PEUGEOT introduced folding hard-top convertibles to the world in 1934, then resurrected the concept almost seven decades later with the 206 CC, and has refined — rather than revolutionised — the breed ever since.
Essentially, the 308 CC is a wider, longer and fatter 307 CC, meaning the architecture and many of the major components are carried over. The 308's body has, however, been stiffened to fend off fatigue and flex and its facelifted pout pulled taut into a constant grin.
Though it may sound unattractive on paper, in the metal it's anything but. With roof up or down its stretched silhouette is more resolved than most of its contemporaries. Its sporting aspirations are flagged via a lower ride height and firmer suspension tune, while nifty technical advancements ensure there's substance as well as style. For the first time in any of its CCs, Peugeot offers an auto diesel variant (starting at $52,990), while manual and automatic versions of the PSA-developed 1.6-litre turbo petrol are priced at $48,990 and $50,990 respectively.
The refined 2.0-litre turbo diesel and six-speed Aisin sportshift auto combo is surprisingly quiet and won't rattle CC lovers even with the top down at idle. The adaptive 'box is sluggish at low revs or after long sixth-gear stints, but the plentiful torque — 320Nm from 2000rpm — copes well with its 1695kg burden, and the 308 CC proved surprisingly enjoyable on the flowing Byron Bay roads chosen for the media launch.
The 308 CC mostly avoids the sloppy body and chassis flex that blighted its predecessor, but the rear end's not the most sophisticated bit of gear getting around (it's still a torsion beam) and on broken bitumen lacks finesse and stability. The weight of the folding roof in the boot when top-down can't help, either.
The turbo-petrol manual version is 108kg lighter than the diesel, but it's a smooth torquer with a preference for short-shifting. And the high, slightly awkward pedal placement and low under-thigh support make the drive a little less sporting (and a little more French).
Peugeot claims a few world firsts with the 308 CC, including front side head airbags mounted in the headrests of the seats. The 308 CC also offers an 'Airwave' system which blows warm air onto your neck and is standard in the top-spec S, but part of a $7K options pack for the base car bundled with bi-xenons, leather, seat heaters and wind diffuser.
The split roof folds in 20 seconds and can be opened on the move, although at an achingly slow 12km/h. Top-down motoring shrinks the 465L boot to 266L, while classy interior design and soft-touch trim give the perception of high quality.
At first acquaintance, the 308 CC seems to have the goods — and the good looks — to trouble the class-leading VW Eos.
Peugeot 308 CC S
1997cc in-line 4, dohc, 16v t/d 100kW @ 4000rpm
320Nm @ 2000rpm