2009 Peugeot 308 CC S Road Test Review
THERE'S SOMETHING SPECIAL about getting connected to nature... feeling the rush of wind around your ears; blue sky above. That's what drop-top motoring is all about - being open to the elements.
But sometimes, depending upon how far south of the Tropic of Capricorn you've put the peg in the ground, being connected to nature can leave you out in the cold. Try Melbourne for instance... or Canberra or Hobart.
Thankfully the surge in popularity of the folding hard top, as featured on Peugeot’s 308 CC, makes living with the drop-top that little bit easier and a whole lot more appealing.
For the summer months, just let the sunshine flood in and enjoy the fresh air. Come winter, there’s the security, noise insulation and peace of mind that comes with what is - to all intents and purposes - a coupe roof.
Peugeot is no stranger to the Coupe/Cabriolet with folding hard top versions of the 207, 307 and 208 all preceding the 308 CC.
That’s not to say they have the market cornered. The 308 CC runs up against fellow French contender the Renault Megane CC, Ford’s Focus CC, and Volkswagen’s Eos, which are all vying for a slice of the same market action.
With Australia’s summer kicking into effect ahead of schedule, it was high time to stow the roof and hit the road to see what the 308 CC could bring to the topless fun-fest.
Arguably, among French manufacturers, Peugeot has traditionally been the most conservative. With the 308 range, and the CC in particular, that is fast changing.
The lines of the 308, dominated by that large chrome-filled air intake up front and squinting headlamps, are certainly “out there” but Peugeot manages to pull it off.
The 308 has been the style leader with this look. There is a subtle aggression that marries nicely with chic style and balance.
Roof up, the 308 CC can look a little abrupt – truncated - in profile. The flowing line the rises from the bonnet, into the A-pillars and then into the roof, ends a little sharply at the midway point. The end result is not entirely resolved.
Drop the top however and the proportions change entirely. Roof down, the CC’s gently sloped boot lid not only hides the folding hard top beneath it but also adds balance to the rear.
Chrome trim lines the lower window line, and wraps around the rear pillars for a well resolved finish, enclosed or al fresco.
From behind the venturi-ish inserts, a chrome-trimmed number-plate surround and small lip-spoiler add an understated premium touch to the lines. Vertical ‘cat-scratch’ taillights provide a unique visual signature when illuminated.
To my thinking, it's a design that works. The CC's individuality may not be for everyone, but there is no denying the Gallic flair in those lines.
Interior décor adheres to the French notion that style is everything. The finish and refinement might not be entirely haute couture, but the interior of the CC an inviting place to be.
The 308 CC in standard form comes with black cloth and grey mesh seats, which moves up to optional (or standard on the 308 CC S) leather in a choice of black, off-white or cognac.
Our test car, trimmed with off-white leather certainly conveyed an appropriate sense of luxury. With nicely contoured well-bolstered seats front and rear, and electrically adjustable front seats, the CC provides the right balance of comfort and support.
Chrome trim abounds within, most noticeable around the gear lever and circular air-con vents. The instrument surrounds, front door-pulls and rear assist-grips also get a healthy dose of the chromium treatment.
In contrast, the centre stack wears high-gloss metallic-black and the dash and upper door trims wear a textured matte-black façade.
Storage spaces are certainly numerous, however none are particularly spacious. The lidded centre console offers room for a few CDs (if you still carry them) but the door pockets are slim, centre stack cubby holes are narrow and the glovebox is ruled by the relay box within (and isn’t large enough to house the owner’s manual).
Another glitch with the glovebox was its inability to stay closed. On warm days the lid would fall open without warning as the plastics around it expanded. (Certainly not the kind of thing you’d expect of a car at this price point.)
Those who prefer to travel with a beverage are also advised to look elsewhere, with the interior bereft of cup holders or bottle recesses. It may not be a deal-breaker but is a curious omission.
Rear passengers will also find leg-room quite tight and with the roof up only the very short will fit comfortably under the roof-line.
Sitting directly beneath the rear windscreen will also put them at the mercy of harsh sunshine, although the inclusion of rear air conditioning vents will help take the pressure down.
Roof up, cargo space is plentiful with 465 litres available. That volume drops to 266 litres with the roof down, or with the cargo barrier extended. Luggage room is competitive for the sector, but it dictates you pick your priorities before heading for a weekend away: luggage or a suntan?
Access to the boot with the tin-top folded is also hampered by the lack of any access mode, or any kind of partial lifting of the roof. With the long boot space, this can make things a tad awkward.
Equipment and features
Befitting its premium position, the 308 CC comes with a well padded list of equipment. The CC S gets sports-contoured seats with leather trim and electric adjustment. It also comes with automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers and puddle lighting for the front doors.
The centre console and glovebox lock with the remote central-locking for added security. Occupants are treated to dual-zone climate control and the (now) obligatory MP3 compatible CD player with auxiliary input jacks and six speakers.
