When it comes to diesel-powered European open-top motoring, Peugeot’s 308CC has only one competitor – the Volkswagen EOS.
Sure there are petrol-powered rivals like the Renault Megane, Audi A3, Ford Focus CC and even the BMW 1-Series Convertible, but with the Europeans turning out so many competent diesels, the 308 CC diesel has a lot going for it.
What You Get
Both the Volkswagen and the Peugeot would be welcome permanent additions to the Car Showroom garage and while styling is a personal thing, in our eyes, the sumptuous looks of the 308CC give it an edge over the EOS.
We backed-up our test of the entry-level 308CC 1.6-litre petrol with a test of the range-topping ‘S’ model 2.0-litre turbo-diesel.
French style is evident wherever you look – the gloriously curved exterior and standout interior mark the 308CC with real cachet. The extra dollars to secure the leather seats and other goodies included in the up market ‘S’ derivative is money well spent.
Under The Hood
The 2.0-litre HDi FAP is Peugeot’s first diesel convertible in Australia. It’s also found in other 308 and 407 models.
Maximum power is 100kW and peak torque is 320Nm or 340Nm on overboost. The EOS scores Volkswagen’s 2.0-litre turbo-diesel that’s good for 103kW/320Nm.
Peugeot uses a variable geometry turbocharger (for improved throttle response at all engine speeds) and high-pressure direct injection (1.65 bar). The FAP nomenclature represents the additive-enhanced Diesel Particulate Filter System, which cleans the exhausts in modern diesel engines.
Fuel consumption is rated at 7.0l/100kms and CO2 emissions are 185g/km.
Style certainly ramps-up a notch or two when you climb inside the 308CC.
Our range-topping ‘S’ model presented the four individually sculptured seats in nice leather. The fronts sit 15mm lower than the 308 hatchback for extra shoulder room and in the ‘S’ model contain the neck warming/cooling ‘Airwave’ vents – an innovative system that works well.
The front seats adjust electronically (memory system for the driver) and we liked the driving position. You also get the world’s first side airbags (front seats), which are stored in the headrests - these combine with chest/pelvis side airbags also mounted in the seats.
A nice leather-wrapped, D-shaped three-spoke steering wheel and the center console black lacquer finish add some prestige.
For parking with the roof down, the glovebox and center console storage compartments lock automatically with the remote.
Instruments are the usual two-dial layout and we liked the very classy graphics. Operation for the single CD, MP3 audio system and climate control takes place in the center console.
The boot is surprisingly large (465 litres in hardtop and 266 litres with the roof down).
Operating the roof is a simple one-button job, which starts the usual electro-mechanical marvel that is common in today’s hardtops as windows go down and roof compartments fold into each other.
A rear alloy roll bar keeps things safe in open-top form – activation takes just 20 milliseconds.
Exterior & Styling
We continue to marvel at the elegance of the 308CC’s styling. It’s strikingly gorgeous.
The rear view is particularly enlightening with large red LED lights and stylishly curved flanks, while the front has the deep sculpturing around the bonnet, large grille and steeply raked headlights that make the 308 range so impressive.
At night, subtle LED lights in the exterior mirrors cast a soft glow which highlights the curvaceous side profile.
For the soft-top, the windscreen is more steeply raked and the roofline is 72mm lower than the hatchback.
Naturally, under the skin are substantial changes (such as doubling of the A-pillar and interior floors/footwells) to provide the required torsional rigidity.
On The Road
We’ve now put both the petrol and diesel-powered 308CCs through our test regime and found them to be enjoyable and engaging drives.
As you would expect from one of Europe’s leading manufacturers, the mating of the 2.0-litre turbo-diesel to its Aisin 6-speed tiptronic automatic is first class with nice throttle response throughout the range.
At 1695 kgs, the 308CC is a little bulkier than the EOS and over our high-speed mountain test route the Peugeot was not quite as pin-sharp through the twists.
The 308CC rides on McPherson strut front/torsion beam rear suspension with a lower ride height and stiffer dampers than its hatchback sibling. We were impressed by the suspension refinement over bumps and tram/train track crossings – the roof was also noticeably quiet and free of squeaks.
Peugeot uses the Bosch 8.1 ESP system which includes ABS anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, traction and stability control.
Around town the Peugeot open-top attracted plenty of stares and was easy to maneuver in our city car park thanks to its 10.7 metre turning circle and good visibility (although rear three-quarter vision - like all cabrios – took a little getting used to).
Only two blemishes for the 308CC diesel (same as the petrol version). Firstly the slightly heavy feel when rapidly changing direction.
And access to the rear seats could be easier. Peugeot uses a system where the front seats slide forward and simultaneously the seat backs also fold – it works well, but the actual opening created is still a bit restricted.
We remain captivated by the 308CC’s looks inside and out. Gallic charm, French style, call it what you like, the 308CC has it in bucket loads and for buyers of the European cabrios, and this is crucial. And when the diesel is as good as this, why wouldn’t you reap the fuel economy benefits.
Has to be the EOS which is a little more keenly priced. Certainly the Volkswagen delivers sharper driving dynamics at the limit, but we score the 308CC ahead in the looks department – the French car has more ‘car park appeal’.
The other European open-tops (such as A3 Cabrio, Megane Cabrio, MINI Cabrio, Focus CC and BMW 1-Series Convertible) are not currently available with diesel engines.
Knockout looks inside and out; handy diesel
Not razor-sharp around the twists; tight rear seat access.