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Click to view picture gallery“An established best-
  seller, Peugeot’s
  307 CC faces fresh
  competition from
  the latest round of
  Tested here in turbo-
  diesel guise, it still
  gets the thumbs-up...

DRIVEN BY the ever-increasing number of folding metal roofed family cars, UK convertible sales just keep on growing. The recent spell of Mediterranean weather is doing a much better job of getting new customers into these new-age drop-top motors than even the cleverest multi-media advertising campaign.

The recent launch of the Vauxhall Astra TwinTop and the Volkswagen Eos has also heightened company car interest in these medium-sized, reasonably-affordable style magnets. In the past, there was no way the company car fleet managers would allow soft top convertibles
to be used in the vast majority of company car fleets — primarily due to security and safety issues. Now, the proliferation of the power-operated folding roof has changed all that. So instead of having a Megane, 307, Astra or Golf hatchback or similar, now coupé- convertibles — or CCs, as they are known — are right up there at the top of the shopping list.

And neither is Ford about to miss out on this growing demand in a sector that last year saw nearly 71,000 convertible sales in the UK. The new Focus Coupé-Cabriolet will be with us before the end of
the year, rather too late for our hot summer. But then, with today's folding metal roofs offering durable and well-insulated all-year-round enjoyment, that really doesn't matter.

One of the best sellers in this sector has been, and continues to be, Peugeot's striking 307 CC. It's notched up nearly 11,000 UK sales in the first six months of this year. However, even that is marginally outsold in the UK by the Megane CC, although much of that is due to Renault's high fleet business operation. But if you include sales of the 206 CC, Peugeot remains the top-selling convertible supplier in the UK — with a resounding 20,000 sales between January and June this year.

The very recently revised Peugeot 307 CC range is available now in S and Sport specifications — the SE specification is no longer in the line-up. S models are available with 1.6 110bhp and 140bhp 2.0-litre petrol engines and Sport versions with 1.6-litre 110bhp, 140bhp 2.0-litre and 180bhp 2.0-litre petrol engines along with a relatively-new 2.0-litre HDi high-torque turbodiesel unit putting out 136bhp.

If you want to go down the 'green' route, bear in mind that all Peugeot HDi diesel engines can now run on a maximum 30 per cent blend of biofuel — vegetable oil methylester/diesel without any modification. In fact, with the highest number of low CO2 emission (less than 113g/km) cars sold in the UK in 2005, the fitment of diesel particulate filter systems across the range of Peugeot diesel vehicles, and now the ability to run on a 30 per cent blend of biofuel, Peugeot can clearly say it is doing its bit to protect the environment.

Manual transmissions are either five- or six-speed — depending on the engine chosen — with the option of a four-speed Tiptronic automatic for 2.0-litre 140bhp S and Sport variants.

Prices range from £17,350 up to £21,575. You should be able to negotiate a small discount, but it won't be much because not only are they not over-supplied to any great extent, so consequently demand for such vehicles — new or used — remains high. The good news is that their residual values are still quite good.

The best-selling model for retail customers is likely to be the 140bhp 2.0-litre S petrol model priced at £18,975. When compared to the Sport version, it only misses out on a few items — namely the rear parking aid system, a 5-disc CD autochanger, automatic wipers and headlights, cruise control with a speed limiter and an auto-dimming
rear view mirror. The diesel model, the Sport HDi 136 costing £21,550, is most likely to appeal strongly to company car users covering high mileages.

My test car was the most costly manual transmission model, the £21,550 2.0-litre Sport HDi 136, but with an added £1,750 of extra cost options including satellite navigation. As its price suggests, it came fully 'kitted' as standard with everything ranging from the all-important rear parking sensors through to protective rear pop-up rollover hoops, 17-inch alloy wheels, digital air conditioning with a temperature-controlled glove box and leather interior trim. Other standard equipment includes electrically-operated, folding and heated door mirrors, tinted glass, four electric windows (the front are one-touch), trip computer, Sports front seats, radio/CD with steering wheel mounted controls, SMART driver and front passenger airbags, front
side airbags, ABS, ESP/traction control and active front seat backrests. You really do lack for nothing — as indeed should be the case for a car costing £23,300.

The 307 CC feels solid. It's generally torsionally stiff and it corners precisely despite some body shake and flex when driving over poorer road surfaces with the roof down. The suspension is soft-ish, causing the car to wallow on undulating roads, yet it is still not compliant enough to absorb the bumps and kickback felt through the steering over larger potholes. It may look sporty, but it feels more like an open-road cruiser.

Inside the CC is well equipped and pretty roomy, although the rear seat and rear legroom is not as generous as that of the new Volkswagen Eos. With the roof down and the windows up, the wind intrusion
and buffeting is very low, allowing conversation between passengers to take place without the need for raised voices. Both the comprehensive white-faced instrumentation and ergonomics are typical top-of-the-range Peugeot 307 — in other words, smart and effective — and everything is well put together.

The luggage space is, of course, limited with the roof folded into the boot. Roof up, the capacity is 350 litres. Roof down, and in keeping with most of its competitors, you get 204 litres.

You will either like the 307 CC's styling or you won't. From the front I consider it to be an extremely pretty car. However, some people may consider the boot treatment a tad heavy. Well, the roof has to go somewhere...

The 136bhp direct-injection 1,997cc turbodiesel is well known in other PSA models. And with a maximum torque of 240lb ft available from 2,000rpm, it's both fast and responsive. The traction control and stability programme does its job well. As usual, there is a big gap between fourth gear and fifth/sixth — which Peugeot persists on, in the name of long-legged fuel economy. However, it works. As my test car returned 41.8mpg (despite its extra bodywork strengthening weight), I'm certainly not complaining about that. My only minor gripe with it is that it can make for more gear changing on busy A- or winding B-roads. For the record, official fuel consumption figures are 36.7, 47.1 and 55.4mpg respectively for city, combined and touring.

With a high standard level of specification and an electrically-retractable two-piece roof that works at the touch of a button and which raises or lowers in 25 seconds, lots of safety features, enough space for four adults (just) and overall good looks both as a roof up coupé and as a roofless cabriolet, the Peugeot 307 CC has a lot going for it. And although there is some body flexing with the top down
and occasional sloppy suspension performance, the 307 CC generally drives well and is enjoyable to use. Overall then, that's a thumbs-up! — David Miles

Peugeot 307 CC 2.0 HDi Sport
| £21,550
Maximum speed: 129mph | 0-62mph: 10.3 seconds
Overall test MPG: 41.8mpg | Power: 136bhp
| Torque: 240lb ft

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