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Peugeot 308 CC GT THP 150

Click to view picture gallery“The new Peugeot 308 CC comes
  fitted with the cosseting and cosy
  Airwave neck warming system.
  But there
s more to the 308 CC than
  hot air — quality is improved, as
  is the driving experience, and there
s
  also a five-year ‘peace of mind

  service plan
...

UNLIKE THE NEW 308 coupe-cabriolet, the new car market around the world currently has more downs than ups. Hopefully a raft of new models, sales incentives and better weather will encourage Peugeot customers to 'Spring into a new motor'.

From 1 June, the new Peugeot 308 CC coupe-cabriolet mainstream range goes on sale in the UK and around 5,000 of these vehicles should be sold in a full year. Peugeot, as we know, are the industry's leading manufacturer of such vehicles — in more recent times producing the 206 CC, 207 CC, 307 CC and now the 308 CC. Since 2001, over 90,000 CC cars have been sold by Peugeot in the UK.

With prices starting from 19,495 and ranging up to 24,395, buy soon because another price increase is likely unless the good old British Pound fights back against the Euro. Peugeot is offering the metal-top 308 coupe-cabriolet with three trim and equipment levels: Sport, which should take 20% of sales; SE which will be the choice of 60% of customers; and GT, which will account for the final 20% of sales.

The 308 CC range is launched with two high-performance engines: a 1.6-litre THP turbocharged direct injection petrol unit in 150bhp form with a 6-speed manual gearbox (or, with 140bhp, with an automatic transmission); and a 2.0-litre HDI turbodiesel unit with 140bhp with a 6-speed manual gearbox (or a 136bhp version of the same engine with an automatic gearbox). Still to come is a 120bhp 1.6-litre petrol unit and a 112bhp 1.6-litre HDI diesel engine.

So who will buy or use the new 308 CCs? Peugeot expects 65% of sales will be to retail customers and for many it will be the second car in the household. It will also appeal to young-at-heart, fashion conscious people and others with sports car sentiments. Ladies are likely to be 55% of users; 43% of all drivers are likely to be between 35 and 49 years of age; 64% will be married or have a partner; and 69% will not have children at home.

The main selling points are likely to be: better proportioned styling and balance than the outgoing 307 CC; a much-improved quality; higher comfort levels; 5-star Euro NCAP safety rating; and a high specification. Another reason to buy: Peugeot says the 308 CC is better on the road, with improved dynamics providing a more rewarding drive. And the new 5-year/50,000, 199 service plan is probably yet another very good reason to buy one.

The new 308 CC retains the steeply raked windscreen and consequently the front A-pillars still produce significant front-quarter blind-spots. At the rear, the boot — which doubles up for luggage and roof storage — still looks out of proportion to the rest of the two-door coupe but it is better than the 307 CC.

Pick of the bunch
is the 1.6-litre THP 150
turbocharged petrol
unit...
The cabin has seating for four but the rear seats offer limited leg and headroom. That said, in all other respects the interior is a nice place to be. Cruising along with the roof down and the Windstop in place, wind intrusion is minimal so a normal conversation can take place. Like all four-seat convertibles, the 308 CC's wind-blocker cannot be deployed if all four seats are in use. Luggage space depends on whether you're travelling top-up or top-down: respectively, 465 and 226 litres.

However, the driver and front passenger will be sure to enjoy the new Airwave system which allows warm air to be channelled up to the front head restraints and onto the neck. Safety-wise, in addition to the usual front airbags, there are chest and pelvis side airbags and the world-first head airbag, so the new 308 CC is a reassuringly safe car. With full- or part-leather upholstery and high-quality detailed stitching, the new 308 CC looks a class act.

The body is stronger, with improved torsional rigidity, so when the roof is down the body-wobbles have more or less gone. Incidentally, the motorised two-part folding roof takes 20 seconds to open or close and can be operated at speeds of up to 7.5mph.

The ride height has been lowered over that used for the 307 CC, so the road holding is generally good but our poor UK roads do at times send shudders through the bodyshell. Perhaps softer suspension settings might be more appropriate for what is, after all, a 'cruiser' rather than a sports car. All CC models have electronic control stability, alloy wheels, air conditioning and electrically-operated windows and door mirrors as standard.

During the media's first drive event last week we had the opportunity to try 308 CCs fitted with the 1.6-litre 150 THP petrol engine with the six-speed manual gearbox as well as the 2.0-litre HDI 136 turbodiesel unit with the new six-speed automatic transmission.

Both engines are well known so I will not dwell too much on them. The high mileage business user will almost certainly opt for the 136bhp diesel unit with the autobox because the vehicle is responsive and tireless to drive as well as being relatively economical on fuel. While this unit officially returns 40.4mpg, the 140bhp version of this engine with the manual gearbox produces significantly less CO2 (155g/km instead of 185g/km) and its fuel economy is much better — 47.9mpg. On test and driven over busy south coast roads, our auto transmission coupe returned 35.7mpg. The traditional 'clatter' of a diesel engine with the roof down was not at all intrusive.

Pick of the bunch, however, is the 1.6-litre THP 150 turbocharged petrol unit — it's quiet and responsive. Maximum torque of 180lb ft is produced from only 1,400rpm and officially it will return 37.7mpg, so it offers almost diesel-like performance. The test model returned 33.5mpg — good for a car of this size and weight given that much of our driving involved dicing with dawdling south coast drivers seemingly all enjoying the recent sunshine. Top speed is 134mph and 0-62mph takes 10.5 seconds meaning that this particular 308 CC has the 'go' to go with the stylish good looks.

While new 308 CC customers can expect a firm ride, they'll also find much improved quality and safety features and enjoy a better driving experience with the beautifully-responsive 1.6 THP petrol engine. And given the Airwave temperature-controlled neck heating system (that's also found in seriously more expensive Mercedes convertibles), CC could now also stand for Cosseting and Comfortable. — David Miles

Peugeot 308 CC GT 1.6 THP 150
| 23,495
Maximum speed: 134mph | 0-62mph: 10.5 seconds | Overall test MPG: 33.5mpg
Power: 150bhp | Torque: 180lb ft | CO2 177g/km | Insurance group 14