This is the home of automobile road tests in South Africa. We drive South African cars, SUVs and LCVs under South African conditions. It also just happens that most of the vehicles we drive are world cars as well, so what you read here probably applies to the models you can get at home.
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*Please remember too, that prices quoted were those ruling on the days I wrote the stories.
Published in Weekend Witness Motoring on Saturday August 15, 2009
Once the preserve of dashing young men with bristling military moustaches, immediately post-war MG, Singer and Riley sports cars gave way to modern variants widely generalised today as "not exactly macho."
Women certainly seem to love them. Whether one calls them cabriolets, tourers, roadsters, drop-head coupes or simply convertibles, they draw the gentler gender like badgers to a beehive. Damned if I can work out why.
The Peugeot 308 CC (coupe cabriolet) I drove recently was no exception.
While waiting for my spouse outside the building where she works, I put the car through its 20-second lift, open, fold, tumble and close routine, leaving the car in its best guise, topless.
During the following five minutes, four of her work colleagues leaned out of upstairs windows to ogle the car. Could it be an image thing, based on the unfortunate Lucy Jordan who dreamed of “driving through Paris, in a sports car, with the warm wind in her hair?” Heaven knows, but my beloved’s comment was: “I was born to this.”
Technically, the 308 CC follows on from its 206, 207 and 307 predecessors and is based on the 308 sedan. While engine, gearbox and basic body are the same as on the sedan, its body is significantly strengthened, airbags are arranged differently and passengers sit lower to afford maximum protection in roof down situations, while protection hoops deploy from the tops of the seats in the event of rollover. These features and the foldaway roof add some R83 600 to the sedan’s price.
The seats deserve a paragraph on their own. High-backed, beautifully contoured and finished in soft black leather, they are devilishly comfortable and enfold you in a lover’s embrace, as only the French know how. Makes you want to drive all night, doesn’t it?
Getting back to technicalities, the engine is a 1600 cc, DOHC, 16-valve, turbocharged four-cylinder unit putting out 110 kW at 5 800 rpm and 240 Nm of torque between 1 400 and almost 4 000 rpm. In other words, oodles of grunt from almost any speed in almost any gear. The gearbox is a 6-speed manual unit.
This is by no means a girl racer though, performing the zero to 100-km/h thing in about ten seconds, but sports cars are more about enjoyment than they are about testosterone-laden all-out dash. The 308 CC gets you there as quickly as you need, with the backup of all the technological safety tools you could possibly want and in style and comfort as well.
Inside, dual zone climate control recognises whether the roof is up or down and configures temperature, air flow and air distribution to suit. Automatically activated headlights and windscreen wipers are standard, as are electrically operated and heated exterior mirrors that fold away when the car is locked. Also automatically locked, with the doors when the roof is down, are the glove box and the lid on the centre console storage unit.
The FM Stereo CD receiver features multiple speakers and MP3 playback capability, while the steering wheel has fingertip satellite controls.
Also on the standard features list are cruise control with a speed limit function, an electrochromatic (self-dipping) rear-view mirror, seat heaters, a trip computer and a refrigerated glove compartment to keep your choccies cool.
The only point on which I differ seriously with the car’s spin-doctors is the subject of the rear seats. The blurb describes it as a full four-seater. I tried. Not only is there insufficient legroom for grown people back there, but there isn’t enough headroom either.
This is the third cabriolet I have driven in the course of this job, it’s at least my second favourite and I could get used to it. I don’t know what that says about me, but surely it’s true that all generalisations are incorrect?
Price: R336 500
Engine: 1 598 cc DOHC, 16 valve 4 cylinder in line
Power: 110 kW at 5 800 rpm
Torque: 240 Nm at 1 400 rpm
Zero to 100 km/h: 10,1 seconds
Maximum speed: 215 km/h (claimed)
Average fuel economy over 320 km of mixed driving: 8,6 l/100 km
Fuel tank capacity: 60 litres
Warranty: 3 years/100 000 km
Maintenance plan: 3 years/100 000 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.
I am based in Pietermaritzburg, KZN, South Africa. This is the central hub of the KZN Midlands farming community; the place farmers go to 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!
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