With a fully-automatic metal folding roof, high specification and eye-catching looks, the latest Peugeot CC adds a much-needed touch of pizzazz to the Lion of Belfort's workmanlike 307.

With a fully-automatic metal folding roof, high specification and eye-catching looks, the latest Peugeot CC adds a much-needed touch of pizzazz to the Lion of Belfort's workmanlike 307.

Launched outside Stellenbosch at the weekend, the CC is unique in South Africa because it's a genuine four-seater with a fully-retractable metal folding roof. Sharing the wheelbase of its hatch sibling (but with a longer overall length), the 307 CC is far more practical than the chic 206 CC and its looks, on which Peugeot's 307 WRC car was styled, are elegant and dramatic. The aesthetic appeal of the MPV-like front end, low, sweeping roofline, pert rear and shapely Star Trek-like LED rear light clusters, is undeniable!

So, is the car a true two-in-one cabriolet and coupé as Peugeot suggests? If you are one of those folks who equate "coupé" with "sports car", then probably not. The 100 kW two-litre four-speed automatic (which will probably be the biggest seller on the South African market), feels breathless and needs to be whipped quite hard to get going.

But the 16-valve two-litre VVT powered flagship of the 307 CC range is marvellously playful and drivable. It is distinguishable from its lesser-powered siblings by 17-inch rims, and the engine, mated to a five-speed manual transmission, produces 130kW at 7 000 r/min and maximum torque of 202 N.m at 4 750 r/min. With a roaring engine note, a feather light clutch pedal with short travel and close ratio 'box, the flagship just begs to be hustled around mountain passes, preferably with the roof down, your favourite music pumping through the stereo and the sun in your face.

The interior of the CC, besides the aluminium-look trim and swathes of leather, is very similar to the utilitarian styling of the 307 hatch, particularly around the centre console and ventilation layouts. But who cares? More importantly, the CC shares the underpinnings of the 2002 Car of the Year winner, renowned for the torsional stiffness of its bodyshell. To make up for the absence of a solid roof Peugeot has further strengthened the 307 CC with 86 kg of steel reinforcement.

The result is a firm ride with compliant handling. Twirl the biggish steering wheel to fling the dandy lion into a corner and the Peugeot will track true without too much body roll - or acoustic complaint from the interior panels. The French company clearly went to great lengths to suppress cabin noise... The CC may not be able to match the Mercedes CLK cabriolet in terms of ultimate on-road refinement, for example, but with prices starting at just below R300 000, few would expect it to. The 307 CC is what it is - an utterly fashionable lifestyle vehicle. The fact that it handles well is merely a bonus, or so most potential buyers would argue.

Upon pulling a centrally located control switch upwards, the roof and curved rear windscreen, the key elements in the change from coupé to cabriolet, fold and retract into the boot in about 25 seconds. This function can be carried out while driving at speeds of up to 10 km/h, but we found it frustrating having to keep the lever pulled for the entire action to run from start to finish.

The 307 CC's metal folding roof will appeal to motorists who may ordinarily have been wary of buying cabriolets. It's been said that having a couple of layers of fabric for a roof is a sizeable security risk in this day and age, but the CC sidesteps that problem. Speaking of safety, the car is has two front airbags, two head/chest side airbags, anti-whiplash front head restraints, telescopic roll over bars with automatic detection, Electronic Stability Programme including anti-skid, ABS, electronic brake force distribution.

On the subject of braking, we found the brakes were almost too good - even a little snatchy - on one of the launch vehicles we drove. A short, sharp stab on the brake pedal seemed to trigger the emergency braking assistance system unnecessarily, bringing the vehicle to a standstill very abruptly. Peugeot SA said it would investigate the system to see whether there was a discernable mulfunction.

South Africa is one of the first markets in which the 307 CC has been launched. The entry-level 2,0 five-speed manual sells for R299 900, the 2,0 automatic (with tiptronic function) R311 900 and the 130 kW five-speed manual R329 900. For that you get automatic activation of dipped headlamps, automatic rain sensor, leather steering wheel with metallic inserts, aluminium pedals and gear knob, one-touch automatic front windows, automatic rear windows, driver and passenger seat adjustment, height and reach adjustable steering column, audio system with CD-player and controls on steering column, automatic climate control, electric folding mirrors and a remote controlled bootlid.

The prices include a three-year/100 000 km warranty and five-year/60 000 km maintenance plan from Peugeot SA.

Original article from Car