Utter the initials “CC” in motoring circles and nine times out of ten Peugeot’s range of quirkilystyled cars with folding metal roofs springs to mind. It’s not surprising when you consider that the French company essentially created the coupécabriolet niche back in 1937 with the 402 Éclipse Décapotable and has recently revived the tradition with CC versions of the 206, 207, 307 and now the 308. Moving into a more premium market brings Peugeot’s 308CC head-to-head with Volkswagen’s own take on the CC, the Eos. In turbocharged 2,0 TFSI guise, the Eos narrowly bettered the distinctive Opel Astra TwinTop in a comparative test in our June 2007 issue thanks to its substantial build quality and understated style.
But that was more than two years ago and now, minus the turbo in 2,0 FSI guise, the VW squares up against an undeniably distinctive Gallic rival. Can the solidity and charm of the Eos claim another scalp from the CC fraternity, or will the Peugeot’s style prevail over substance?
Design & Packaging
308CC : 14/20
The Peugeot takes the company’s familiar traits – swept-back headlamps, distinctive nose section and gaping “manta ray mouth” grille – and marries them with a fairly large, curvaceous body that sports the merest hint of a shoulder line towards the rear three-quarters. The vertical brake light clusters aren’t quite as distinctive as the 307CC’s and the rear “diffuser” is unbecoming of a car unlikely to ever be driven in anger. The styling managed to keep everyone guessing. From some angles it looks squat and sporty, from others it is rather awkward – especially in profile. This is due to the car’s tendency to shift its visual weight from fore to aft depending on whether the roof is up or down. Roof-up, the cab-forward layout, A-pillars that blend into the wings and long rear deck make the car look nose-heavy. Drop the roof and that long rear section dominates the profile as the nose appears to slope away.
The roof mechanism is a neat, two-piece set-up comprising a small roof panel and a larger rear screen made of heat-repellent, tinted glass. Opening or closing the roof takes a reasonable 20 seconds and can thankfully be executed at speeds below 10 km/h, so downpours in moving traffic need no longer be a very public bathing event. Another neat aspect of the roof is its relatively low operating trajectory, which allows it to operate within the confines of a covered parking space or garage without dislodging the motor on your automated garage door.
The Eos wears its CC lines more comfortably than the Peugeot, but its conservative styling is in stark contrast to the French car’s zany array of lines. There’s a kind of interim feel about this car’s styling cues – the rounded elements in the headlamps and bodywork hint at Volkswagen’s previous generations of Golf and Jetta, while the strong horizontal elements in the grille and a slash line running along the flanks allude to the newer, more aggressive styling approach shown in the Scirocco and Golf 6. Its clean, unfussy lines lend the Eos a slightly more masculine air than the Peugeot. This trait helped the Eos gain favour with the test team, whose general consensus is that it will appeal to a broader audience (both male and female). But, in a segment where being noticed is a firm proviso, the Volkswagen could almost be a little too anonymous, if less likely to age as quickly.
The Eos takes the trick folding roof game to a higher level with a five-piece set-up featuring a glass section above the driver’s head that doubles as a sunroof. This makes the Eos a slightly more versatile CC than the Peugeot, especially given the fact that the sunroof can be quickly closed on the move should inclement weather arrive. The trade-off for this versatility is an open/close operation that takes about 5 seconds longer than that of the Peugeot.
COMFORT & FEA TURES
308CC : 14/20
Even with the roof up, the 308CC’s cabin gives the impression of there being lots of space up front. There’s a good bit of room between scalp and headliner, front and rear, and the awayward slope of the facia combined with a windscreen that flows a good way into the bonnet lend themselves well to reinforcing the sense of space.
In any other car the vast swathes of black trim would make for a rather sombre interior, but neat chrome finishes on the gear knob, gearbox surround and door pull handles liven up the CC’s cabin a bit. The all-important climate controls are, thankfully, simple to operate on the go with two clearly marked dials and digital readouts for driver and passenger temperatures. The standard-fitted satellite audio controls were a welcome feature that most of the team commented were missing from the Eos.
