2005 Peugeot 206 CC
|The Good: |
– Tight handling
– High speed stability
– The folding hard top
|The Bad: |
– Weak base engine
– Tight interior space
– Some missing features
The Peugeot 206 was one of the first models from the French car manufacturer to exhibit their daring new design direction. The car became an instant hit in Europe, where the subcompact hatchback market is huge. But Peugeot went ahead and created numerous variations of their popular platform. One of them is the 206 CC, an affordable little convertible that introduced the folding hard top to the lower end of the market.
The Peugeot 206 CC is a rather small car. It follows a very curvy design philosophy that has a few edgy details thrown in for a bit of contrast. The 206 CC is different from the normal 206 hatchback from the rear edge of the hood all the way to the trailing edge of the luggage trunk. The luggage trunk itself has strakes on it with rails on either side, supposedly to tie down a suitcase on top of the trunk, like classic roadsters from the 1960s. We presume it is just a fashion statement today. The large reinforced windshield is topped off with a flexible radio antenna. There are permanent roll hoops behind the back seats, and a fancy aluminium fuel filler cover. The base model gets 15-inch wheels while the higher model gets 16-inch ones. Front and side airbags are standard. Changes for the 2005 model year include body-coloured plastic trimmings and not much else. This is a seriously feminine car in overall image.
The Peugeot 206 CC currently comes with a choice of two 16-valve engines. The basic engine is a modest 110 hp 1.6-litre four-cylinder unit with 147 Nm of torque. The 1.6-litre used to come with a 5-speed manual, but now a four-speed tiptronic is standard. The other engine option is the 2.0-litre four-cylinder unit with 190 Nm of torque, shared with the larger 307 and 407 models. The 2.0-litre is only available with a five-speed manual, thereby alienating its female target market by not being available with an automatic. The weak 1.4-litre engine has been dropped from the line-up, but we wish that the powerful 180 hp 2.0-litre engine from the 206 RC had been available with the 206 CC to create a powerful little roadster.
First impressions of the interior are favourable. The ambience is sporty, with a small steering wheel staring at the driver, combined with aluminium pedals and chrome shifter. The seats and door trim can be had in a monotone or two-tone colour, with stitched leather. The dashboard texture also has a leather look, but is actually made of hard plastic, which was a little disappointing. There are storage spaces all over, with a few small cup holders. Most of the buttons are intuitive. We had to extensively search for the power window controls, and eventually found them behind the handbrake, with the button that opens the roof. The side mirrors are electric. The stereo and air-conditioning settings are viewable on two centrally located digital displays, along with other useful information like the possible range on available fuel and all sorts of warning messages. The CD stereo speakers are good, with tweeters and such, but it really needs an amplifier at higher volumes.
There are some basic features missing that can be highly annoying. One is the key-operated fuel tank cover, which does not have a release button inside the car. Another is the lack of a trunk release mechanism inside the car or even on the remote key fob, therefore requiring a key again. These basics have been available in most Japanese economy cars for decades, but Peugeot seems to have concentrated more on style than utility.
The folding hard top is the coolest feature of this car. Lowering the roof, while the car is almost stationary, requires releasing two latches and then holding a button till the roof is completely stored under the reverse-opening trunk cover, all in about 20 seconds. The windows go down when the roof is in motion. As easy as it seems, the latches do require some muscle to release and the button for the power roof could have had a one touch operation. These reasons could be why we saw so many women driving around in these cars with the roof always up. However, this also makes it a rare opportunity to actually see the roof mechanism in action, and we got lots of stares while we played with the trick top.
The interior initially feels spacious from the driver’s seat, thanks to the steeply sloping windshield. All round visibility is excellent. But then we started noticing the tiny details, like the small accelerator and brake pedals set close together, the narrow front seats and the pointless back seats. We stuffed people of all sizes into the car. A tall guy wanted more headroom with the roof up, an overweight person could not get comfortable in either of the front seats, and a short skinny guy sat in the back by putting his legs up on the seat. This car is perfect for two average-sized people at the most. The luggage trunk offers okay space, but this space is cut in half as soon as the roof comes down. There is no space for a spare tyre.
The 206 CC is, simply, not very quick. The 1.6-litre engine is weak, providing just enough push to move the car. The rather unrefined engine revs crazily under hard throttle, but the car does not seem to accelerate until after a few crucial seconds. A manual would be a better match for this engine, as the automatic is very hesitant. When the accelerator is suddenly floored, the automatic violently downshifts, waits for half a second, and then the car starts to move gradually. The upshifts are very smooth however, and while acceleration is not strong, the car can cruise effortlessly on the highway, feeling as stable as a larger car even with the roof down at speeds as high as 160 kph. One unique feature of the automatic is that it downshifts and does engine braking as the car slows down. This makes the tiptronic mode rather useless, as you can shift up a gear, but downshifts occur automatically before you get the chance to do it yourself. The 2.0-litre engine is also not as refined as those from Honda and Toyota, but it offers vastly better acceleration than the 1.6-litre. Both engines offer excellent fuel economy, with the 2.0-litre manual burning slightly more petrol than the 1.6-litre automatic.
The handling of this little car is extremely good. Helped along by a short wheelbase, low weight and relatively wide tyres, the 206 CC handles like a go-kart. It turns instantly at the twist of the steering wheel and its small size makes it easy to safely manoeuvre through a sea of slow-moving vehicles. It only starts to lose traction and understeers slightly as it reaches 100 kph taking a curving highway exit, which just requires backing off the accelerator to bring the car in line. The suspension setup is somewhat sporty, but there is noticeable body roll. The steering is communicative and feels weighty, especially when parking. Braking performance is pretty good, with four-wheel disc brakes and ABS helping this lightweight make quick stops. However, some will complain that the brake pedal feels too soft. The overall ride is comfortable, but there is some rattling as the car travels over broken roads with the roof down. There is minimal wind buffeting with the roof down and windows up at 140 kph, and your hair will mostly stay in place. But there is prominent wind noise at these speeds even with the roof up.
The Peugeot 206 CC is a very good deal for a convertible that has a retractable hard top similar to much more expensive cars. It lacks power, but it can still be fun to drive on twisty roads. This little roadster has no competition at all in the Middle East.