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The recent launch of the Vauxhall Astra TwinTop and the Volkswagen [compare Volkswagen prices] Eos has also heightened company car interest in these medium sized, reasonably affordable, style magnets. In the past there was no way the company car fleet managers would allow soft top convertibles to be used in the vast majority of company car fleets - too prone to security and safety issues. Now the invention of the clever power operated folding roof has changed all that so instead of having a Megane, 307, Astra or Golf hatchback or similar, CCs as they are known are on the shopping list.

Ford is not about to miss out either on this growing demand in a sector which last year saw nearly 71,000 convertible sales in the UK. Their Focus Coupe-Cabriolet will be with us before the end of the year. Too late for our hot summer but that doesn?t matter with today?s folding metal roofs which offer durable and well insulated all the year around use.

One of the main sellers in this sector has been and still is, the Peugeot 307 CC with nearly 11,000 UK sales in the first six months of this year. It is marginally outsold in the UK by the Megane CC but much of that is due to Renault?s high fleet business operation. If you include sales of the 206 CC, Peugeot remains the top selling convertible supplier in the UK with 20,000 sales between January and June this year.

The very recently revised Peugeot 307 CC range is available now in S and Sport specifications, SE specification is no longer in the line up. S models are available with 1.6 110bhp and 2.0-litre 140bhp petrol engine options and Sport with petrol 1.6-litre 110bhp, 2.0-litre 140bhp unit, and 2.0-litre 180bhp engines plus a relatively new 2.0-litre 136bhp HDi turbodiesel unit. If you want to go down the ?green? route bear in mind all Peugeot HDI diesel engines can now run on a maximum 30 per cent blend of Biofuel ? vegetable oil methylester and diesel.

Manual transmissions are either five or six speed depending on the engine chosen with the option of a four-speed tiptronic automatic for 2.0-litre 140bhp S and Sport variants.

Prices range from ?17,350 up to ?21,575. You should be able to negotiate a small discount on these but they are not over supplied to any great extent and the residual values are still quit good as demand for such vehicles, new or used, is high and still growing.

The best selling model for retail customers is likely to be the 2.0-litre 140bhp S variant priced at ?18,975. It only misses out, when compared to the Sport version, mainly on parking aids, a five disc autochanger, automatic wipers and lights and cruise control. The diesel model, the Sport HDi 136, costs ?21,550 which is too expensive for private users but bearable for company car users covering high mileages. The added personal tax burden, because of its relatively high price, is not helpful and Peugeot will need to consider this once the new Ford Focus Coupe-Cabriolet is introduced.

My test car was the most costly manual transmission model, the ?21,550, 2.0-litre, HDi 136 but with an added ?1,750 of extra cost option including satellite navigation. It, as its price suggests, is fully ?kitted? with everything ranging from the all important rear parking sensors through to telescopic rear roll bars, air conditioning and leather interior trim. You lack for nothing and so you shouldn?t at this price as the all-up total is ?23,300.

The car feels solid and is generally torsionally stiff and it corners precisely. There is some body shake and flex when driving over poorer road surfaces with the roof down. The suspension is soft-ish causing the car to wallow on undulating roads yet it is still not compliant enough to absorb the bumps and kickback felt through the steering over larger potholes. It may look sporty but it feels more like an open road cruiser.

Inside the CC it is well equipped and pretty roomy, although the rear seat and legroom is not as big as the new VX Eos. With the roof down and the windows up the wind intrusion and buffeting is very low allowing conversation between passengers to take place without the need for shouting. The instruments and layout is typical top of the range Peugeot 307, smart, comprehensive and all seems well put together.

The luggage space is of course limited with the roof folded into the boot. Roof up and the capacity is 350-litres, roof down and the space is limited to 204-litres in keeping with most of its competitors.

You will either like the 307 CC?s styling or not. From the front I think it is an extremely pretty car, from the side and rear the boot seems disproportionate, back-end heavy but the roof has to fit somewhere. I think the high waistline does not help the overall styling appearance and it you look at the new Eos with its new Coupe styling you will see that now the 307 CC is starting to look a bit dated from some angles.

The direct injection 2.0-litre turbodiesel is well known in other PSA models and the 136bhp with maximum torque of 240 lbs ft developed from 2,000rpm makes it fast and responsive. The traction control and stability programme does its job well. As usual there is a big gap between fourth, and fifth and sixth gears, which Peugeot seem to insist on having to give their cars long-legged fuel economy. As my test car returned 41.8mpg, despite its extra bodywork strengthening weight, you cannot complain with that fuel consumption. However the end result makes driving on busy A roads or winding B roads pretty tiresome to continually keep changing gear.

With a roof that raises or lowers in 25 seconds, with lots of safety features, a high level of specification, roomy enough for two plus two and good looks from some angles, the Peugeot 307 CC has lots going for it but it can be costly to buy so haggle hard.

MILESTONES:
Peugeot 307 CC Sport HDI 136.
Price as tested: ?23,300.
Engine: 2.0-litre, direct injection HDi turbodiesel, 136bhp, 240lbs ft.
Performance: 129mph, 0-62mph, 10.3 seconds, 47.1mpg, (41.8mpg actual),
CO2: 159 g/km.
VED: Group D, ?135. I
Insurance group: 11E.

For: Good looking coupe and cabriolet, well equipped, enough space for four (just), generally drives well and enjoyable to use.
Against: Relatively expensive quoted retail price, some body flexing with the hood down and sloppy suspension performance at times
 
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