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New Car Test - Peugeot 206CC 2.0-litre

With a massive redesign aft of the firewall, the Pug 206CC 2.0-litre is a very attractively priced fun machine...

By Michael Knowling

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Convertibles have always managed to get away with ridiculous overpricing. A metal folding roof apparently adds so much to design and manufacturing costs that you've been looking at $100,000-plus for a Mercedes SLK or Lexus SC430. Well not anymore. The cute-as-a-button Peugeot 206CC (coupe cabrio) features a brilliantly engineered metal folding roof atop what's already a good overall package - and it sells for just $39,990!

Inevitably, the 206CC will be sold mainly to those searching for style rather than eyeball-popping performance. That's a pity because, using the same engine, gearbox and suspension as the go-fast 206 GTi, this thing is much more than just an attention grabbing al-fresco cruiser...

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The 2.0-litre CC - a mere $2000 step above the lesser-equipped 1.6-litre 206CC - is a reasonably spirited goer. Take a look under the bonnet and you'll learn why - its transverse all-alloy four cylinder displaces 1997cc, runs a 10.8:1 compression ratio and breathes through a DOHC, 16-valve head. Max power is quoted at 100kW at 6000 rpm, with a gutsy 194Nm of torque on offer at 4000 rpm. Note that, due to its sporting nature, the 2.0-litre CC is offered as a 5-speed manual only - an automatic trannie can be optioned in the 1.6-litre version.

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With its 100kW and 194Nm channelled through the front hoops, the CC 2.0-litre does display one unsociable characteristic - torque steer. Accelerating hard in a low gear - especially when simultaneously turning a corner - the steering wheel torques up quite strongly in your hands. This can be slightly unnerving and, if you apply steering correction, it's all too easy to set off on a zigzag course. Unfortunately, the engine also isn't as smooth as many other similar-spec four cylinders and, even worse, our test car had an intermittent stutter when falling back to idle. Not good.

As a whole, however, the 2.0-litre-in-206CC combo works well - throttle response is sparkling and there's healthy torque available all revs. Redline is marked at a relatively low 6500 rpm. Easily launched off the line, this little jigger will happily sprint to 100 km/h in mid 9-seconds. Driven under normal conditions, however, you'll find around 8.5-litres litres of premium unleaded is sucked from the 50-litre tank every 100 kilometres.

For the biggest buzz driving a 40-odd grand 2 + 2 convertible, the Mazda MX-5 remains at the head of the field - but the 2.0-litre CC is certainly no bad thing...

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Suspended on a triangulated 'psuedo' McPherson front struts with a 20mm uncoupled swaybar, and a trailing arm torsion beam rear with a 19mm swaybar, the front-wheel-drive CC handles with a fair degree of finesse. Its sticky 205/45 Goodyear Eagle F1 tyres offer excellent grip, peeling away only when hustled quickly through a tight corner. Yes, that means the front does understeer to a mild degree, but a throttle lift-off can easily wag the tail - and so the car - back into line. Spring and damper rates are identical to those found in the GTi, so you get a firm but not unpleasant ride.

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Steering - which is an rpm-sensitive power assisted rack and pinion arrangement - is about perfectly weighted for this type of vehicle and has no stand-out vices - that is, other than that torque steer in low gears. Similar to the 206 GTi we tested a while back, the car does feel slightly unsettled under very heavy braking - its stubby wheelbase dances through a series of different yaw angles. ABS and EBD is standard fitment, working with 266mm ventilated front discs and 247mm solid rears.

Unfortunately, the 206CC does not have the seating flexibility to carry more than two people with any degree of comfort. It's definitely an emergency plus-2 vehicle.

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The bucket style rear seat is very upright and offers only enough knee and foot room to accommodate children. Even with the front seat slid a long way forward, rear knee room is absolutely minimal. Occupant space in the front, however, is quite good in all directions. Appointment wise the 206CC is fairly rich. There's digital climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, power windows and (heated) mirrors, 4-speaker CD/tuner, remote locking and immobiliser, headlight angle adjustment plus a trick set of drilled aluminium pedals - which are set much too close together for most people's clogs. Actually, despite the adjustable steering angle and height adjustable driver's seat, it's difficult to settle into a comfortable driving position in a 206.