Slim-backed front seats look sporty but the squishy thigh bolsters, while great for gracefully emerging from the car without any yoga contortions, don’t hold you in place all that well and a number of the team struggled to find a comfortable driving position. Thankfully, the seats heat up a treat for top-down driving but the controls are tucked away on the base of the seat near the door. Although Peugeot markets the 308CC as a 2+2, the rear seats are cramped and are likely to serve more as an additional load space as the boot is shallow and heavily compromised by the folding roof mechanism. Roof up, there is 296 dm³ of luggage space, which drops to 136 dm³ with the top stowed.
Climb into the Eos and you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’ve just boarded a previousgeneration Golf. It’s neat and the layout is intuitive, especially the controls for the ventilation and heated seats on the central facia, but it lacks the Peugeot’s sporty ambience. The seats are comfy and adjust manually for height and legroom. Although the cabin doesn’t feel quite as spacious as the Peugeot’s, the glass front roof section helps create a light, airy ambience and can be sealed with a sliding panel when the sun starts beating down.
Like the Peugeot, the Eos is a 2+2 in name only. Although there is marginally more room than in the Peugeot, high sills make the rear accommodation feel somewhat claustrophobic and taller occupants will feel their scalps grazing the headliner. With the roof in place, the Eos has marginally less boot space than the Peugeot with 288 dm³ freed up when the solid tonneau cover is clipped back. With the roof down, it fares somewhat better with 184 dm³ in which to cram your goods.
The Peugeot’s slanted windscreen almost covers the driver’s head and with heated seats and a strong heater it’s possible to brave an alfresco winter drive. There’s little in the way of wind buffeting at speeds of up to 100 km/h, but the lack of a rear wind deflector means a draught creeps between the front seats to chill the elbows. Top-down travel in the Eos does not present this problem and its less slanted windscreen offers a more open environment than the enclosed Peugeot. The sunroof configuration is clever in practice, but with the windows up there’s a distinctive pulsing of air in the cabin when this section is open, so you need to turn that sound system up.
The Peugeot’s less complex roof seals somewhat more effectively than that of the Eos when it’s raised, and doesn’t create as much wind noise, and the finish of the roof lining in both cars is of good quality.
RIDE, Handling & BRAKING
308CC : 12/20
Neither of these cars will dynamically challenge a fixed-roof equivalent, but it’s in this area that the German begins to eclipse its French rival. Around town the Peugeot’s steering is light, if not overly involving, but the French car feels very ponderous and difficult to place accurately on the road – not a boon for threading through its natural habitat of congested urban settings.
An area where all drop-tops tend to suffer is structural rigidity. Stow the Peugeot’s roof and you’ll notice larger road corrugations sending a shudder through the bodywork that is visible as a slight quiver from the A-pillars. At lower speeds the ride is more composed, but small bumps still unsettle the car. Erect the roof and a semblance of structural rigidity returns.
The Eos feels a good deal firmer than the Peugeot, and frequent irregularities in the road will set the car jittering whether the roof is up or down. The steering more weight and feel to it than the Peugeot’s tiller and sets the tone for this car’s more involving handling.
The French car feels every bit the 1 566 kg at which it tips the scales. There’s a good deal of body lean in the corners and the softly-sprung suspension gives the car a wafty, almost unwilling demeanour when pressing on. There’s even a hint of porpoising under medium to heavy braking. Factor-in a rather sloppy clutch and notchy gearshift and the Peugeot comes across as more of a boulevard cruiser than anything else. Certainly, its much better driven sedately.
Tackling the twisties, the Eos is surprisingly accomplished. The taut suspension keeps body roll in check and the gearbox snicks neatly between ratios, while the car’s structural rigidity does not seem to be as adversely affected by road perfections as the Peugeot. The Eos just feels more precise and rewarding to drive than the somewhat anaesthetised Peugeot.
In terms of braking performance both cars are closely matched, with the Eos taking a 10-stop average of 2,9 seconds from 100 km/h and the Peugeot 2,8 seconds.
