no sense of the back tyres easing out to help the fronts tuck in (an old Peugeot favourite), and no sense of natural poise and fluidity as you try to knit together a sequence of bends. You’ll start snarling about the dreadful forward visibility too. Entire convoys can hide behind those front pillars.
There’s nothing inherently disastrous here, and that target older female buyer just isn’t going to care. But you should. If you want some fun, buy a Focus CC instead.
Any decent engines?
Without a doubt, both the launch engines are decent. Problem is, this thing weighs 1.6 tonnes, so they’ve got their work cut out.
The diesel pleases most. It’s torquey, refined and allows you to be lazy with the gearshift – reason enough to plump for it over the petrol version, because there’s little pleasure to be had shifting for the sake of it. The gearchange is loose and sloppy, though quick enough.
Even with the roof off, there’s little in the way of diesel clatter, so you won’t worry that burning oil will see off your cool and roofless image. Roof-up, you can tell it’s a diesel but it’s more of a background burble than an annoyance, even when you cane it.
Do that and the fireworks are over by 4000rpm, and sadly the low-rev shove this engine delivers elsewhere is blunted here. It’s swift rather than quick.
The petrol turbo is more of a disappointment. Its soundtrack is all treble and no bass, and it lacks the urge of the diesel while still managing to run out of oomph just as quickly. Once you’re beyond 4000rpm, the throttle acts more as a volume control than an accelerator. A series of twists into the mountains inland from Nice soon had us frustrated, unable to find the right gear for the circumstances despite there being six on offer: third runs out too quickly and fourth lands you off-boost. A shame.
Peugeot promises a more powerful petrol engine, possibly late in 2010. Until then, go with the more relaxing diesel and think very carefully before plumping for one of the subsequent lower-powered versions.
A somewhat downbeat review then. And that’s sad because this is defiantly not a bad car. It’s just a little ill-honed, and that makes it something of a dynamic disappointment compared with Peugeots of past generations.
Where it has improved is in terms of build quality and finish. The 308CC feels very solid and rattle-free, cruises quietly and buffet-free with the roof up or down, and looks very inviting inside. Those are genuine advances for Peugeot.
But the end result is anonymity. There doesn’t seem to be a particular reason to buy this car rather than the segment-leading VW Eos – unless you really want that neck heater. Personally? I’d buy a scarf.
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