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Peugeot 308 CC Allure 2.0 HDi 163

Click to view picture gallery“Press the roof button in the latest
  Peugeot 308 CC and you’re actually
  living history; a history that starts
  before WW2 and involves a French
  war hero shot by the Gestapo
...”

IN 1931, FRENCH DENTIST AND PART-TIME CAR DESIGNER Georges Paulin designed and patented the first power-operated retractable hardtop; it was used by the Peugeot 402BL Éclipse Décapotable of 1934. From 1935 until Hitler's invasion of France, Paulin designed a number of cars that today are valued as much for their aerodynamics as for their beauty. However, after World War II broke out, Paulin worked with the French Resistance.

Tragically, in 1942 he was betrayed to the Gestapo by French Vichy elements, arrested and executed. When Paulin's wife Gabrielle received his personal effects after his death, she found a crumpled note to her in his jacket pocket. It said, "I love you — do not avenge me." After the war, the French government posthumously awarded Paulin the Croix de Guerre and the Médaille de la Résistance.

So, the roof invented by this French war hero lives on today in Peugeot's Coupe-Convertibles. When you press the button to fold away the 308 CC's two-piece metal roof, think of this brave and talented man.

Two features mark out
the 308 CC. First, the
fully automatic
electrically-powered
metal folding roof.
And, secondly, its
‘Airwave Scarf’ system —
neck-warming air vents
built into the upper front
seatbacks to keep you
très cosy when
travelling in top-down
décapotable mode
...”
Two features mark out the 308 CC. First, the fully automatic electrically-powered metal folding roof. And, secondly, its 'Airwave Scarf' system — neck-warming air vents built into the upper front seatbacks to keep you très cosy when travelling in top-down décapotable mode.

In its latest incarnation sporting a 508-style nose, distinctive V-shaped bonnet and LED daytime running lights, the 308 CC looks particularly purposeful from the front. Step round to the side and this very French coupe-convertible, with its heavily raked windscreen, cab-forward appearance and longish rear deck, presents a nicely streamlined profile.

The long windscreen stretches back over the cabin for more than aesthetic reasons — it also directs the air over and away from the open cockpit (and your head). In fact, top-down in the front seats of this CC doesn't feel like you're sitting in a convertible.

The plus side of this is that, even at higher speeds with the windows raised and the wind deflector in place, the 308 CC is an unruffled place to be. And adding to its open-air usability are three-stage heated front seats, the Airwave feature that wafts a scarf of warm air around you neck (adjusts for temperature, output and direction), and a climate control system that recognises when the car is in cabriolet mode and compensates accordingly.

If just you and your passenger are aboard, the standard-fit mesh windstop can be fitted in seconds for even more protection from buffeting at speed. There's a convenient one-press-lowers-all button for the four large side windows so you can tailor precisely how much, if any, breeze in your hair you want to experience. An enjoyable alternative on a hot day is to keep the roof up but lower all four windows for a pillarless coupe experience. Try it sometime.

The pièce de résistance of the 308 CC is undoubtedly the cabin — and it scores top marks for the presentation and content of its well-dressed interior. The four amply bolstered, individual sport style seats (power-operated fronts are a £370 option), all beautifully upholstered in two-tone leather, are as comfortable as they are good to look at.

Fairly slim A-pillars and large glass areas help in placing the CC (although you can't see the nose from the driving seat — not that you really need to). The driving position is fine; even the slightly larger than average but flat-bottomed leather-wrapped wheel feels good and solid in your hands, and there's a two-setting driver's seat memory for those democratic enough to share the driving.

“The pièce de résistance
of the 308 CC is
undoubtedly the cabin —
and it scores top marks
for the presentation and
content of its well-
dressed interior.
The four individual sport
style seats, all beautifully
upholstered in
two-tone leather, are as
comfortable as they’re
good to look at
...”
A sloping centre console houses the majority of the switchgear and ahead of the driver are two classic-look, white-faced dials with fine black markings and slim red-and-black needles. Our car had the optional and very usable 3D SatNav (£735), and it rises automatically out of the rubberised, silky-feel upper fascia. Its display angle can be adjusted electrically to minimise reflections (particularly useful roof-down).

If you know where you're going, it can be folded away at the touch of a button. Well-considered satin chrome highlights add to the classy air and fit and finish is top-rate and would definitely look at home in the next class up.

The rear seats, twins to the front pair, are easily accessed: as you fold the front backrest forward the seat powers itself towards the front; refold the backrest and the seat returns automatically to its last used position.

