continues the French
tradition. Its trendy
and smartly finished.
Its also pleasant to
drive both in the rain
and when the sun
comes out to play...
SELLING COUPE-CABRIOLETS IN THE UK during this mon-soon-like summer must be a little like selling snow to the Eskimos. Let's hope the weather improves and garage forecourts are not littered with unsold must-have fashion models such as coupé-cabriolets.
The good news is that today's generation of coupé-cabriolets are all-year-round cars with weather-cheating solid roofs that fold into the boot section of the car at the touch of a button. So no matter if it is damp, cold and rainy, you are still come winter or summer snug inside the car. When the sun does shine, push the button and down goes the roof ideal for topping-up the tan or just looking cool.
These new CCs are also more secure, so gone are the days when the old fashioned rag-tops with a canvas roof were easy prey for petty criminals armed with a Stanley knife intent on stealing your belongings. So now, thanks to the added security features and trendy must-have good looks, the company car market likes them as much as private buyers.
The coupé-cabriolet is not, of course, a totally new invention. Peugeot, the number one seller of such vehicles worldwide, brought their first vehicle of this type to market in 1934 when the 601 D Eclipse was exhibited at the Paris Motor Show see Peugeot's fascinating televison ad!
And the rest, as we say, is history: more Peugeot models followed and the folding hard-top roof is now offered by quite a number of car manufacturers. However, it was Peugeot, again, who made this technology affordable with the launch of the 206 CC in the year 2000. Since that time, until the end of 2006, nearly 367,000 206 CCs were sold worldwide 46,600 of them in the UK. Next came the Peugeot 307 CC and next year, presumably, we will be seeing the 308 CC. Over 500,000 coupé-cabriolets have been sold by Peugeot around the world.
The new 207 CC, which first went on sale in March this year, is only built at Peugeot's Madrid factory and production is around 330 units a day. The minimum sales target this year for Europe is 50,000 vehicles.
In the UK, it is expected that 207 CC sales in a full year should be in excess of 6,000 units and 88 per cent of customers will opt for petrol power, with the 1.6-litre non-turbocharged 120bhp unit being the best-selling engine. The range also consists of a 1.6-litre turbocharged 150bhp petrol engine and a 110bhp, 1.6-litre HDi turbodiesel unit.
Both petrol engines are produced by Peugeot in conjunction with BMW and are similar to those used in the second generation MINI. The diesel unit comes from PSA. All engines are used in conjunction with a 5-speed manual transmission, but the 1.6-litre non-turbo petrol engine has an automatic transmission option available costing an extra £1,000.
The 207 CC is available with two levels of trim: Sport and GT. Sport accounts for 80 per cent of sales. Prices start at £14,795 for the 1.6-litre 120 Sport (the expected best selling version) and rise to £17,107 for the 1.6-litre HDi 110 GT variant. There is also a long list of extra-cost options ranging from metallic paint to leather trim, a sports pack, electronic stability programme, rear parking sensors, an upgraded sound system, cruise control and satellite navigation.
So as a 'Mr Average' motorist do I qualify to become a member of the trendy coupé-cabriolet set? Probably not. Peugeot's target customer profile for the 207 CC is for people who are car lovers for whom emotion and freedom are an integral part of their lifestyle. Their words not mine. Also, they say, young people under 35 years of age will view the 207 CC as their 'attainable dream' and their principal car, and they represent 41 per cent of buyers. Women, too, are prime customers as 88 per cent of 206 CC buyers were female. Couples who are multi vehicle owners and aged between 45 to 60 years of age could add the 207 CC as a second or even third 'fun' car to their 'fleet' and could take 30 per cent of sales.
The 207 range of three- and five-door hatchbacks, soon to be joined by the five-door SW estate models, is very popular in the UK. The range is currently number six in the UK's top ten sales chart headed by Focus, Astra, Fiesta, Corsa and Golf all relatively family-sized cars or slightly smaller 'superminis'. There is no doubting that in these days of congestion and highly-taxed motoring car buyers think smaller is better.
I generally like coupé-cabriolets; I like the concept and dual-role practicality of them. Some are a bit odd looking due to their sometimes out-of-proportion chunky rear-ends, necessary to house all the folded roof sections. The 207 is a pretty car anyway and, yes, in CC form it has piled on the pounds and inches around its derriere but it still manages to look pretty good and well balanced.
The build quality appears to be first class, and there is a high level of specification fitted as standard although adding options will greatly increase the final cost. My diesel Sport test model started life at £15,912 but ended up at a massive £19,532 once the navigation system, electronic stability system, part-leather trim, wind deflector and parking sensors had been included.
I do not think parking sensors, the stability programme and the rear wind deflector should be extra cost options. They are vital. On the face of it, the 1.6-litre petrol model with standard Sport specification priced at £14,795 is the most sensible buy; and you should be able to haggle with your dealer to have included in that price the stability programme, parking sensors and the wind deflector.
I opted to try the 1.6 HDi Sport turbodiesel model because diesel has significant running cost advantages in mpg and road tax, and there is increasing interest in CC models by business and company car users who are the mainstay of the market.
Overall, the 207 CC has plenty of room up-front with two wide-opening side doors. These also allow good access to the very small rear seats that might as well not exist as they are so short on legroom. This potential extra rear passenger space has been taken up by a roomy boot (187/449 litres roof down/roof up), and it really is a car for just a couple with luggage space to match.
The steeply-raked front A-pillars are very substantial and that causes front-quarter blindspots. The high facia also makes it difficult to judge the bonnet length when parking. Visibility to the rear corners, however, is good for a coupé-cabriolet. The electrically-operated folding roof is easy to use, it is quick, and is pretty quiet in operation. Wind intrusion into the car with the roof down and the windows up is minimal, allowing the occupants to talk rather than shout to each other.
The Sport specification is pretty comprehensive: a full set of front and side airbags, electrically-operated windows and door mirrors, air conditioning, a good sound system and alloy wheels. GT models receive the added 'glitz' of alloy pedals, auto lights and directional headlights, the much-needed stability programme and parking sensors.
The 1.6 turbodiesel engine with 110bhp is well known; it is used widely in all sorts of cars other than Peugeots. With 180lb ft of torque from 1,750rpm, it provides a smooth and responsive source of power but it is no road-burner. The two petrol engines are more lively but less economical. My test car returned a pretty good 47.1mpg and, due to the low engine emissions, it only costs £115 a year in road tax. For the record, the official fuel consumption figures are 42.8, 54.3 and 64.2mpg respectively for urban, mixed and extra-urban drivng.
Drive to the front wheels is through a five-speed manual transmission which, while not the best in its sector for smooth and slick changes, does the job. A sixth gear would help by lowering engine noise at motorway cruising speeds and would improve fuel economy still further.
Roof up or down, the handling is taut with no signs of body shake. The suspension is comfortable but the steering gives very little feedback to the driver. Probably the biggest grumble is that the roof has to be raised to get items out of the boot. Other than that, and the rather pricey options, the 207 CC is a civilised car whatever the weather. The specification of the Sport model I tested is good and offers value for money. And it has a particularly well engineered and well insulated roof. Add to that it's stylish and, thanks to a bodyshell with excellent torsional rigidity, generally well behaved when driven hard.
So, given that the weather improves even a little the pretty 207 CC should do very well for sales. Come to think of it, if the wet summer continues it might do even better! David Miles
Peugeot 207 CC Sport HDi 110 | £15,912
Maximum speed: 119mph | 0-62mph: 10.9 seconds
Overall test MPG: 47.1mpg | Power: 110bhp | Torque: 180lb ft