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ON TOP OF THE WORLD IN STYLE; Watch their eyes as you press the magic button for fresh-air driving.

Byline: Graeme Lennox and Lesley Roberts

Want to drive with the wind through your hair but rejected a convertible in case guttersnipes slash the soft top? Peugeot's 206 Coupe Cabriolet solves the problem. At pounds 15,000, it solves the cash problem too, says Graeme Lennox and Lesley Roberts

GRAEME'S VERDICT

I'VE got a friend with more money than sense who's forever splashing out on the latest convertible around this time of year.

As soon as the first glint of sunshine pierces the clouds, Johnnie D's off to his car dealership, chequebook in hand, looking for the latest soft top.

So far he's spent a small fortune on an MG midget, a Mazda MX-5, a Mercedes 300SL and a Porsche Boxster - all of which were sold for a heavy loss within weeks.

The problem is it gets a bit cold in this part of the world between September and May and Johnnie D hates getting his hair wet.

Add to the fact that his treasured cars are forever being targeted by guttersnipes who like nothing better after three pints of shandy than slashing the canvas roof.

It's these two minor details that have so far prevented him from sticking with a convertible for more than three months on the trot.

Fortunately, Peugeot have come up with the answer for people like Johnnie D, who want the thrills and spills of top-down driving without all the complications.

The Peugeot 206 Coupe Cabriolet has an ingenious retractable metal roof that allows you to go from saloon to convertible at the touch of a button.

Previously, the only convertible to defy British weather with such ease was the beautiful Mercedes SLK roadster.

People would marvel at the mechanical grace of the folding metallic roof - almost as much as they did at the pounds 30,000 plus price tag.

Fortunately for the rest of us, Peugeot have managed to recreate the same mechanical wizardry for under pounds 15,000.

The 206CC elevates affordable open-tops from the realm of the die-hard motoring anorak to a place where technically inept and terminally lazy folk can enjoy them too.

No wonder Sunday Mail features girl Lesley Roberts has been pestering me non-stop to get a shot in one.

After reeling off a list of convertibles that compete for our attention at this time of year, and considering the pros and cons of each, the 206CC seemed like her ideal motor.

After all, she lives in a part of town where a soft top is an open invitation to anyone who fancies sifting through your CD collection.

The CC caused quite a stir when it was unveiled at last year's Motor Show.

Audiences marvelled as its retractable hard top roof swooshed into the boot - and then back up again to create an impenetrable barrier against thieves.

The whole operation is simplicity itself. Unclip a couple of latches and press the button located behind the handbrake and it takes around 20 seconds from start to finish.

All you have to do now is sit there with a smug grin on your face as the boot opens and the roof swings gently into place.

For bonus points, you can try it on the move at speeds of up to 30mph, as the admiring looks from other drivers go to your rapidly-expanding head.

From the front, the car looks almost identical to the conventional 206 hatchback, right down to its trademark cat's-eye headlamps.

The most notable difference is the truncated roof which tapers down to the rounded boot, used to store the unit when you are driving top down.

In virtually every department, the CC is the same as the best selling 206 GTi, but it lacks the family car feel.

All the components have been put together with the usual care you associate with Peugeot.

It even shares the same sporty aluminium pedals which are too small for anyone with size 10-plus feet. The rear seats are so small you would be hard pressed to squeeze a small rucksack in there.

More likely than not, these have been added to reduce the insurance costs of the car rather than carry passengers.

Make no mistake, the 206CC is aimed well and truly at the SINKYs (single income, no kids yet) and DINKYs (dual income, no kids yet) of this world.

The only extra baggage you get in here is your night bag.

As you would expect, roof storage takes away a large chunk of your luggage capacity.

With the top down you can just about squeeze two small suitcases into the area of the boot not occupied by the collapsed roof.

Roof up, the CC offers more boot space than the hatchback and is just as snug and comfortable on the road.

Heads-up visibility is affected by the large A-pillars needed to maintain the car's rigid structure but the driver's side view is completely unimpaired.

The extra weight of the boot mechanism means its not as fast as the GTi but there's still plenty of punch from the 2-litre, 138bhp engine.

The 16-valve technology of the engine allows a respectable combined cycle fuel consumption of over 35mph to beat the pants off most convertibles.

Even when the roof is down, and the structure loses some of its stiffness, the car is remarkably responsive on the road.

And if Scotland's temperamental climate holds out this summer that's exactly how you will be enjoying every spare minute of your time.

The CC is available in a range of colours most of which are distinctive pastels.

The Cayman Green we were supplied was a little bit wacky for my conservative tastes but then again that's probably exactly the kind of colour your average CC buyer will be after.

Peugeot have successfully plugged a gap in the market and can afford the luxury of sitting back and watching the orders come in.

The 206 CC looks like being the hottest thing in town this summer.

Judging by Lesley's reaction to the car, Peugeot can add another figure to their sales tally.

