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Peugeot 308 CC GT 2.0 HDi 140

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“No matter how
  unpredictable our
  British weather,
  we really do love
  our convertibles.
  But for all-year-
  round convenience
  you simply can
  beat driving a cabrio
  with a retractable
  steel roof. Top of
  many people
s lists
  will be Peugeot
  new 308 CC

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE 308 CC include the built-in neck warming system previously only available on vastly more expensive Mercedes sports cars some particularly good engines (notably the 150bhp 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol unit and the model reviewed here, the more torquey 140bhp 2.0-litre HDi 140) and four full size seats.

None of the above would mean a great deal if the 308 CC didn't have the looks essential to cut it as a coupe-cabriolet. Fortunately it does. Packaging a good-looking four-seat coupe-cabriolet with a folding steel roof that stows away in the boot is no easy task (actually it's a designer's nightmare) but Peugeot have got it right with the 308 CC — it looks striking in both coupe and cabriolet configurations.

The 308 CC's defining visual feature is the large, low-slung grille capped by swept-back headlamp units. Top down, south of the rear headrests (that also house the active pop-up roll-over protection bars) the rear deck is clean and uncluttered all the way to the subtly integrated boot lip spoiler and the prominent haunches with their spectacular LED rear lights featuring 'curtain of red light' technology.

Smart and safe. The 308 CC has been awarded five stars in EuroNCAP's 'adult occupancy test' where it scored 36 out of a possible maximum 37 points. Along with the roll-over bars in the rear head restraints and specially reinforced front windscreen pillars, the 308 CC also features a world first — 9-litre head airbags for the front seat passengers that are housed within the seat and deployed, literally, from the head restraint.

While safety is, of course, of primary interest to any driver buying a convertible car, more important still is the driving environment and the driving dynamics. Environment first. Pull open a door and you'll find a suitably sporty looking cabin. Probably the first things you'll notice are the inbuilt Airwave neck heating vents in each front seat's integral head restraint. While there are matching Airwave mouldings on the rear seats, these are purely cosmetic and neck heating is only available on the front seats.

Airwave can be switched on and off as desired, and the air adjusted for temperature, flow and direction. And 'Airwave' is the perfect description as to how it feels — like cashmere but softer. Better still, it functions independently so you can have, say, warm air blowing on your neck while the climate control is pumping cool air into the cabin.

You’re never really
aware of the 2.0 GT
diesel engine except at
the pumps: a week
s hard
driving saw our road test
car return an average
of 43.6mpg
Of course, if 'toasted' is your thing, then you can fire up the heated seats, set the climate control to the red zone and max the temperature of the air blowing around your neck. Driving thus with the top down on a misty autumnal night or on a wintry, snow-tinged day is an experience not to be missed.

Trimmed in black leather, the shapely and well-bolstered seats are inviting and help make the cabin a pleasing place to be. Good quality trim materials, soft-touch plastics, a high-gloss black lacquer centre console plus chrome detailing all add to the tasteful ambience. Look over your shoulder and you'll find the pair of individual rear seats to be as equally smart and well-shaped as the fronts.

Access to the rear seats is straightforward as the front seats tilt and slide and there's a powered return feature. Shorter adults can travel in the back although six-footers will find legroom tight and their head very close to the rear screen unless sitting behind a much shorter person. If you have teenagers and smaller children, this is where they should sit when the roof is raised. And probably will want to anyway because due to the steeply raked windscreen extending some way back over the front cabin, those sitting in the back will enjoy the full top-down cabrio experience the most. Rear passengers have their own window switches, climate control vents, outer armrests and a centre armrest too.

If the driver is 'flying solo' or has only one passenger — as will no doubt be the usual 'load' for most 308 CC owners — then fitting the windstop (standard kit on the GT model) will, along with raising all four electric windows, ensure tranquil and refined 'open to the sky' cruising. Top down, normal conversation is not a problem at faster speeds, although you may prefer to listen to the excellent JBL Hi-Fi.

Talking of kit, the top-line GT model is very well specified and comes with a power folding metal roof, leather upholstery, 2-zone automatic climate control, four one-shot up/down electric windows, power door mirrors, 18-inch alloys, front and rear parking sensors, cruise control, windstop, leather-wrapped sports steering wheel, cruise control with speed limiter, automatic wipers and lights, auto-dimming rear-view mirror and tyre pressure monitoring as well as the Airwave neck heating system and JBL HiFi already mentioned.

Along with six 'Smart' airbags, an Electronic Stability Program (including ABS, Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Emergency Brake Assist, traction control and stability control) comes as standard. And in the event of sharp deceleration the hazard warning lights come on automatically.

The driving position is very good thanks to extensive height and reach adjustment of the leather-clad, flat-bottomed three-spoke steering wheel and the every-which-way electric adjustment for both front seats. With the roof in place the cabin is light and airy. A two-memory setting feature for the driver's seat means the 308 CC doubles easily as a his 'n' hers car. Longer than usual seat bases provide decent under-thigh/knee support — important for long distance driving comfort.

