A Drop-Top with Drop-Dead-Gorgeous Looks?
Ever since Peugeot surprised themselves and many others with the runaway success of the 206CC in the UK, they’ve never ceased in their desire to continue to dominate the more affordable end of the ‘CC’ (coupe-cabriolet/convertible) market here and in other countries. But their attempts at retractable hardtop cars started long before the 206CC’s launch in 2001. In fact, Peugeot have been building them since 1934/5 when they produced the 402 Éclipse Décapotable.
I’ve never been a fan of the styling or aspirations of the 307CC and wasn’t overly taken-aback by the original 308CC which looked fairly similar, but when I feasted my eyes on the photographs of Peugeot’s facelifted 308CC, I was very impressed. At the front, many of the design cues for the new, 2012 version of the Peugeot 308CC have been inspired by the beautiful 508. The new 508-esque floating grille of the revised 308CC looks much more sophisticated, expensive and a whole lot less cartoony and goofy than the 307CC and original 308CC. Peugeot have spent more time on attention to detail, giving the new 308CC’s grille a tasteful satin chrome surround. The headlights are sleeker and sexier, the flowing lines more sporting and aggressive, the LED daytime running lights more modern and blingy and the rear much more eye-catching, less bulbous and sportier thanks to its new diffuser. The new, larger Lion badge on the bonnet, combined with additional elegant flashes of chrome around the car, and LED lights at the rear, combine to transform the facelifted 308CC into an altogether much more desirable and sophisticated car.
Some may say the new design is a bit too busy, but I really like it and the wider-looking rear works equally as well as the rakish new front. Incidentally, it’s worth mentioning that the new 308CC shares the same dimensions as the outgoing model. Okay, I still don’t think it’s as sleek as a Volvo C70C, but all in all, it’s a very good effort from Peugeot and certainly attracted plenty of admiring glances during my week with it.
A fine interior
The Egyptian Blue metallic paintwork looked absolutely splendid and I’m pleased to report that so did the interior of the new 308CC. I drove the RCZ not so long ago and was delighted to see that the same tall, comfortable and luxurious leather seats were present in my 308CC. The leather looked more beige-like to me, but apparently it was grey to be precise, with some nice stitching detail, and the seat cushions in a slightly lighter shade. The engine this particular car was endowed with doesn’t lend itself to immensely sporty handling, which I will go into later, but it meant that the interior felt incredibly well targeted and implemented. The Luxury (it’s an official option) leather seats looked sporty and offered pretty decent cushioning and support at the sides, whilst at the same time they weren’t too firm. Some folk reckoned the RCZ’s seats are too tall and the same could be levelled against the 308CC’s, but in the latter’s case, there’s a good reason. The front seats house two very welcome inclusions – head airbags for additional safety, and a system for blowing warm air around front passengers’ necks to keep them nice and toasty when the roof’s down, especially on colder days. Yes, it’s a similar system to Mercedes-Benz’s Airscarf, but Peugeot call theirs Airwave.
The luxury leather interior is enhanced by leather trim covering the fascia panel and steering wheel, Peugeot’s slightly dated-looking sat nav and Bluetooth system called Connect, heated seats, an impressive sound system, digital dual-zone climate control which adapts depending on whether the roof’s up or down, an aluminium gear knob, elegant ambient lighting, very classy white sports instrument dials which glow in a light blue hue when the lights are turned on, three attractive round air vents at the top of the centre stack, an attractive main fascia in a polished black look, a 12V socket and storage inside the central armrest. Almost every component of the interior felt very well made and tactile, and the car remained rattle and creak-free.
A few niggles did manifest themselves interior-wise, in that the storage nets on the back of the front seats are ineffective and a traditional pocket would have been much better, along with better positioning, unhindered by any ridge in the seat-back, above. I also found the handbrake quite stiff, plasticy and too tall – and despite it being a nice feature to be able to slide the leather-covered central armrest forwards, it was easy to knock it back into position each time I pulled the handbrake up. The rear armrest is just that – an armrest, with no storage. As was the case in the 3008 I drove recently, half of the 308CC’s glovebox was taken up, limiting storage space a bit. And the doors, being very long, were considerably heavy, especially in tight situations. But this otherwise extremely well appointed interior proved an especially nice place to be, even when I got stuck in a 2-hour jam on the M6 in pouring rain.
