Young at heart motoring writer KEITH WARD tests Peugeot’s latest 308 CC which is ideal whatever the weather – rain or shine
TIME was when open-top motoring was for pre-gym-age hardy types who sat with scant protection behind a skimpy windscreen and took on the elements in string-backed gloves, tweed cap and a cravat.
If it started to rain you got a soaking by the time you had stopped, got out, unfolded the canvas roof and fumbled with a series of studs and levers to tie the thing down.
Compare life for the contemporary fresh-air fiend in such coupe-cabriolets as the latest Peugeot 308 CC, one of a thriving breed. The roof is metal, proof against water leaks, wind noise and vandals. You stay in your seat and press a switch to lower or raise it. It took just 23 seconds on our watch, and can even be done on the move, albeit below five miles per hour. When not required it folds itself neatly into the boot and out of sight.
Or, with the roof in place, another switch lowers all four windows to give you a coupe format.
In top-down mode a huge, steeply sloping windscreen protects you from the front, a mesh baffle slotted behind you virtually eliminates back-draughts, while an in-seat heater below the headrest can be set to gently waft and warm your neck.
In one brave dash along the M62 and across the Yorkshire Wolds under sun and lowering clouds, we even kept going through a light shower, with the wet stuff deflected by that big windscreen up and over us.
On a motorway, not cocooned in a cabin, you realise what a din the traffic creates. You add to it by turning up the radio a fair few decibels. Better by far to snake along quiet country roads, savouring all the smells, sweet and sour, of the countryside.
Certain precautions are necessary. Any cargo in the boot must be stored strictly below a demarking pull-out cover to leave room for the folded roof to park above it. Better not to try roof-folding in a multi-storey car park, or your garage at home, with restricted headroom.
The boot lid, with the gubbins of that folding mechanism, is a hefty unit to raise manually in normal everyday usage. This operation, too, could do with electrical help. And with the roof in storage, your shopping has to be posted through a slot and below it, a bit like fitting your hand baggage into one of those budget airline gauges. (The dimensions of the reduced boot, by our tape, are actually 1,000 by 760 by 280 mm).
Also, the two doors, doubling in a crash-protection role, are muscle-testingly heavy as well as wide. This is a sporty compact weighing as much as a low-end Jeep.
While the car is billed as a “genuine four-seater”, the rear pair are only for the severely vertically challenged – short.
In any of its formats, the 308 CC is impressively stylish, and there’s substance, too, in this version. GT indicates the top of four trims in the CC range, rather than performance. Nevertheless the 200 bhp, 1.6-litre petrol engine gives it a claimed 149 mph capability, which would start to ruffle the hair, presumably, even with the car’s protective virtues.
At legal speeds it shows a lively spirit, clocking the 0-62 dash in 8.3 seconds. At 70 mph in top sixth gear it pulls only 3,000 revs of its 6,800 potential, with a gentle burble through its twin chrome exhaust pipes. East Yorkshire’s 1 in 4 Sutton Bank, once billed as the steepest road in Britain, proved, as expected, little deterrent.
If you’re young at heart and into summer, whatever the UK weather serves up, this could be the car for you.
THE VITAL STATISTICS
Model: Peugeot 308 CC GT THP 200
Body: Two-door coupe cabriolet; electric folding hard top; four seats
Size: Length 4,400 mm; width 1,817 mm; height 1,426 mm; boot
Weight: Kerb 1,535 kg; gross train 3,295 kg; max braked trailer 1,270 kg
Engine: Petrol; 1,598 cc; four cylinders; 16 valves; six-speed manual
Power: 200 bhp @ 6,800 rpm; max orque 275 Nm @ 1,700 rpm
Pace: 149 mph; 0-62 in 8.3 secs
MPG: On test 36.7; official combined 40.3 mpg
CO2: 162 g/km; band G; annual VED disc £165
Tyres: 225/40; R1
Insurance: Group 21E
PRICE: £25,845; navigation £1,575 extra; (308 CC range £21,295 to £26,695)