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2009 Peugeot 308 CC – First Steer

Has Peugeot found an answer to Volkswagen’s EOS?

It’s 9:30 am on a freezing Monday morning and I’m suppose to be at the Gold Coast airport by 10:45 am. If I wasn’t such a convertible fan, the thought of having to drive there from Brisbane in peak hour traffic wouldn’t have been so appealing.

When news came of the media event for the Peugeot 308 CC (Coupe Cabriolet), I quickly put my hand up. Not only do I love convertibles, but I’ve always had a sweet spot for the French ones.

However, I also utterly love the Volkswagen EOS, the 308 CCs main competitor, so I was very interested to see if the Pug could sway me in its favour.

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Peugeot is known for a few things, they are Europe’s second biggest manufacturer behind Volkswagen, they kick some serious butt racing at Le Mans and they’ve been building CCs since 1934, in fact they’ve sold more than 650,000 steel roof CCs (7370 in Australia) to date, more than any other manufacturer.

So you’ve got a manufacturer that can build winning race cars but also excellent convertibles, what happens when they decide to build a sporty convertible?

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The 308 CC is an interesting car, it has some serious competition to begin with. As mentioned, the CC is pitted directly at the EOS, however it also competes with the Holden Astra TwinTop, Ford Focus CC and Audi’s A3 Convertible.

Our drive program started from the Gold Coast airport, a bus trip to the beach for lunch and then we got suited up and began driving the 308 CCs to the Byron resort at Byron Bay.

Seven 308 CCs driving one after another through town with the roof down does tend to create a scene and why shouldn’t it, it’s a beautiful car.

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From a design perspective, the most striking element of the 308 CC for me is the rear tail-lights, the perfectly aligned LEDs truly set this car apart on the road, it’s also one of the very few convertibles that can look good in white.

It’s worth realising though that the 308 CC needs to look good, because when you’ve got a car as technologically advanced as the EOS as your main competition, you must look better to have the edge! That’s perhaps the best way to differentiate the two.

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On one hand the VW EOS is a great convertible, it pretty much does everything well, but, it’s rather conservatively styled, it looks like a convertible built for the masses. On the other hand, the 308 CC is much more vibrantly styled, it’s more out there and demands your attention.

Sit inside an EOS and you’d be thinking you’re in a Volkswagen Golf, sit inside a 308 CC and you experience a much more upmarket feel and aura.

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There were two things that bothered me about the interior though, for a start the steering wheel seems larger than it needs to be for a car of this calibre, secondly there are no audio controls on the steering wheel, Peugeot has the tendency to hide them on a separate knob behind the steering wheel. No doubt you’ll get used to both features, apart from that, I can’t complain about the inside.

As for the rear seats, I would not recommend long journeys but for a small drive to the shops or for dinner, the CC can fit four adults. Peugeot has given some serious consideration to make the new 308 CC more practical in that sense, it’s 43mm longer and 58mm wider than the 307CC, additionally the front seats sit 15mm lower than in the hatchback.

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One new interior addition is the AIRWAVE system, similar to one found in Mercedes-Benz convertibles, AIRWAVE (a $1200 option on the standard CC) adds vents inside the seats to keep your neck warm, using three settings.

Behind the wheel, the 308 CC is somewhat surprising, and while some overseas publications have written that the car handles like “a boat”, to me that sounds absurd.

Our drive program from Byron Bay through Nimbin and back to the Gold Coast highway included at least 50 kilometres of mountain driving. There are very few things in life I prefer above a spirited drive up and down a mountain, and the 308 CC proved to be nothing short of a genuine sports convertible.

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On the way we encountered some misinformed protesters who were under the impression we had something to do with Rally of Australia – which apparently will kill native wildlife, pollute their town and possibly even abduct their daughters.

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They lost a lot of their steam after we told them Peugeot is one of the greenest car companies in the world.

I initially drove the top of the range six-speed automatic diesel and was impressed with the amount of torque and pull the car had, but it was the 1.6-litre turbo manual that really convinced me of the Pug’s superiority over the EOS.

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Whilst the EOS has a great 2.0-litre turbo petrol (shared with the Golf GTI), it tends to torque steer on the odd occasion, something the 308 CC simply doesn’t do.

