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Peugeot 307 cc

Broadcast date : 11th April 2004

The Peugeot 307 is a newcomer to the South African market that embraces the increasingly popular Coupe-Cabriolet theme, which is incidentally what the "cc" in the name stands for.

Peugeot has sold well over 100000 of the smaller 206 cc since its introduction two years ago, and the little 206 has done surprisingly well in South Africa too.

The 307 cc moves the Coupe Cabriolet into an interesting sector of the market here. The idea of a steel-roofed coupe-cabriolet was pioneered by Mercedes-Benz with its SLK back in 1996 and until now, most four-seater cabriolets have been equipped with fabric roofs. But Peugeot hopes to sell over 60 000 of these larger 307 coupe cabriolets throughout the world in 2004.

The advantages of the steel-roofed cabriolets are that they provide greater durability than a fabric top, as well as greater security. There is also an advantage in lower wind noise, but the disadvantages are that the folding mechanism is more complex. And a steel roof takes more space to tuck away for those sunny days or evenings.

To accommodate the metal roof, the Peugeot 307 cc has quite a large boot. Yet with a clever cab-forward design, the rear of the car is not unduly large, so visually the silhouette of the car remains reasonably elegant with just a bit of heaviness in the rump area.

Another clever packaging technique of the design is that the windscreen pillar extends far back. The cut-line of the roof panel is in fact in line with the centre of the doors, and this results in less sheet metal that needs to be stowed away in the boot area.

The 307 CC comes in two models for the South African market. The base model is a 100 kW four-speed automatic version. The model we tested is the top-of-the-range five-speed manual 130 kW version, which uses the same powerful four-cylinder engine that powers the boy-racer 206 GTi 180. In fact the "180" designation refers to the power output of the engine, which is the horsepower equivalent of 130 kW.

Although that power figure is very good for a two-litre, four-cylinder motor, potential 307 cc customers should realise that this is a style car, rather than a sports car in the mould of, say, a BMW Z4 or an Audi TT.

The 16-valve engine with variable valve timing provides crisp, pleasing  power delivery with a refined engine note, and it will rev easily to 7 000 rpm. Torque is also good, with 202 Newton Metres delivered at 4 750 rpm, so you don't need to wring the car's neck to keep it in the powerband.

But the big drawback as far as performance freaks are concerned is one of weight. This is a factor that affects all open-topped cars, as they need lots of metal reinforcing for the lower part of the bodywork to maintain body rigidity.

Thus the Peugeot 307 cc weighs in at about 1 500 kg, which is probably about 250 kg heavier than the equivalent sedan. 

Of course that extra weight is also due to the numerous electric motors and circuitry needed to raise and fold the roof. But the upside is that the 307 cc is fully equipped in terms of luxury and safety.

Apart from the very rigid windscreen structure, which provides an effective rollover bar, the rear passengers are also protected by roll bars which pop up automatically should the car begin to flip over. These are located beneath the rear head restraints. And they are deployed in 150 milliseconds, should vehicle angle sensors detect that a roll over is about to occur.

The 307 cc is equipped with two front airbags as well as sidebars for head and chest protection. And dynamically, the car comes with all the latest driver aids such as ABS braking, emergency brake assistance which increases the rate of braking in a panic situation, skid control and electronic brake force distribution.

The exterior is typically French in its understatement. There are no extraneous frills, wings or styling lines. The fact that bumpers, the wing mirrors and the side protection moldings are in body colour adds to the chic effect of this cabriolet-coupe.

Giving a sense of presence are the very attractive  clear-inset, tear-dropped shaped headlights and the striking LED taillights. The LED designation stands for Light Emitting Diodes, and the tail lamps have 80 of these miniature electronic lamps each contained in the little holes visible on the surface of the tail lamp.

The benefit of LED tail lamps is that they are much brighter than conventional taillights using bulbs thus increasing the visibility of the car and the safety factor.

This top model, the 130 kW version, is distinguished by its 17-inch alloy wheels, running high performance 205 -50 series tyres. The simple five-spoke design of the wheels plays a big role in achieving the elegance that Peugeot was after with this car.

The larger wheels and tyres also provide very good grip with a degree of suppleness over bumps that is surprising for such low profile tyres.

With a smallish capacity four-cylinder engine, performance is only moderate for a car of this class. The 0-100 km/h sprint is claimed at 10 seconds, which is about two and a half seconds slower than the time achieved by the much lighter 206 GTi 180, which uses the same engine.

Top speed is good, though, rated at 225 km/h for this model, thanks to that sleek shape.

Driving the 307 cc is satisfying, thanks to the leather-covered steering wheel and the short-throw gear lever which has a metal gear knob for a racy feel.

The steering has a lot of power assistance at low speeds, for ease of parking. But it tightens up quickly for a good solid feel for high-speed driving.

The brakes, too, have a sensitive feel, and being discs all round they have plenty of stopping power.

Overall there is a quality feel to the 307 cc's interior, with liberal use of finely-stitched leather and fairly tasteful metal panelling affecting a slightly racy touch.

The rear seat space is reasonable, probably in line with the Mercedes CLK in terms of leg and headroom, but large rear seat passengers will not be ecstatic on longer trips. It is more a car for a young family.

The boot space features a removable luggage protector for safe folding of the roof, and with the roof down you don't have space for too much overnight luggage.

With the top down, the steep rake on the windscreen provides good wind protection. It is possible to conduct a conversation easily at highway speeds with the top down, and there is not much wind intrusion.

For very fast highway driving - faster than our speed limits allow, a rear wind deflector screen is provided. This is to prevent the reverse-tumbling effect of wind, created by the vortex effect as the wind passes over the top of the windscreen.

What happens is that instead of your hair streaming out gracefully behind you at speed, your hair blows forward as the wind tumbles back and hits you from behind.

With the top down the Peugeot 307 cc retains fair body rigidity, but it is not as good as the class-leader in this field, the BMW 330i cabriolet. Lowering the roof naturally removes a lot of rigidity from the car's structure and there is a degree of "scuttle shake" or body flexing on the 307, although it is only noticeable on bumpy roads.

Those large doors also sound a bit on the clunky side when you close them with a firm tug.

Overall it is a very elegant car, and although it could do with a bit more giddyup, it is well-built. It received a four-star rating in the European N-Cap safety test, which is excellent for a cabriolet, or in this case, a coupe-cabriolet.

If top-down motoring is your bag, then power is not all that important, because wind buffeting can get more than a little uncomfortable above 120 km/h.


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