It struck me one day that people who love cabriolets, convertibles, roadsters, drop-tops, sports cars - call them what you will - are probably less concerned with who made them than with how they make their drivers feel. It's rather like motorcycles; there is an indescribable unity with Nature, a one-ness with the road and a bonding with the elements - the sun on your skin, the breeze through your hair and the living sounds of the open road.
That's why I decided to copy and paste all my cabriolet reports into a single folder where drop-top fans can find them all without having to scrabble through endless menus.
I have to warn you that it took a while to warm to the cabriolet phenomenon - convertibles are mostly loved, hankered after and driven by women, so we guys find them hard to appreciate. For that reason, you may find some of the writing a little tongue-in-cheek, sceptical or even downright chauvinist. What can I say? I'm male and I can't help it. Just bear with me though, because I believe that the stories still contain valid information that will hopefully help you make an informed buying decision.
*To read one of our road tests, just select from the drop-down menu that appears as you hover your cursor over the folder's title.
*Please remember too, that prices quoted were those ruling on the days I wrote the reports, so even if you're looking to buy second-hand, you have an idea of what it cost originally.
Published in The Witness Motoring on Wednesday October 27, 2010
I admit that when I reviewed the Peugeot 308CC in August last year, I was a little cabriophobic, missing the point of topless cars and why women get so illogically feminine over them. It was the third convertible I had driven this century and although it's a grand little car, I reckoned I could either take it or leave it.
Since then, motor companies have seen to it that I had a further eight cabriolets, convertibles and roadsters to drive. Indoctrination for sure, but it's starting to work. The range-topping version of Peugeot's 308CC, a six-speed automatic, arrived on my driveway recently and while I now accept topless as an alternative, I'm not ready to get silly over them. Yet.
Introduced to SA customers in April this year after being available overseas as a four-speeder for some time, the car sports not only a new Aisin AT6 Tiptronic-style gearbox, but its 1 598 cc, PSA-BMW Prince engine has been uprated as well. Now Euro5-compliant, it gains 5 kW of power with claimed improvements in acceleration, economy and emissions control. We don't have comparative performance figures for automatics, but the manual version is claimed to reach 100 km/h about two tenths of a second quicker than before. The gearbox is deliciously smooth with well-spaced ratios and quick response to kickdown commands. Depending on urgency, a gentle nudge or a sharp command at cruising speed results in a downshift of either one or two gears and rapid progress towards that place where the sides of the road come together. For sporty driving through the windy bits, gears may be held using the stick like a manual shifter as always.
There are no paddles or any other controls on the steering wheel. This is different from last year's car that had satellite controls for sound equipment on the wheel, and the radio/CD unit has gained RCA and USB inputs in the meantime.
The boot is huge at 465 litres with the roof up, but still usable at 266 litres with it packed away. A flexible pullout divider separates the always-usable lower part from the rest, so you know what's available in case you want to drive topless later. The guidelines posted on a sticker in the boot are straightforward - if the divider bulges you cannot stash the top.
The metal roof divides, lifts, folds and parks in about 20 seconds to show the car at its most photogenic, open to the sky and ready to do what it was designed for. At speeds between 100 and 120 km/h, and slightly beyond, the sensation of wind in one's face is pleasurable but certainly not threatening to either hairstyle or headwear. After a 100 km test drive, my wispy flyaway hair needed no more than a quick brushing with fingertips to straighten.
The seats deserve a paragraph on their own. Finished in soft black leather, they are devilishly comfortable and enfold you in a lover’s embrace, as only the French know how. They're also easy to get down into and back out of, despite the seat cushion being angled slightly upwards in front. My little-legged spouse said I should mention that. She also liked the doors that, despite being quite heavy, open with a detent at halfway making them easy to use without being whacked in the face or shins by an unplanned return.
I won't bore you with a shopping list of all the safety- and convenience equipment this car has. Just accept that all you need is there. The car isn't a rocket but it's no slouch either. It's amazing to drive and it makes you look good. The only drawback is that it isn't designed to carry four hulking brutes. If that's no problem, get yourself one. You might even deserve it.
Price: R354 845 with CO2 tax
Engine: 1 598 cc DOHC four cylinder, turbocharged
Power: 115 kW at 6 000 rpm
Torque: 240 Nm at 1 400 rpm
Zero to 100 km/h: 10,1 seconds
Maximum speed: 212 km/h
Real life fuel consumption: about 10,9 l/100 km
Warranty: 3 years/100 000 km
Service plan: 5 years/90 000 km
This is a one-man show, which means that road test cars entrusted to me are driven only by me. Some reviewers hand test cars over to their partners to use as day-to-day transport and barely experience them for themselves.
What this means to you is that every car reviewed is given my own personal evaluation and receives my own seat of the pants judgement - no second hand input here.
Every car goes through real world testing; on city streets littered with potholes, speed bumps and rumble strips, on freeways and if its profile demands, dirt roads as well.
My articles appear every Wednesday in the motoring pages of The Witness, South Africa's oldest continuously running newspaper, and occasionally on Saturdays in Weekend Witness as well. I drive eight to ten vehicles most months of the year (press cars are withdrawn over the festive season - wonder why?) so not everything gets published in the paper. Those that are, get a tagline but the rest is virgin, unpublished and unedited by the political-correctness police. Hope you like what you see, because there are no commercial interests at work here. As quite a few readers have found, I answer every serious enquiry from my home email address, with my phone numbers attached, so I do actually exist.
I am based in Pietermaritzburg, KZN, South Africa. This is the central hub of the KZN Midlands farming community; the place farmers go to buy their supplies and equipment, truck their goods to market, send their kids to school and go to kick back and relax.
So occasionally a cow, a goat or a horse may add a little local colour by finding its way into the story or one of the pictures. It's all part of the ambience!
Want to ask a question, comment or just tell me you thoroughly disagree with what I say? That's your privilege, because if everybody agreed on everything, the world would be a boring place. All I ask is that you remain calm, so please blow off a little steam before venting too vigorously.