Engine: 1.6-litre, turbocharged, petrol
Power: 150bhp and 180lb.ft.
Performance: 0 to 62mph in 10.5 seconds and 134mph
Fuel economy: 38mpg (combined)
CO2 emissions: 177g/km
For: Practical with roof up, poser with it down. Striking looks.
Against: Still limited rear leg room. Blunted dynamic ability with roof down
PEUGEOT’S COOL CAT KEEPS ITS SPOTS
THANKS to some fairly experimental engineering back in the 1930s Peugeot can quite comfortably claim to be the inventors of the folding hard-top.
While the balletic roadside performances of various manufacturers' take on this technology has only become a regular sight since the dawn of the mega popular 206CC back in 2000 there is little doubt that the French manufacturer boasts a weight of heritage which stretches back much further.
Their recent success is not to be underestimated.
By the start of 2009 Peugeot had sold more than 650,000 Coupe Cabriolets and their hope is that their latest incarnation, the 308CC, will continue where the others left off.
Pricing is in-line with Ford's less powerful and instantly less striking Focus CC, at between £20,895 and £25,795.
There are Sport, SE and GT specifications and four engines to choose from, including: 120bhp and 150bhp turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol and 110bhp and 140bhp 1.6-litre HDi diesel.
Tested here is the 308CC GT THP 150 which comes in at £23,995.
The price seems a little lofty but interior fit and finish is impressive and there is a premium specification, featuring: Sat-Nav; full leather; cruise control; parking sensors; a premium JFL stereo and Peugeot's neck-warming Airwave device, as standard.
The 150bhp petrol engine is the most potent engine in the range but its 10.5 sprint to 62mph and 134mph makes plain that the that the 308CC should not be viewed as a sports car.
I suspect fuel consumption of 38mpg and CO2 emissions of 177g/km are more relevant to Peugeot's prospective buyers.
The 308CC's design is more imposing than its straight-line performance, though.
Undoubtedly better looking than its predecessor, the 307CC—which provided an awkwardly proportioned starting point—the 308 is longer, lower and wider than its big bummed forebear.
It also wears what is probably the finest execution of Peugeot's striking new face to date but thanks to the elongated rump still required to stow its larger folding roof, the original 206CC remains the most attractive of Peugeot's CCs to date.
Efforts have been made to carry the presence of the front into the rear, with a faux plastic diffuser dominating proceedings, but the rear three quarters still look somewhat ungainly.
A key factor of this kind of car is its usability and, in practicality terms, the 308 marks a step forward for Peugeot's CCs.
Increased space in the rear makes transporting two children a reasonable proposition but adults, ultimately, still require too much contortion.
A relatively shallow footwell and high clutch pedal made offering up rear leg room too much of a sacrifice for my six foot frame.
Two up, the 308CC is spacious and the boot is impressive. With the roof in place there is a gaping 465 litres—more than the 308 hatchback with its seats in place.
When stowed away the roof steals 199 litres, however, and greatly reduces access to whatever lies beneath the folded slabs of glass and metal.
Load space is not the only thing effected after lowering the roof.
With the roof in place the 308CC feels like a well sorted hatchback, tracking true and offering a neutral stance through corners.
The suspension is stiff but bumps are not transmitted into the cabin. What is—as in the 207 GTi—is a bassy resonence which reverberates throughout the car at lower speeds.
At speed, with the roof up, the 308CC proved a refined cruiser.
Lowering the roof takes 20 seconds and, although there is minimal buffeting in the cabin at most speeds, dropping the roof does reduce the integrity of the 308's structure.
On broken tarmac wobble can be detected through the A-pillars and the ability to latch onto a corner's apex with confidence is reduced.
On the plus side the ride remains firm but comfortable and that reverberation is gone.
Helping make the most of topless opportunities is Peugeot's Airwave system which blows warm air onto your neck through a vent in the headrest.
The 308CC is a tale of two halves....
With the roof up it has all the practicality of a premium hot hatch; fit and finish are impressive and it offers an engaging driving experience. Reduced rear leg room is the only trade-off.
Lower the roof and a little dynamic flair, along with half your boot, is lost but you are left with a striking summer-time cruiser without the running costs associated to an out-and-out sports car.
Two cars for the price of one? I can CC that Peugeot's newest drop-top proving another sales hit.