And there are more than enough storage cubbies and pockets, as well as a chilled glovebox, to take all the oddments you have and then some. Both front electric windows have a one-shot up/down facility, while the rear pair only have one-shot down. Power fold mirrors are fitted and can be operated at any time and also fold back automatically when the car is locked using the remote.

Enjoyable driveability
and all-seasons
practicality make the
308 CC an easy car
to say ‘Yes
Front and rear parking sensors, with both audible and visual warnings, are standard — and you'll definitely need them when you're reversing. Remote audio controls are fitted to the steering column on a stubby stalk (as too are those for the cruise control and speed limiter) and are fine once you get used to adjusting them purely by touch. Automatic drive-away central locking is yet another welcome feature.

Peugeot's optional (750) Connect Navigation with Bluetooth was fitted to our test car and very handy it proved to be, incorporating as it does SatNav, MP3 compatibility, voice control, a 6-CD autochanger and a pop-up screen that also adjusts for angle to minimise reflections — a well-considered quality in a convertible! Another convenience feature is the separate global window switch that lowers all four windows with one push (raising them requires you to hold the switch manually until they're closed).

Yet more neat touches include automatic remote-control locking of the glovebox and storage compartment under the central armrest along with deadlocking of doors for secure topless parking, and intelligent air conditioning that adapts itself to 'open' or 'closed' motoring.

With the roof up there's barely a whisper of wind or engine noise inside the efficiently soundproofed cabin and you could easily believe yourself to be in a 'proper' coupe with a fixed roof. The fully automatic powered metal top takes 20 seconds to open or close; with it in place luggage space more than doubles from 266 to a practical 465 litres.

The boot lid opens high and there's easy access over the knee-height load sill. Below the false floor is a large lift-out tray tailored to store the windstop — a nice touch is the proper stay hook to hold up the floor panel while accessing the lower boot. A flexi-net pocket to one side of the boot keeps smaller oddments in place and there's a stretchy luggage net for larger items. There's also an easy-to-use protective roller blind that prevents the roof crushing your luggage as it stacks in the boot. The boot itself is finished with a high quality carpet and chrome tie-down rings.

The last thing you want in a smart-looking car is for its bite to not match its bark. No worries with the 308 CC GT 2.0 HDi 140. When we tested the 150bhp, 1.6-litre petrol-drinking 308 CC earlier this year it earned top marks for its powerplant. The 2.0-litre 140bhp diesel unit tested here is equally well-suited to the not exactly light 308 CC (it weighs in at 1,674Kg). While it loses a few horsepower to the 150bhp petrol engine, the oil-burner serves up substantially more torque: 260lb ft as opposed to the 1.6's 180lb ft.

All of which helps make the unexpectedly quiet and smooth diesel unit a gutsy performer, one with more than enough mid-range power and torque for fuss-free overtaking — ably helped by the precise six-speed manual 'box. For the record, the top speed is a perfectly adequate 129mph with acceleration from standstill to 62mph taking 11.1 seconds.

You're never really aware of the 2.0 GT's diesel engine except at the pumps: a week's hard driving saw our road test car return an average of 43.6mpg compared to the test average for the petrol-powered 1.6 GT of 33.5mpg. And, in the interests of real-life figures, we didn't go out of our way to be economical. Official consumption figures for the 2.0 GT are 47.8mpg combined, 36.2 urban and 58.8mpg extra-urban.

The 308 CC is a relaxing tourer; quiet and refined at speed. Drive it with some attitude on more interesting roads, however, and you'll find that as well as comfort the CC has enough capability to deliver a decent helping of entertainment. An impressively rigid body more than compensates for the lack of a permanently fixed roof and during our week behind the wheel there was never any flexing or scuttle shake.

Ride quality is very credible and not at all too firm for what is first and foremost a 'cruiser'. And thanks to well-judged damping and good body control, the 308 CC is without doubt up there with the best of its kind. Some may feel that the steering is on the light side but nevertheless it's fine for the demands typical owners will make of it, whether they are cruising to soak up the rays or making haste along twisty, winding lanes. If it's the latter, they'll be reassured to discover that the easy-to-place 308 CC always feels reassuringly stable and predictable.

The new Peugeot 308 CC appeals equally to both sexes and really is that 'car for all seasons'. Factor in four seats, a powered folding metal roof, the cosseting Airwave neck warming system, enjoyable driveability and all-seasons practicality and you'll find it's an easy car to say 'Yes' to. — MotorBar

Peugeot 308 CC GT 2.0 HDi 140 FAP
| 24,295
Maximum speed: 129mph | 0-62mph: 11.1 seconds | Overall test MPG: 43.6mpg
Power: 140bhp | Torque: 260lb ft | CO2 155g/km | Insurance group 14