Car reviews - Peugeot - 308 - CC coupe-convertible range
Striking style, petrol and diesel performance and economy, cabin space, handling dynamics, ride quality, refinement, safety features, standard equipment, value
Room for improvement
Claustrophobic A-pillars, long and heavy doors, tiny glovebox, dashboard reflections, tight rear leg and head room, sudden clutch take-up point, tightly-spaced pedals
13 Jul 2009
PEUGEOT’S pioneering 207 and 307 coupe-cabrios have always offered more style than substance, so we are pleasantly surprised to discover that is not the case with the all-new 308 CC, which is as interesting to look at as it is to drive.
Beneath the 308 CC’s striking new outer skin, which continues its French forebears’ distinctive, if slightly effeminate, cab-forward design but adds a bigger dose of aggression via a gaping new front grille opening and a pair of matt-black lower rear diffusers, is an even more sporting version of the already well-sorted 308 hatchback chassis.
Firmer springs, dampers and anti-roll bars and a lower ride height give it more agile handling on the road. Road holding and high-speed stability also step up a notch as a result, without any detriment to its compliant ride and vice-free steering qualities – although tyre roar is especially pronounced on course-chip road surfaces.
Unlike many of its popular convertible siblings, scuttle shake is limited to an occasional subtle wobble of the steering column over rough ground, with no hint of windscreen or A-pillar shake went the going gets tough.
Peugeot says big advances were made over the 307 CC in terms of static torsional body rigidity, and it’s clear this plays a large part in the open-top 308 two-door’s rattle-free interior and more precise chassis feel – both with the roof up and down.
Few convertibles are problem-free, however, and while the 308 CC is one of the best developed examples of hardtop convertible at this price, it is not without its foibles.
The extremely ‘fast’ windscreen angle makes it difficult to avoid the low-slung A-pillars while getting in and out and, combined with doors that are long and exceptionally heavy, parking in confined spaces is particularly testing.
A huge amount of fore-aft travel is available for the front seats and steering wheel, but a shallow front footwell makes for an extraordinarily long view over the massive windscreen and dashboard.
The well-Armoralled surface of the latter in the cars presented for the launch threw up plenty of reflection in direct sunlight, as did the many LCD panels and stylish chrome-ringed and white-faced instruments, making them all nearly impossible to read on a sunny day.
There’s plenty of front-seat stretching and storage space, via big door compartments and a handy centre cubby, which is lidded by an armrest that’s multi-adjustable for height and can be locked via remote control with the roof down.
The glovebox is also part of the same remote deadlocking system, which prevents the doors being opened from the inside and outside – it’s just a shame the fusebox occupies half of it, leaving enough room for, say, a pair of gloves.
Both rear-seat passengers get plenty of elbow room (and an armrest apiece) but sit directly beneath the large rear screen. Rear leg and foot room is acceptable too, but not without compromising the front seating position for all but the shortest occupants, while rear passengers more than 180cm tall will get limited head space.
Rear passengers get air-conditioning outlets and quick-release front-seat access, but the seats themselves are fairly upright and don’t come with Peugeot’s Mercedes-mimicking Airwave system, which is a little noisy but is reasonably effective.
The all-electric roof mechanism itself is quick, quiet and, unlike some, can be operated at speeds of up to 12km/h – but not without the engine running.
Peugeot claims a 20-second open/closing time, be timed it at a still-respectable 22 seconds to open and 24 to close.
Engine and wind noise is cut to almost coupe or sedan levels with the roof in place, and the 308 CC cabin is an impressively quiet place to be with the roof down too, making for easy conversation between passengers at almost any speed.
A wind-blocker comes as part of a $1200 option that also includes the Airwave system. But given the virtual lack of wind buffeting in the sleek 308 CC’s cabin, we’d recommend spending an extra $900 on 18-inch wheels for the base model and saving $300.
A neat piano-black centre console finish is standard on both well-equipped model grades and clever safety features include a world-first twin front-side airbag system, self-deploying rear rollover hoops and a unique pop-up head-up display.
The smooth, lively 1.6-litre turbo-petrol engine offers plenty of performance right across its rev range, and with six ratios to choose from in the manual, it is just as well suited to open-road cruising as it is to shuffling through the gears around town or in the hills. Our test car returned a respectable 8.5L/100km on the launch drive, which comprised mainly undulating back-roads.
We didn’t sample the petrol engine’s optional four-speed auto, but we’re tipping it isn’t as slick as the six-speed self-shifter that comes as standard with Peugeot’s first diesel convertible.
No, it’s not as quiet and doesn’t spin up as quickly as the petrol engine and therefore feels less sportscar-like, but it makes up for that with cart-loads of bottom-end torque, a smooth power delivery all the way to redline and launch-drive fuel consumption of just 7.8L/100km. Paddle-shifters for the slick six-speed auto would be nice, though.
Unfortunately, both engines are hamstrung somewhat by the familiar French peculiarities of tightly-spaced pedals and a grabby clutch action.
Built in France – unlike the Spanish-built 207 CC – the 308 CC brings a number of significant advances over its 307 CC predecessor, including vastly improved performance, economy, structural integrity, handling dynamics, ride quality, equipment levels, refinement and occupant and cargo accommodation.
Superior in almost every area to the model it replaces, the 308 CC is not without its faults but serves up enough style, substance, value and unique safety features to be a sensible alternative to VW’s popular Eos.
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