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Click for picturesWant a cabrio? Want
 four seats? And a
 folding steel hardtop?
 No problem: Peugeot’s
 307CC has it all!”


WE'VE JUST SPENT a whole week topless and it's been fun. Real fun. Naturally we're talking about driving Peugeot's snazzy 307 Coupé-Cabriolet with the clever folding steel roof. Actually, you could say we've been driving two cars because with the top down the 307CC makes an 'I want one' convertible while top up
it transforms into a classy pillarless coupé.


In the same way that blondes are said to have all the fun, so convertible cars always seem to be the most desirable. And the ability to take the rays at the touch of a button, even more so. But even convertibles have a class structure: manual hood okay, powered fabric hood even better, folding metal hardtop ideal.

Not only does the 307CC — with its clever folding roof mechanism — offer an eye-catching stylish coupé-convertible experience, but it doesn't cost a fortune. Prices for this fine-looking car start at an amazingly affordable £18,340.

Peugeot have done a great job effectively blending two models into one. And where they've really scored is in making the CC look right as either a closed coupé or al fresco convertible. Your choice.

Roof up or down, the long, slim feline-looking clear lens headlamps — cut sharply into the bonnet and leading edges of the front wings — lead your eye naturally up and over the steeply raked windscreen in one smooth sweep. In closed coupé form the graceful curve of the metal top and curved rear roof section link the frontal styling elements with the high waistline, full, wide bootlid and striking 'jewel-effect' LED rear light units in one neat visual package.

You can have your 307CC with either a 138bhp or 180bhp engine, both 2.0-litre four-cylinder units with five-speed manual 'boxes. A four-speed Tiptronic-style automatic is available with the 138bhp unit. The 180 we tested is faster, although not by a huge margin. Zero-62mph comes up in 10 seconds dead as opposed to the 138bhp's 10.9, but whereas the less powerful car runs to 128mph the 180 will manage another 12 for a top speed of 140mph.

Not only does the 307CC look good on the outside, but inside it's very inviting. While not intended to be an out-and-out GT, Peugeot have built in a sporty feel. The seats are well-bolstered and proved to be extremely comfortable on several 160-mile trips. Our test car's seats were trimmed in red and black leather (a £1,000 option) set-off nicely by the swathe of stitched red leather covering the fascia that certainly added a sense of occasion to the good-looking and well-laid out cabin. Reinforcing the sporty look are large easy-to-read white dials with chrome bezels.

Aluminium detailing is used sparingly around the cabin: just enough to further enhance the 307CC's classy air. Cabin space is amazingly good, with masses of foot, knee and particularly elbow and shoulder room along with good headroom for six-footers. Both front seats feature height adjustment and the three-spoke leather steering wheel with metallic thumb rests offers generous adjustment for both reach and height for most drivers to get snugly comfortable.

Roof raised, visibility is good thanks to lots of glass and wide front and rear screens that make full use of the CC's width. Contrary to expectations, the substantial and steeply raked A-pillar doesn't impair the driver's vision. At the back, the wide glass rear screen provides maximum visibility. Standard fit rear parking sensors allow you to make the most of tight parking spaces.

And it is that same steeply raked front windscreen that keeps refinement levels high inside the cabin with the roof down. Keep the four side windows up and the only wind you'll feel is a light breeze rustling your hair while conversation remains easy even at motorway speeds. Roof up, the 307CC is snug, secure and tranquil with wind and road noise barely noticeable — wholly in keeping with its personality, which is decidedly more grand touring than hot hatch.

Build quality is up to scratch, with decent materials used throughout. Standard kit provides all the essentials including a 5-stacker CD neatly incorporated into the dash, automatic air-conditioning with a temperature-controlled glove box, one-shot electric operation of the folding metal roof, four electric windows with both fronts getting one-shot up/down and rears one-shot down (plus a dedicated switch lowers/raises all four windows simultaneously), an auto-dimming rear view mirror, heated self-folding electric door mirrors that 'park' automatically when you lock the car and reset automatically when you fire up the engine, automatic wipers that adjust their speed to the intensity of the rain, automatic lights, drilled aluminium pedals and a trip computer. You even get part-leather trim.