Comfortably seats four, or better suited for briefcases?
Peugeot cite the 308CC as a true four-seater coupe-cabriolet, so what was it like with four sat in the car? If your rear passengers are over 5’5” tall, brace yourself for some discontented grumbles on any journey lasting more than a few minutes, as space in the back of the 308CC is pretty tight. I’m 5’8” and became quite familiar with my own knees, even when sat behind a 5ft driver – so you get the idea. With the roof up, headroom for taller rear occupants is quite poor, too, making it a little claustrophobic at times. With the roof down, headroom obviously isn’t an issue any longer, but it’s not possible to use the windstop if you’ve got passengers in the back, so don’t expect your hairstyles to remain intact!
Although the 308CC may be fine for short jaunts to the country pub with your mates, it’s not ideal for regular use with four occupants, or for long journeys. This is exacerbated by the boot, which is actually surprisingly very generous (465 litres) when the roof is up – but fold the roof down, and you’ll be hard pushed to fit much in, as the capacity reduces to 266 litres and there’s not much room for manoeuvre vertically-speaking, due to the roof mechanism taking up a lot of space. The masterpiece of a roof takes just over 20 seconds to fold up or down and if you really want, this can be done at speeds of up to 7.5mph, but it’s not really advisable. Despite some of the obvious criticisms, all passengers will appreciate the superbly comfortable leather seats, though, and if you have the roof up most of the time, the boot really is rather accommodating.
Performance & Handling
I didn’t know which specification 308CC press car I would be driving for the week, so was intrigued when it materialised as a diesel – the 112bhp 1.6 e-HDi with Stop and Start to be precise. On turning the key, the engine immediately sounded familiar, as I had recently driven a 3008 with the same engine, albeit without stop-start. Being frank, the engine did prove fairly clattery at times in the 308CC, especially in lower gears, as one would expect – and it didn’t seem to lessen once the engine had warmed up. It’s not the quickest off the blocks either, that’s for sure, taking 13 seconds to reach 62mph. In its favour, it’s quite a torquey engine producing 270Nm at 1,750rpm and it supposedly pulls the heavy 308CC more effectively than the 1.6-litre petrol options.
In slow-moving traffic with the roof up, it feels like you’re driving a modestly-powered diesel coupe. Out on the open road with the roof down, the sun shining and the wind in your hair, the engine’s relative lack of power and inherent noise is forgiven, and the 308CC proved to be an enjoyable cruiser. When stopped at traffic lights, there’s no need to be embarrassed about driving a diesel convertible, as this e-HDi version has an Eco stop-start system, which worked rather well, starting up again impressively quickly.
Just like I found with the 3008, the 1.6-litre diesel engine in the 308CC really did settle down nicely at motorway speeds and was a pleasure to drive at times, the steering weighting improving with speed, too. Back in the urban jungle, the whole vibe from the engine would best be described as satisfactory, but the saving grace came courtesy of the elegant interior. One sits lower in the 308CC than in the hatchback or SW, giving you an added sense of sportiness. Manoeuvring was helped with the inclusion of parking sensors, making up for the slightly poor rear visibility with the roof up. The electric mirrors dipped on reverse and folded automatically when the car’s locked, which were welcome touches. The brakes were rather sensitive and punitive for my liking, but things improved once I’d learnt to respect their personality. The same could be said of the pedals, which are all at different heights so took a bit of getting used to, and some may find that the stop-start doesn’t kick in properly if the car has been coasted for some distance. The engine suits nervous drivers, as it’s nigh-on impossible to stall it, as it kicks back into life instantly of its own accord. The 6-speed manual gearbox is fine but not particularly special in any way and can occasionally feel a bit slack.
