Some clarification is required here. The headline says that this car is a 308 CC SE, and so it is, but at the same time it isn’t. Peugeot loaded it with optional extras in the form of red leather trim, a windstop, an airwave scarf (to warm your neck when the roof is down), metallic paint, satellite navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, an electric seat pack and 18″ alloy wheels.
As well as bringing the price up from £23,095 to £26,395, this effectively turned the car into a higher-spec GT, minus only a JBL hi-fi system (which is not available as an option for the SE in this country), tyre pressure sensors and front and rear parking sensors. In that respect the test car was slightly less than a GT – though nearly £2000 more expensive – and yet it was also slightly more in that it had six-speed automatic transmission which you don’t get in the GT. I hope that’s clear.
Of the equipment mentioned so far, the most impressive is perhaps the leather trim, which further enhances the CC’s truly excellent seats and is also fitted to the dashboard and door panels. The least impressive is undoubtedly that 18″ wheel option. Those damn things may look great but they – or rather the low-profile tyres that are fitted to them – make a complete mess of the CC’s road behaviour; they are completely unsuited to the soft and comfortable suspension settings, and they transmit even the most minor road imperfections straight into the cabin. Handling is compromised too, in that the tyres make the car willing to shoot into a corner, while the suspension makes it react to everything that happens from that point onwards in a much more leisurely way.
I drove this car for nearly 2000 miles in less than a week, and there was not one journey on which I did not regret that the 18s had been fitted and feel that they were a waste of £300. The standard 17s would, I’m sure, be much better, and perhaps with 16s the car would be better still, though those are available only on the entry-level Sport.
That was the worst part of the car, though onlookers who didn’t ride in it reserved their criticism for the shape. The long bootlid does indeed make the CC look rather strange, and I think it’s much more pleasant on the eye when the roof is folded away (a quick and easy process which incidentally reduces the boot space from 465 litres to 266 litres, which is in each case less than the Ford Focus CC offers). Personally I’m not a fan of roof-down motoring but the CC seemed pleasant enough in alfresco form, and about as good as – or to me, no worse than – any of its coupé-convertible rivals.
I’m not the world’s greatest enthusiast of automatic transmissions either, but the one in the CC is very good, with particularly smooth changes. There is no paddle-shift system behind the steering wheel as there is on many sporty automatics, but you can choose gears for yourself using the conventional lever, which is well-placed for this sort of thing even though it has clearly been positioned to suit left-hand drive models.
Apart from the jittery ride, my main complaint about driving the car concerns the instruments. In typical current Peugeot fashion they look great, but they’re mostly hidden by the steering wheel, at least when it is set up to suit me, and one of the results is that you have to bend down to see, for example, any speed between a fast trot and a hot lap around Le Mans.
The CC is powered by a choice of 1.6-litre petrol engines (150bhp turbo and 120bhp non-turbo), a 110bhp 1.6 turbo diesel and the 140bhp two-litre diesel tested here. Not all of them are fitted to the Sport and GT models, but the SE gets the full set, and I suspect that the larger diesel is the best of the bunch. It’s not particularly noisy, it has plenty of mid-range poke (without the obvious drama of the 150bhp turbo petrol) and even in automatic form it has a respectable official combined fuel economy figure of just over 40mpg, though of course this is well beaten by the manual version’s 47.9mpg.