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Car reviews - Peugeot - 206 - convertible

Our Opinion

We like
Head-turning appearance, strong and smooth engine, value for money
Room for improvement
Cabin creaks and groans, crook driving position, poor rear seat accommodation

26 Feb 2002

PEUGEOT need not have endowed its auto-erotic 206CC lop-top with performance and handling properties akin to its surefooted GTi compact to ensure it gets noticed.

In most cases, manufacturers of "affordable" convertibles are content to let appearance do the talking.

But combining sex appeal with spunk from the warmed-up hatch's 2.0-litre engine, basic suspension hardware and aggressive front-end treatment is a union certain to appeal to both the beautiful and the bold.

For the former, the heritage and big heart will not be as relevant as the hip looks brought with the sumptuous 206 face blended with a 2+2 cabriolet shape and a foldable tin lid.

What's more, garish leather can be splattered across the cockpit (for an additional fee) and the list of standard features runs to climate control air-conditioning, a six-speaker CD stereo, four airbags, remote locking, heated wing mirrors and a wonderful set of stoppers backed with anti-lock brakes and electronic brake-force distribution.

Toasted seats and perhaps cruise control are about all that's missing for those intent on keeping a high profile.

For people who like to drive, more pressing matters relate to just how well the 206 has coped with the conversion from three-door hatch to steel-roofed cabriolet.

Most obvious is the fact that the transformation has added 120kg to the overall weight and, despite considerable amounts of reinforcement (and spin from the Peugeot marketing machine), lopping the roof off has weakened the structure.

Claimed acceleration figures indicate the CC needs close to another second more than the GTi hatch to reach 100km/h (9.3 seconds) from standstill, but out on the road the smooth, strong and clean-revving characteristics of the 100kW, 2.0-litre engine remain at the fore.

Great strength in the nether regions and through the mid-range ensures the engine overcomes the weight burden, and the cabriolet simply refuses to drag its heels when gears are either intermediate or high.

But it never feels quick and exploring the upper reaches of the rev range does not bring rewards - a response - like we might have expected. The engine's taste for PULP increases at times like this as well.

It soon becomes clear that certain disagreeable aspects of the hatch have not improved with the cabriolet.

The five-speed manual gearshift is notchy and has a long throw between cogs, while the ever-present danger of clipping the brake pedal when heading for the clutch is a distraction most drivers could do without.

Indeed, pedal placement is an issue continuing to dog all those bearing the 206 name. Bunched up in a shallow footwell, the small clutch, brake and throttle pedals are awful to use.

More than that, a comfortable position behind the wheel continues to elude most drivers. Despite a simple-to-use height adjustment lever and a new seat construction that lowers the CC driver 25mm compared with the 206 hatch, the driving position is still upright - and downright awkward - for people of various shapes and sizes. Reach adjustment for the steering column would make a world of difference.

In the hatchback, the impact these drawbacks have on the driver can be dulled to an extent when the endearing chassis dynamics are taken in account.

But with the cabriolet, things are not so clear-cut.

There is still a lot to offer keen drivers, with loads of roadholding, grip and confidence to be gleaned from the low-profile 16-inch rubber and the proficient GTi-based (though more compliant) suspension. The steering also impresses as an accurate and well-weighted instrument unconcerned by mid-corner road irregularities.

Yet for all the reinforcements made to the cabriolet's structure, our test car came with a collection of creaks and groans. A rattle in the passenger's door was a constant feature with the roof on or off and creaks in the seals where the glass (front and on both sides) meets the roof were always apparent across roughcast roads.

The sun visors also gave a horrible chatter over bumps - and the Goodyears made a din on all but glass-smooth bitumen.

From the coupe position, less than a minute is required for the roof to be opened, a task requiring a retractable blind in the boot to be put in place, two latches in the cabin unfastened and a single switch pressed into action. Yep, it can even be performed on the run - just so long as the speed does not exceed 10km/h.

Luggage space with the roof on is generous but the restrictions imposed when the lid goes down leaves just enough space for a small suitcase or a couple of small bags. The dimensions are as follows: 715mm floor depth x 215mm height x 1030mm width, the latter taking up some additional room with the tool bag and puncture repair kit resting on the luggage floor. (There's no spare wheel.)

We should add that there is a fair bit of room behind the front seats for stuffing bags, coats and other items. But bodies? Afraid not. Despite the inclusion of two rear seats sculpted out of the bulkhead and a couple of lap-sash seatbelts, there is not enough room for adults and children alike. We even attempted to install a child restraint, after noting the anchorage point behind each (fixed) head restraint.

It was a mistake.

A mistake to trump up the benefits of seating four when rear seat passengers will be forced to sit bolt upright with head stooped (when the roof is on) and legs splayed. And that's when the occupier of the seat in front is suffering as well.

Still, positive aspects can be found amid the tight squeeze. Centre console controls, all of which are simple to operate, are never far from hand the steering wheel is thick-rimmed, wrapped in leather and a delight to hold the stereo has satellite controls on the steering column the front seats offer excellent support the metallic-backed instruments are attractive and simple to view at a glance stereo sound comes in loud and clear and there is a lock on the glovebox to secure small items when the car is left topless and unattended.

Take a step back, look at the car from a respectful distance and the positive vibes come gushing back. Like the hatch from which it sprang, the 206CC deserves the attention it gets - from onlookers, and from us.

It's no GTi, but it still represents good value.

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