When fitted with leather trim (optional on the standard 308 CC and standard on the S), Peugeot also includes heated seats, a collapsible windstop and their own AirWave Neck Scarf system.
This delivers a multi-speed stream of warm air to the head-rests of the front seats (meaning a wider spread of opportunities for top-down motoring).
Drivers get treated to a flat-bottomed leather-trimmed sports steering wheel and column-mounted audio controls.
The 308 CC S also picks up 18-inch alloy wheels (17 inch for the 308 CC) and self levelling directional bi-xenon headlamps.
Safety equipment includes ESP, ABS brakes with brake assist, six airbags load-limiting, pretensioning seat belts and pop-up roll-over bars to protect rear seat occupants in the event of a roll over.
Under the bonnet, the 308 CC range offers a choice of petrol or diesel engines.
For those with a preference for petrol, there’s a 1.6 litre turbo-charged powerplant producing 110kW @ 5800 rpm and 240Nm of torque at 1400 rpm when teamed with the available six-speed manual gearbox.
Power output drops to 103kW @ 6000 rpm, but torque remains unchanged when paired with the petrol version's optional four-speed automatic transmission (might be lacking a ratio or two there).
The flagship engine for the 308 CC however is the 2.0 litre HDi turbo-diesel tested here, which comes attached to a six-speed automatic transmission. Power is rated at 100kW @ 4000 rpm and torque at 320Nm @ 2000 rpm.
Suspension is provided by MacPherson struts up front and includes aluminium suspension arms to help keep unsprung weight town. The rear end is suspended by a torsion beam rear axle.
Braking comes courtesy of ventilated front and solid rear discs.
The 308 CC’s driving experience impresses more than expected – especially when you first jump behind the wheel. (“Hmm, nice..” you'll likely say to yourself.)
The end result though is more of a mixed bag.There are a few things the CC does not quite carry off.
Like the the driving position. It can be a little compromised for some. For those with short legs and long arms however, it’s easy to settle in behind the wheel.
Right-hand drive production has also thrown up some compromises, with the steering wheel placed slightly left of centre - which can become a bit annoying.
And foot space is intruded upon by the front wheel-well, which leads to toes up against the floor instead of on the accelerator. The brake pedal is positioned high, which can also take some adjusting to.
Once you adapt to these quirks however, the drive becomes rather enjoyable.
Performance from the 2.0 litre turbo diesel is willing. It doesn’t quite fit the description of "performance diesel", but makes short work of stop-start driving.
The echo of engine noise provides only a slight intrusion with the roof up, yet disappears once the top has been stowed.
Peugeot’s Aisin-supplied six-speed auto is tuned to keep the engine in the thickest part of the torque band, which certainly helps keep things lively.
The transmission is smooth through the gears, but presents a noticeable delay when called to kickdown.
The structure underpinning the 308 CC is crafted with a high level of solidity. As a result, top up motoring is quiet and serene with nary a rattle from the roof or frameless windows.
Using the 308 CC as intended – with the roof stowed out of sight – is also a fuss free and enjoyable experience.
With the vehicle stationary and the cargo blind in place, one button begins the engineering ballet that sees the two-piece roof disappear beneath the bootlid in 20 seconds.
With the top down, the heating system adjusts itself to suit. With the windows up (and top down) the cabin space stays comfortable and quiet around town, making the provided windblocker necessary only for highway cruising.
Unfortunately however, it’s unavoidable that with little to hold them in place, the windows creak and judder on some rough roads.
On the same roads, especially with the windows and roof down, there’s some noticeable scuttle shake especially if you hit things a little hard.
While it's no sports car, some may find the ride to be a tad 'sports car firm',
Out on the road however, it's certainly not shabby if you're asking it the question and hangs on pretty well (the French have always done surprisingly grippy suspensions).
All up, Peugeot's stylish CC proves to be well balanced on the road. There is some low speed fidgeting, but we'd attribute much of that to the 18-inch wheels and their low-profile 40 series rubber.
One of the downsides to motoring au naturale, is the cost involved. Folding roof mechanisms make up a huge slice of the cost of what would otherwise be a small car of average price.
For some however, the lure of tailoring the bodystyle from coupe to cabriolet at the touch of a button, without compromising in either mode, may be just too much to resist.
The 308 CC has a lot going for it as a car for all seasons.
For the petrol-powered manual, the 308 CC range starts from $48,990, which is not an unreasonable ask.
Scaling up to the 308 CC S (as tested) with 2.0 litre turbo diesel and six-speed auto will set you back $59,990. The extra spend shows in the bi-xenon headlights, the premium leather trim, heated seats, AirWave neck heating and those 18 inch alloys.
While sun-worshippers may not be deterred by the price, the fortunate thing is that the 308 CC delivers on style and as an accomplished drive.
A solid body, chic charm and entertaining chassis will keep smiles on faces long after the sun has disappeared.
- Modern styling
- Plush interior
- Quiet diesel engine
- Quick and easy roof operation
- Fidgety low-speed ride
- Awkward driving position
- Cramped driver's footwell
- Tight rear seats