Peugeot predicts it will sell at least 600 CCs a year, the majority of which will eventually be diesel, this isthe first time a diesel CC has been offered in Australia, but if it was up to me, I’d still pick the 1.6-litre petrol.

The 2.0-litre diesel is one of the best out there when it comes to fuel economy (7.0L/100km) and torque, but it does have a noticeable amount of lag on take off which can catch you out in times of need.

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The petrol engine though, has got to be one of the smoothest small engines in the world (the same engine is also found in Mini Coopers).

Push it in any gear and it will accelerate without any hesitation and continue to do so till you hit the rev limiter. No wonder it’s been given the International Engine of the Year award in the 1.4 to 1.8-litre category for the past three years. It delivers 110kW of power (103kW in auto) and 240Nm of torque at just 1400rpm.

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Sitting at 100km/h in sixth gear, you’d be lucky to push past 2300rpm, meaning great fuel economy figures of 8.1L/100km for a combined city and highway cycle.

Regardless of which engine you pick, this car is more about the sporty roof-down lifestyle than pure performance. It takes 20 seconds for the fully automatic steel roof to go down or up and it can be engaged whilst standing still or at up to 12km/h.

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Peugeot Australia believes the car will appeal to men & women 40 years young and above, interestingly the company predicts the 308 CC will attract more male buyers than the 307 CC due to its more masculine design. The French have worked out that a more masculine-looking convertible will still appeal to women, but a feminine one only appeals to women.

Compared to the normal 308, the CC rides 12mm lower at the front and 8mm lower at the rear. It also has a 20 per cent more rigid suspension.

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On the second day of the journey my co-driver and I decided to put the 308 CC through a few small potholes to see how the car behaves over bumps given its lower height and stiffer suspension.

Unfortunately given the rain the previous night, our first pothole was a lot deeper than it appeared and we punctured a tyre.

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As this moment I looked over at my co-driver (who was at the wheel at the time – but I won’t mention names) and he looked back at me, we both had the same thought, what are the chances the 308 CC would have a full size spare?

To both our amazements, we opened the boot and there it was a proper, full-size spare.

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The wheel was changed in no time and we were off once again, a big tick in the book for the full size spare, especially when you’re stuck half way up a mountain and its raining.

Even with a full size spare and the roof folded down, boot capacity is 266 litres in cabriolet configuration, if you need more space, put the roof back up and you’ll get a more than usable 465 litres.

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Pricing for the 308 CC starts from $48,990 (recommended vehicle price only – check with a Peugeot dealer in your state for a price that includes statutory and dealer charges) for the 1.6-litre turbo, six-speed manual. If you want an auto petrol, you’ll be up for $50,990 and if diesel tickles your fancy, it will be another $2000 on top of that.

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In the standard 308 CC, you’ll get 17-inch alloy wheels, six airbags, ESP, self-deploying roll-over bars, rear parking assistance, folding door mirrors, a great stereo, sports seats with cloth trim. You can option leather seats, which will come with the new Airwave heating system and a wind deflector for $4100, while 18-inch alloys are an additional $900.

If you want something a little more unique and packed with more luxury, Peugeot offers a petrol and diesel 308 CC S, which comes with all the features of the standard CC but adds standard leather seats with electric operation, heating and memory, Airwave, wind deflector, 18-inch wheels, directional Xenon headlights with automatic height adjustment and headlight washers and electronic front parking assistance.

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In order to conform to demand, the 308 CC S is only offered in automatic transmissions (four-speed for petrol, six-speed for diesel).

So, should you buy a 308 CC over a Volkswagen EOS? That is a hard question to answer. Both cars have some very redeeming characteristics, you can’t ignore the sunroof inside the glass roof of the EOS as well as the car’s overall build quality, but you then can’t ignore the good looks, smooth engine, uniqueness and handling of the 308 CC.

If you’re after a convertible in this price range, you can forget about the Ford Focus CC as it’s incomparable (review on Focus CC), the Holden Astra TwinTop is not overly exciting either. As for the Audi A3, it’s definitely leaning well into the feminine category. So it really does leave you with the EOS and 308 CC.

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If you want my advice, I suggest you drive both and pick the one that most appeals. I’ve been converted to the French camp for now. For me, the conservative design of the EOS has started to show its age already, meanwhile the Peugeot has a soul and character that both its German rivals lack.

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