Adults under six-feet tall can travel comfortably in the back with the roof up; there's good foot room under the front seats and the rear backrest angle is fine; they can also share a centre armrest and will be happy on longish journeys. Top down, they'll see more of the sky than those sitting up front — and they'll also feel a dash more wind in their hair.

Our test car was an Allure spec model (there's Access, Active, Allure and the range-topping GT) and it comes with a host of standard kit: sports front and rear seats, heated front seats, leather upholstery, sports steering wheel, Airwave Scarf, front and rear parking aid, windstop, on-demand powerfold heated door mirrors, cruise control with speed limiter, dual-zone climate control, four one-shot electric windows, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, front (daytime running) and rear LED lights, auto wipers and lights, radio/CD player with MP3 playback, Peugeot connect USB with Bluetooth, drive-away automatic central locking, ambient lighting, tyre pressure sensor, and 18-inch alloy wheels.

The 308 CC also comes with a five-star Euro NCAP rating backed up by Traction Control and Dynamic Stability Control systems. Protective pop-up rear rollover hoops are fitted, as are six SMART airbags (two front, two side body, two side head), and the hazard lights come on automatically in the event of sharp braking. Hopefully you'll never have need of any of this but it's reassuring to know it's there au cas où. Just in case.

As suggested by its laid-back looks, the CC is more about cruising than barnstorming. As such, the ride is exactly as you would imagine it to be — nicely damped and supple. And it copes very well with most blacktop (bumps and all). Cruising at speed on motorways, the CC never feels anything but stable. And, roof down, there's no creaks, rattles or shakes thanks to its strong structural rigidity; raise the metal roof and it feels as all-of-a-piece as a normal 308 hatchback.

Taken on long journeys,
the 308 CC promises to
be fuel efficient:
officially, the extra-urban
figure is 60mpg
with 49.5
for the combined cycle. Our briskly driven
week-long test, quite
a lot of it in town
and around the houses,
saw an overall 41.9mpg.
We’d expect most
owners
to better that...”
While it might not do barnstorming, it can be surprisingly entertaining. The electric power steering is light around town and when parking but as sharp as it needs to be on the open road. Brakes are powerful (discs all round; vented at the front) and are a meaningful accompaniment to the CC's willingness to 'press on'. There's a lot of grip and, unless you drive like a loon, it behaves in a composed manner in tune with its raison d'être — that of an affordable and stylish, but usefully compact, convertible grand tourer.

The electric roof folds quietly and automatically once you press the button by the traditional handbrake and notifies you when it's done (20 seconds either way) via a message on the driver's information screen along with an audible chime. It can also be operated on the move, at speeds of up to 7.5mph, although here at MotorBar we're not fans of this feature on any drop-top; while it looks cool, it's simply too distracting for other motorists.

Roof-up, the CC offers a practical 465 litres of space for your luggage, but in cabriolet mode it takes back quite a chunk to leave you with 266 litres below the stacked roof panels.

Our test car was fitted with the 163bhp 2.0-litre HDi diesel that also generates 250lb ft of torque at 3,000rpm. Push down on the accelerator and this unit will get you to 62mph in 9.7 seconds and on to a maximum speed of 129mph — more than enough whichever side of the English Channel you're driving on. Another plus point: it doesn't sound diesely when it's working; work it hard with the top down, and you'll hear a sporty edge in its exhaust note.

It's also a nice match to the 308 CC's motorway cruising ability, letting you sit back and enjoy the coupe-convertible experience. In cut-and-thrust traffic or B-roads, the HDi's torque keeps it responsive with more than enough power for safe overtaking.

Taken on long journeys, the 308 CC promises to be fuel efficient: officially, the extra-urban figure is 60mpg with 49.5 for the combined cycle and 37.6 in town. Our week-long, briskly driven test, quite a lot of it in town and around the houses, saw an overall average of 41.9mpg. But we'd expect most owners to better that.

With its distinct French flavour, Peugeot's 308 CC is a well-judged and alluring alternative to other metal-roofed coupe-convertibles (and the less secure soft-topped ones too). Were he alive today, would the man who started it all eighty-one years ago be proud to see how his idea has played forward? You know, I really think he would. Thank you, Georges. — MotorBar

Peugeot 308 CC Allure 2.0 HDi 163 | £26,845
Maximum speed: 129mph | 0-62mph: 9.7 seconds | Overall test MPG: 41.9mpg
Power: 163bhp | Torque: 250lb ft | CO2 149g/km