Sunday, 2 August 2009


An old TV advert refers to the province of Limpopo as Africa’s Eden, or something like that. The ad goes on and on about how beautiful the place is and so on. For those who don’t live that close to Limpopo such statements can be taken as frivolous or even exaggerated. Yet when coming face to face with Limpopo you realise that perhaps these words are understated, that you are in actual fact in heaven itself.

Against this background I accepted the brand new keys to the brand new Peugeot 308 Coupé Cabriolet like a doubting Thomas, expecting to cruise for a few kilometres into a luxury spa for my body treatment. The first few minutes were spent checking out the interior after getting comfortable in the leather seat. The flat-bottom, leather-covered steering wheel felt chunky, grippy, enticing. But there was no way I would fall for it; I know a tease when I see one and this car just screamed tease!

Hang on. A few seconds after turning the key and hearing the engine purr, more confusion was to engulf me. How come this metal gear lever felt so good in the hand? Why did it invite?

We eventually turn into a spa but not before sampling some great twisty roads. Again, those doubters will by now be wondering why all the fuss about the 308 CC going up and down a pass. After all, isn’t it just another poser’s toy?

Not really hey. For about 15km the road seemed to turn into an anaconda, twisting, turning, cornering, up the hill. Each curve coming quicker than the previous one. For that whole distance the top was down but it never felt like it, thanks to the seat warmers that not only warm the bottom half but the entire seat up to the neck. Limpopo might be a taste of heaven but in winter it can frost up and bite.

By the time this short trip was over more questions than answers had been laid out in my head. Why does this car handle so well? Isn’t this supposed to be a soft, comfortable cruiser with no handling ambition whatsoever? What gearbox is this that changes so precisely, so sporty, so nicely? And what in the world is under that bonnet?

Slowly it began to dawn on me that since the 308 CC is based on the 308 itself, and when I drove the 308 hatch some time back I was quite impressed with its handling, then perhaps there was more to the CC than met my eye.

So later I get a chance to stretch the 308 CC and really get to grips with it. There’s no way this small car with a hard folding top can be as good as it has been over our previous encounter. No way. Up the paved mountain I go, build up some speed, feel a turn or two. Nothing. No understeer. I try the exercise again, but this time gain more momentum, down the curvy hill. Still nothing. No understeer. Now I’m at a point where I’m ready to chuck it around like this was Kayalami but yet again the car takes it like Ghandi took to peace. While driving enthusiasts will enjoy it immensely, those who seek comfort and style will be extremely pleased as well, for both types are accommodated quite substantially.

The steering wheel turns in fantastically. And the gear lever. Oh the gear lever. That could have been taken straight out of a race car. Peugeot says work done to make the 6-speed manual gearbox feel this good was the installation of counter-weights on the linkages as well as using the heavy aluminium head. For now only the 6-cog will be sold but in six months’ time the automatic version will become available. Automatic is always welcome when you live in a city like Johannesburg or Cape Town and you have constant daily traffic congestion to deal with.

I suppose after Peugeot produced its first CC, the 402 Eclipse in 1935, all the years of its heritage in these types of cars would culminate in this car. Between the years 2000 and 2008 Peugeot sold a total of 650 000 CCs in 206, 207 and 307 guise. Yes the 308 CC replaces the 307 CC but the two cars are so vastly different. The 308 CC has a 1.6-litre turbocharged engine that produces 110kW at 5800rpm and it gives out maximum torque of 240Nm from a lowly 1400rpm. These are figures normally associated with a bigger naturally aspirated 2.0-litre engine.

Flexibility is the name of the game and the great gearbox gives you the edge when it comes to accessing this power throughout the rev range. This is a very drivable machine indeed. More than that it returns an average fuel consumption figure of 7.5 litres per 100km which goes down to 5.6 litres in freeway driving. The C02 emissions are 177g/km which is low but not low enough for Peugeot. The PSA Peugeot Citroën Group aims to further reduce its overall carbon footprint which is currently the European leader at 141g/km.

Interior equipment is an impressive list of such amenities as a radio/CD player with MP3 capability, multi speakers, multi-way adjustable seats, full leather trim, drilled aluminium pedals and satin-chrome internal door handles. The switchgear is simple and elegant, easy to read and use. Speaking of use, the booth space is 465 litres large, which is 15% more than the old 307 CC. When the roof is down remaining luggage space is still a good 266 litres which is still 34 litres more than what you get in the 307 CC.

Safety is of course paramount to Peugeot and to that end the 308 CC comes fitted with ABS brakes with EBD, EBA and the new generation of ESP. Usually people don’t rate drop-tops too highly on safety but this car goes the extra mile in ensuring safety. Rollover bars extend to windscreen height if ever there is an accident and the car finds itself on its roof. These can’t be slotted back into place once they pop up; they would need to be readjusted by a dealership. Of course airbags are plenty, six to be exact.

Another thing that stood out during our drive is how quiet the cabin is. Even when cruising with the top down the air breezes past and doesn’t protrude on conversation too much. This is thanks to a great deal of effort in insulating the entire car. The two-part roof itself is provided with added padding so when it’s closed the 308 CC doesn’t feel like a 308 whose roof has just been cut off. It also opens and closes pretty fast using the button at the centre console, in around 20 seconds and at up to 10km/h.

Peugeot may have attracted more females into the 307 CC than males, they now plan to get an increased number of guys into the 308 CC. Just look at the more aggressive styling, the bigger front bumper, the rear diffuser that compliments those rear LED lights. Yet its feminine side cannot be ignored either; the high shoulder lines, the smooth arc of the roofline and its curvy lines all attest to this.

The Peugeot 308 CC is no sissy car at all. Stylish yet brave, compact yet uncompromising, it offers a sensational driving experience that does not take any expected comfort away. There will be doubting Thomases but until you come up close to it, drive it like I did you might just not get it. And that would be such a pity.

Peugeot 308 CC Pricing

R336 500

Included is a 3 year/100 000 km warranty, as well as a 3 year / 100 000 km full maintenance plan. Peugeot is currently the third quickest manufacturer in terms of parts delivery. They will even send parts overnight to your nearest dealership if need be so you can get it the following day.

Click on any of the pictures and be transported to the new 308 CC microsite experience.