As for me? I'm off to tell Johnnie D the good news.I'm so easily converted to open-top motoring

LESLEY'S VERDICT

THERE is a 'window' in every girl's life in which she really should get herself a convertible.

It occurs when you're old enough (and finally earning enough) to afford a sexy, little sports car but still too young to be worried about where to put the baby seat.

That entry has just opened up in the diary of my life.

The thought hit me like a flash of lightning and suddenly, I was broody. But not for a child - hell no.

I really, really want a convertible and I want one now. I look at other people's and feel envious. I ask to borrow theirs for a while and promise to look after it like it was my own.

So it was that I began my campaign of harassment with my dear colleague, Graeme, to find me a suitable model to test-drive. Finally, after several weeks, he threw a key on to my desk and gave me a smug little nod.

"It's parked outside," he said. "Give me a shout if you can't work out how to get the roof down."

And there it was. A brand new Peugeot 206 Coupe Cabriolet, the like of which I had never clapped eyes on before.

This 2-litre SE model was all sleek lines and crouching power, like a much funkier version of the ordinary 206 - which I always thought was a rather chic, little car in its own right.

First impressions? Very good. The chassis was low enough to be sporty but high enough to avoid that awkward problem of getting in and out without exposing too much of yourself.

Details like alloy wheels and a unique 'grooved' boot-lid drew the eye and that high tail end made the whole car look primed and ready for action.

The interior was equally stylish. Black seats with contrast colour to match the paintwork with natty aluminium touches throughout.

But it was just another trendy coupe until I had unclipped the side roof locks and pulled on a handy button near the electric window control.

It was at that point I was sold. Make no mistake, the 20 seconds it takes for the roof to fold away is almost as thrilling as driving the car. It is sheer, poetic motion.

First, the side windows slip away with a quiet swish, then the boot lid obligingly tilts upwards to let the solid roof slide back and fold itself neatly into place.

The boot then lowers slowly, arriving back in position with a firm and satisfying clunk.

Knight Rider, eat your electronic heart out.

I demonstrated the folding roof to my friend while three urchins sat on a doorstep nearby, idly watching us.

By the time we drove off, their jaws had dropped open revealing barely-chewed crisps.

"Love yer motor, missus," one shouted, spraying his pals with cheese 'n' onion. "Less of the missus," I yelled back.

You can have conversations like that in a Coupe Cabriolet, you see. It's a maximum exposure car.

Available in the showrooms only since March, it also has the added attraction of novelty.

It certainly turns heads on a sunny, spring day as it handles the road with consummate ease. And at night, having parked outside my house with the roof firmly back in position, I had none of the concerns of the ordinary convertible owner.

No nasty little vandal was going to come along and poke a screwdriver through this roof.

I'm troubled by just two things about this car.

First, there's something of a shortage of boot space when the roof is down.

I'd estimate that there's only room for a small, flat suitcase in the section of the boot that remains once the roof has been folded away.

As travelling light is not really my thing, this could prove something of a problem from time to time.

Secondly, there is no spare wheel. Instead, Peugeot have placed two canisters of something called 'tyre weld' in a storage box at the back of the boot.

Apparently, this can be used to repair a puncture and enable you to drive to the nearest garage.

Never having heard of 'tyre weld', I'm not sure how confident I am in that idea.

But then, I've never changed a tyre in my life - I'm in the AA, for heaven's sake.

Anyway, there's no point in being pragmatic about buying a convertible. They are just not pragmatic cars.

But at least the Peugeot 206 Coupe Cabriolet makes a wee concession to our insecurities.

It doesn't yell 'steal me' when you leave it unattended and, after a chilly day's posing around, you can put the roof up, switch the heater on, and you're as cosy as any hatchback driver.

I love this car and I want one to keep. I'll take it to the zoo on nice afternoons and make sure it's well cared for.

It could be my baby any day.

SPEC CHECK

THE 206 coupe cabriolet is pounds 14,480 for the 1.6 S and up to pounds 15,995 for the 2-litre SE.

INSURANCE: The 1.6 is in insurance group 12 (around pounds 500 a year) and the 2-litre is group 14 (around pounds 600).

PERFORMANCE: The 2-litre SE does 0-60mph in 8.3 seconds. Top speed 127mph.

FUEL: Combined cycle, 35.3mpg; out-of-town, 45.6mpg; in town, 25.2mpg.

FEATURES: Includes front and side airbags, ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution, immobiliser, remote central locking with deadlocks, adjustable steering, electric windows, CD player with remote control, digital air conditioning, pollen filter, leather steering wheel, aluminium pedals, gearknob, door sill and handles, silver instrument dials, body-coloured mouldings, drilled aluminium filler cap, 16-inch alloys, retractable hard-top roof.

Our test car was supplied by Arnold Clark Peugeot, Mount Vernon, Glasgow.
COPYRIGHT 2001 Scottish Daily Record & Sunday
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Fastlane
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Apr 29, 2001
Words:1984
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