As we said, the drop-top roof is a metal one; this provides better protection from the elements and is more durable than a cheaper fabric roof.

Similar to the Mercedes SLK, the CC's retractable metal lid comprises two main elements - first is the roof panel itself, and the second is the glass rear window, pillars and frame. The whole shebang is swung around by a pair of articulated arms, which are hydraulically actuated. Opening the roof is easy - simply release the locks at both sides of the windscreen header rail and hold down a button between the front seats. Twenty seconds is all it takes for the roof to be buzzed up or down and, unlike some other power-operated convertible roofs, the Pug's system can be activated at speeds up to 10 km/h.

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Unfortunately, however, the folding metal roof does gobble a lot of boot space. When the roof is up, there's a generous 410-litres of storage capacity, but bring the roof down into its hidey-hole and you've got just 175-litre of storage volume left over. Interestingly, the 206CC carries no spare tyre - instead you'll find a pair of pressure cans that can be used to inflate a tyre in an emergency.

In the all-important curbside appeal contest, the judges agree the CC is an extremely cute little bundle...

The curves are tight, cheeky and more than just a bit out-of-the-square. There's also plenty of accessorising to catch your eye - the sexy halogen headlights, bonnet vent, fog lights, full colour coding, 16-inch alloy rims (pretty sizeable for a little hottie like this), aluminium fuel filler cap, 'sports' front bumper and chrome exhaust tip. There's also a curious looking pair of 'carry bag' handles on the boot lid - we have absolutely no idea what practical function they serve!

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All up, the 206CC tips the scales at 1152 kilograms - about 100 heavier than the 206 GTi. Additional reinforcing - in the A-pillars, through the floor and throughout the doors - is largely responsible for this extra flab, which is aimed at improving crashworthiness and handling. While the reinforcing ensures the CC is no wet sponge, some chassis flexing remains. This is particularly noticeable where the door trim meets the rear quarter trim - the panel margin jumps around a few millimetres when driving over a bumpy road. The windscreen frame very rarely shakes, but it will develop a wobble (which can be felt coming up through the steering wheel) over corrugations set a certain distance apart.

From a safety perspective, the reinforced A-pillars also offer improved roll-over protection, while other appointed safety features include front and side airbags, seatbelt pre-tensioners and force limiters, twin 3-point rear belts and the other usual design incorporated in today's cars. Buyer safety is assured thanks to Peugeot Australia's 2 year/unlimited kilometre mechanical warranty, 12 year anti-corrosion guarantee and 3 years protection against paint defects. Furthermore - if the amazing retained values of 206 GTis are anything to go by - buyers can rest easy with the assumption depreciation will be quite low.

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In the new car market place, the 206CC absolutely clobbers the opposition - namely, the Holden Astra Convertible, Mazda MX-5 and Renault Megane Cabriolet - with its spare-no-expense folding metal roof. The Pug is also very keenly priced; at $39,990 it's about five grand cheaper than both the MX-5 and Astra rag-top, but five bucks (woo-hoo!) dearer than the Megane.

Interestingly, the 206CC 2.0-litre costs just ten grand more than the 206 GTi upon which it's based. The Astra convertible, meanwhile, is some $16,500 dearer than the SRi platform... and it gets only a fabric roof.

The 206CC 2.0-litre is surely one of the best value convertibles you can buy - all that holds it back from greatness is a lack of rear passenger and boot space when the roof is retracted. But, then again, a 60-grand dearer Merc SLK - complete with its oh-so-expensive-to-build folding metal roof (?!) - doesn't even have a back seat...

Why You Would...

  • The only hard top convertible for under $100,000
  • Chic styling
  • Flexible, torquey engine
  • Firm but comfortable ride
  • Plenty of grip

Why You Wouldn't...

  • Rear seat too small for adults
  • Limited boot space when roof is retracted
  • Awkward driving position with pedals too close together
  • Torque steer in low gears

The Peugeot 206CC 2.0-litre was provided for this test by Peugeot Australia.

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