Scuttle shake was noticeable with the roof down, which can reduce one’s confidence and lessens the refined experience. With the roof up, handling is much more stable with no wobbling, and the 308CC can be slung round corners quite sharply without much roll and with quite good overall composure. With the roof up, road noise is kept at bay fairly well although some poor surfaces did unsettle the car somewhat, bringing some noise into the cabin. And when it came to the perceived thrill of driving a convertible, this was lessened a little due to the large windscreen and pillars which sweep back so much that you’d be forgiven for forgetting you’re in a cabrio’, at times. I found the remedy to this was to lower all the electric windows.
I covered just over 250 miles in the 308CC with a restrained right foot and averaged 45.5mpg which is quite a bit less than the quoted figure of 57.6mpg. CO2 emissions of 128g/km are satisfactory if not revolutionary in its class, which points to the 112bhp engine being positioned more as a zestful option rather than a purely economical one. Folk who buy CCs may not be solely bothered about economy and this engine does suit the relatively heavy 308CC better than the lower-powered petrol units. VED is free for the first year and then £100/annum and the estimated fuel cost for 12,000 miles is cited as £1,392.
Despite its shortcomings, namely the cramped rear, overly-swept-back windscreen, slightly unsettled ride at slower speeds and its relatively noisy engine, I really warmed to the 308CC 1.6 Active e-HDi’s overall personality. The plush, comfortable and well-equipped interior counted for a lot (up front, at least) and in a country where we’ve got to admit that sunny days are a rare premium, the 308CC handled very well with the roof up, was enjoyable with the roof down on frivolously-taken, short jaunts and boot space is generous. It’s a safe car, too, winning a 5-star Euro NCAP rating. Judging by the latest prices, the 308CC in e-HDi Active trim compares evenly in monetary terms at £26,885 (including options) to the better-handling and roomier Volkswagen Eos and also the Renault Laguna Coupe-Cabriolet. Sure, the 308CC’s definitely not perfect, but perhaps owing to Peugeot’s long line of hardtop-droptop models since they largely kicked the whole thing off, the 308CC is much better than the 307CC and is still a very strong contender in this price bracket and should also be able to fight off sales from softtop alternatives like the VW Golf Cabriolet. When it comes to some things, hearts can rule heads, especially when the French and a folding metal roof are involved.
© Oliver Hammond
Motoring Writer, Road Test Reviewer & Car Consultant
Specification of the Peugeot 308CC Coupe Cabriolet e-HDi 1.6 Diesel 112bhp Active tested in this review
Engine: 1,560cc 8-valve diesel
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Max Output: 112bhp
Max Torque: 270Nm @ 1,750rpm
Max Power: 112bhp @ 3,600rpm
Top Speed: 112mph
0-62mph: 13 seconds
Combined fuel economy: 57.6mpg
Fuel tank capacity: 60 litres
CO2 Emissions: 128g/km (Band D)
Gross Weight: 1,950kg
Max Towing Weight (braked): 1,200kg
Boot capacity: 465 litres (roof up), 266 litres (roof down)
Dimensions: 4,400mm long, 1,817mm wide including mirrors, 1,426mm high
Insurance Group: 18E
Turning Circle: 11.1m
Euro NCAP Safety: 5-star
Standard Specification includes (but not limited to):
Adjustable steering column
Remote control central locking with deadlocks
Dual-Zone climate Control
2-part electric folding retractable hardtop roof
Leather steering wheel
6 SMART airbags
ABS + EBFD + EBA
17 Stratus alloy wheels
Cruise Control with speed limiter
Rear parking air
Auto rain sensing front wipers
Electrochrome rear view mirror
LED daytime running lights
Peugeot Connect USB & Bluetooth
Two rear ISOFIX points
12V socket between front seats
Body coloured bumpers
Front fog lights
Electrically operated and heated door mirrors
Options included on this press car:
Egyptian Blue metallic paint £495
Peugeot Connect Navigation RNEG £735
Electric Pack (seat adjustment) £370
Luxury leather trim £1,570