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Peugeot 308 CC

 

More style and harmony in French looker

Convertibles are all about image and about being seen in, especially when they’re brand-new models and the hottest new kids on the block.

Cars for people who want to be seen driving something no-one else has, the pure joy of open-air motoring a secondary consideration.

Which is probably why a bunch of people have already ordered Peugeot’s new 308 CC – for mid-winter delivery – without even knowing the exact price, and having seen the car only in pictures or on the internet.

Discussing pricing, Peugeot NZ says only that the base model is likely to cost $59,990 ($64,490 with leather upholstery and the Airwave seat ventilation system) and if you want the range-topping Luxury version you’ll probably need to find almost another nine grand.

The new convertible follows its 307 predecessor in having a retractable hardtop, a body style Peugeot pioneered before in the 1930s and revived with the cheeky but loose-limbed 206 CC.

Peugeot calls the body style coupe-convertible, hence the CC moniker, and in the 308 has finally achieved real harmony in a body style in which harmony is difficult to manage.

Take the car’s predecessor, the 307 CC, for instance. That rendition of the look-at-moi (French pronunciation, mwa, not moy as Cath Day-Knight might have said it) car was more likely to elicit a Tui billboard, “Yeah Right,” response.

Frankly it was more awkward than svelte, especially with the roof raised. That didn’t stop the chic crowd from buying, but with the 308 they’ll be driving a car that really does have style to spare.

It’s sleeker, less hippy and chunky around the rear end than its predecessor and the reinterpretation of Peugeot’s wide-mouthed grille with jutting-out jaw-like splitter gives it real presence.

It checks out nicely in the looks department and in the 308 CC you can combine high chic with environmental soundness.

Take the engine choice, for example. There is none. Peugeot New Zealand offers only a 2.0-litre diesel developing 100kW and a solid 320Nm of peak torque.

Peugeot NZ boss Simon Rose sees that as an environmentally-responsible move and says it also gives the French brand a marketing edge: “we want to have the first diesel convertible in this market.”

It’s hard to imagine a diesel being a high-chic choice even a few years ago, but modern diesels are clean, much more refined and quieter than they used to be and they also show that by buying one you’re being environmentally responsible.

The 308 CC’s meets Euro 4 emissions standards and has a particulate emissions filter system in the exhaust.

Peugeot quotes CO2 emissions of 185 grams/kilometre and says the 308 CC is capable of fuel economy of 7/0 litres/100km (40mpg) on the combined cycle.

The diesel is a smooth, quiet unit and its strong torque delivers excellent throttle response and acceleration, and comfortable, rapid touring ability.

It drives the front wheels through a six-speed automatic gearbox with a Porsche Tiptronic manual shift feature. The gearbox, too, is a far cry from older Peugeot automatics. For a start, you don’t notice the gearshifts, which is a welcome development.

In the short distances we drove the car during its media launch there was none of the fussy upshifting and downshifting that characterised older Peugeot autos, nor did the gearbox want to hold on to a ratio till near the engine redline and then upshift with a thump.

We have to say, though, that older Peugeot automatic gearboxes’ fussiness was more noticeable in stop/start city traffic (downshifting as you braked to a halt and then selecting first with a shuddering thump, for instance). And, so far, we’ve only driven the 308 CC on lightly-trafficked open roads.

The other big advance in the 308 CC is in the almost total elimination of scuttle shake, a phenomenon common to convertibles and difficult to engineer out. But the new car displayed virtually none and the whole structure felt as one even when being pushed hard, with the roof down, on less than even roads.

The roof lowers in 20 seconds and you can lower it on the move at up to 8km/h. On the Luxury model, a wind deflector can be raised behind the cabin to keep draughts out and your hair in place – it works well.

The 308 CC is wider and longer than the 307, but is 14mm lower and rides on the same 2605mm wheelbase. Front and rear track are wider, improving stability and handling. The latter is predictable and nimble, with crisp turn-in to corners. Ride is firm in the modern Peugeot manner but not disagreeably so.

Sports-style seats for the driver and front passenger offer good lateral support during brisk driving and on the upscale Luxury model have an Airwave system which blows warm air on to occupants’ necks. The rear seats are also sculpted to provide good lateral support for the two passengers.

Standard models ride on 17-inch alloy wheels and 225/45 R17 tyres. The Luxury has 18-inchers with 225/40 R18s.

The Luxury has leather upholstery, heated and electrically-adjustable seats, directional Xenon headlights, tyre pressure sensor, and a front parking aid to complement the standard car’s rear sensors.

Safety kit is comprehensive, from ABS braking for the four-wheel discs, stability control and traction control, through to a suite of airbags – front for driver and passenger and head, chest and pelvis airbags in the front seats. The head airbag deploys from the seat’s integral headrest.

Peugeot is offering nine body colours for the 308 CC, including the latest in high chic – white, though admittedly it’s a metallic Pearl White.

Customers will pick up there 308 CCs in June, probably not the most propitious month for top-down driving, but when you’ve got the hottest new droptop on the block, who’ll care?

And best of all when your 308 CC calls “look at moi I’m just so cool and elegant” only the most determined stick-in-the-mud is going to say “Yeah, right.”


Auto Trader New Zealand