There’s little to separate these cars in terms of their outputs, but the manner in which they apply them to the road is strongly contrasting. The Peugeot is powered by a mildly detuned version of the 1,6-litre twin-scroll turbocharger-boosted engine found in the 207 GTi. This unit develops 110 kW at 5 800 r/min and 240 N.m of torque at a low 1 400 r/min. In the Eos, a normally- aspirated 2,0-litre engine delivers 110 kW at a slightly higher 6 000 r/min and appreciably less torque, 200 N.m, further up the rev range at 3 500 r/min.
On paper, it seems that the Peugeot has the Volkswagen’s number and the performance figures appear to reflect this. The Peugeot completes the 0-100 km/h sprint in 10,15 seconds as opposed the Eos at 10,39 seconds, and achieves a maximum speed of 215 km/h against the German’s 205 km/h.
However, the Peugeot’s dynamic shortfalls go some way to nullifying these small advantages, meaning that you don’t feel as confident exploiting this car’s power as you do in the Eos. Although the low-down torque gives the Peugeot a bit of extra momentum off the mark, it feels ponderous and inflexible higher up in the rev range.
The Eos actually gives the impression of being faster than it really is, due in part to its aforementioned dynamic edge over the Peugeot and a raspy exhaust note that contrasts strongly with the French car’s quiet powerplant. The engine revs keenly compared with the Peugeot’s 1,6-litre unit and the 2,0-litre’s tendency to spool down less abruptly makes it feel more flexible, requiring less gearstick-stirring on the part of the driver.
Due to the additional bracing and structural reinforcement, the engines in both of these cars have to work a bit harder to shift that extra weight around. Even so, there is a surprising economy discrepancy between the two cars, with the Peugeot returning 8,1 and the Eos 9,84 litres/100 km. The Peugeot’s 60-litre fuel tank should offer a range of around 740 km, while the 55-litre fuel tank in the Eos provides a range of roughly 558 km between fill-ups.
Value for money
Coupé-cabriolet motoring is never going to be cheap, and paying R341 000 for a 2,0-litre Volkswagen and R336 500 for a 1,6-litre Peugeot is going to raise a few eyebrows, especially given that these vehicles are likely to be a second – or even a third – car in a household. Nevertheless, these are both halo models and specification is generous with such niceties as heated leather seats and a raft of safety features fitted as standard.
However, speccing the Eos to Peugeot standards adds R3 540 for a multi-function steering wheel and R3 610 for Park Distance Control – that means the Eos, as tested, costs R348 150. Advantage Peugeot, right? Not quite...
The Eos betters the French car’s 3-years/100 000 km warranty and service plan with a 3-years/120 000 km warranty, a 5-years/100 000 km maintenance plan and 12-year anti-corrosion warranty.
With cars sporting such complex mechanical roof systems, it stands to reason that the more mileage you can get out of the warranty, the better. In the same vein, a couple of the testers commented that the Volkswagen’s perceived quality was better than that of the Peugeot and that its roof and bodywork felt more substantial, and therefore more likely to survive the rigours of regular use, than that of the Peugeot.
Both of these cars are niche offerings, which only goes to make the choice between them surprisingly difficult. In its defence, the Peugeot’s daring design will endear it to those wishing to make a style statement. There are also the matters of its more comprehensive specification, lower price and marginal performance and power advantages to take into consideration. So, does this make the Peugeot the CC of choice?
Well, no. While both of these cars possess a myriad of compromises or flaws, those afflicting the Peugeot rob it of any advantage it holds over the Eos. The Peugeot’s build quality just doesn’t have the reassuring solidity of the Eos and its handling echoes this sentiment. You can’t make use of the additional pace the French car generates, as the driving experience is remote and dulled by a choppy ride and lack of overall wieldiness.
Although it is more subtly – some say anonymously – styled, the Eos is easier on the eye and will likely age gracefully compared with the Peugeot. Although it too is no sportscar, the Eos offers a far more rewarding drive in a better put-together package than the Peugeot and despite its higher price, the additional peace-of-mind that the longer maintenance plan and warranty periods offer simply cannot be overlooked.