The 307CC is a true four-seater cabriolet. The contoured rear seats are well shaped and even with the top raised it's no hardship to travel in the rear providing there are two average sized people sitting up front. Headroom is remarkably generous and there's sufficient incline angle on the rear seatback to stay comfortable with no sense of the claustrophobia so often suffered in the back of a normal convertible when the hood is raised. Access to the rear through wide doors is easy, made even easier by simple fold and slide front seats with memorised positions.

Another pleasant surprise is that boot space is reasonable even with the roof down. With the steel roof folded away into the top half of the deep boot luggage capacity is, of course, reduced: from 350 to 204 litres. A fabric blind acts as a 'high-water' level for luggage: go above it and the top won't retract but then neither will your shopping be crushed. Keeping the roof up until you reach your destination gives you a deep, wide boot that easily copes with a family outing. You can use the remote to open the boot or — a nice touch this — press the centre of the '0' in the 307 bootlid badge. Oh, and you also get a full-size spare housed in a well under the boot floor. For added security the boot can be set to only work on the remote.

Peugeot's engineers have done a first-class job of stiffening such a large open body and, roof down, the 307CC feels impressively rigid and composed. In fact, with the roof closed the 307CC has only ten per cent less torsional stiffness than its 307 hatchback cousin. The steering is good and because of its well-sorted platform (which also underpins the hatchback, estate and SW models) corners can be taken crisply. The ride, on five-spoke 17-inch alloys wearing 205/50 Pirellis, is comfortable, and handling equally good.

Although red-lined at 7,000rpm, the 180bhp model tested here delivers its maximum torque of 152lb ft at 4,750rpm. A well-located smooth-changing five-speed manual shift ensures you make the best use of the power and the 307CC's relaxed road manners.

The performance is in keeping with the 307CC's easy-going air — but that's not to say it won't react if you ask for a bit more. Just that it encourages you to relax and savour life to the full. That's no bad thing — nor is the 32mpg we averaged during a hard week's driving. Long motorway runs can push that up to 41.5mpg, which equates to a 400+ mile touring range. Overall the 307CC is pleasing to drive — whether you're out for the fresh air alone or travelling with companions, and whether the road ahead twists and turns or runs straight as an arrow.

Safety kit these days is a significant factor in choosing a car. The 307CC comes with all the latest active safety systems such as ABS, an electronic stability programme, anti-skid function, electronic brake force distribution and emergency braking assistance. Also standard are SMART front airbags with head/chest side airbags that have been specially developed to compensate for the absence of curtain airbags. Front head restrains are anti-whiplash. Roll-over protection is provided by the reinforced windscreen pillar and telescopic rear roll-over bars which, if needed, spring up from behind the rear headrests. The all-round disc brakes are effective, have good feel and provide a reassuringly short, totally fuss-free emergency stop should you require it. Equally reassuring is the 307CC's 4-star EuroNcap rating, obtained in cabriolet mode.

Each and every 307CC comes as standard with a liberal dose of brio. And a cheeky touch of one-upmanship, too: the folding roof can be operated at low speeds (up to 6mph), which is ideal if you decide to go topless at the traffic lights.

Other cool touches include the optional RT3 GPS SatNav/audio/ telephone system that responds to your voice when making hands-free telephone calls, changing the radio/CD and even activating directions on the SatNav. It will even give you a spoken reading of received text messages and there's also a connection in the glovebox for a digital camera/camcorder to feed into the SatNav's 7-inch 16/9 colour screen. And when you open a door a sensor detects your hand before it grips the 'suitcase' style handle and drops the frameless window by a few millimetres so that the door can be opened with absolute ease.

Without doubt, the 307CC's principal USP is its clever folding steel roof offering as it does three big pluses: greater security, a more refined cabin and no bad weather worries. Converting from sensible and stylish touring coupé to open four-seater is as close to effortless as makes no difference — simply push and hold one button on the centre tunnel and in less than 25 seconds of graceful metal ballet you're liberatingly al fresco.

Factor in the enchanting duality of the 307CC's character and, as a practical car for every day and all weather conditions, there really is nothing to touch it.
MotorBar


Peugeot 307CC 2.0 180
| £20,940
Maximum speed: 140mph | 0-62mph: 10 seconds
Overall test MPG: 32mpg | Power: 180bhp | Torque: 152lb ft


------------------------------------------------------------------- Peugeot 307 CC