The Peugeot 108 Top! Cabrio joins the ranks of soft-top tots. Jonathan Crouch thinks the French company's onto a winner.
Ten Second Review
The Peugeot 108 hatch has spawned a 'convertible' version in the 108 Top! Actually 'convertible' might be a bit of a stretch, as this one has a sliding canvas roof, but it still affords fresh-air fun at prices which start from just over ten grand.
If there's one thing that Peugeot's current range of models tells us, it's that manufacturing cars is often a cyclical business. Wind the clock back just ten years and there was barely a vehicle in Peugeot's range you could wholeheartedly recommend. The underwhelming 307, the over-achieving 206, the tired 406 and the baleful 607 were the backbone of a product line-up that looked doomed. These days, the Peugeot range is stuffed with talent, from the excellent 308 to the sporty RCZ, the perky 208 to the clever 5008, this French company is in a real purple patch. When companies achieve this momentum, it tends to self-perpetuate, with young and exciting design talent queuing up for a chance to show what they can do. Peugeot's 108 citycar looks set to continue this rich run of form and in Top! Cabriolet guise, it once again demonstrates that Peugeot isn't afraid to do something fresh and funky.
As you probably know, the old Peugeot 107 was part of a three-car family alongside the Toyota Aygo and the Citroen C1, all three models being screwed together in Kolin in the Czech Republic. It's the same story with this second generation version, and this Top! Cabriolet is mechanically identical under the bonnet to its hard top sibling. That means you get a choice of a two petrol engines: a VTi 68 or a 1.2-litre VTi 82 variant, both with a 5-speed manual transmission. The car has been designed to improve agility and manoeuvrability in town, with a turning circle of just 4.8 metres. A lot of work has gone into making the 108 a livelier drive without compromising on quality feel. The suspension has come in for a lot of attention. Where the old 107 was a bit bouncy, Peugeot has tried to engineer in a level of suppleness that's more befitting of a bigger car. To that end, the 108 gets upgraded suspension springs, higher spec shock absorbers and a bigger anti-roll bar to help body control in corners. A completely new electric power steering systems improves efficiency and accuracy.
Design and Build
Of course, the big draw with this model is the fabric roof. Citycars like the Smart Fortwo Cabrio and the Fiat 500C have shown that there's a real demand for urban tots that can open up for the sun and the 108 Top! doesn't attempt to do anything too radical with its roof. You won't find a fiendishly clever and complicated folding hard top. Instead there's a setup that's more akin to that used on Fiat's 500C. So you still get the sides of the car left intact, which helps with the vehicle's structural rigidity, the fabric roof sliding back electrically, folding neatly as it goes. We can't think of another such small cabriolet that is offered with a choice of three and five-door body styles. The interior of the 108 hinges around a 7-inch centrally mounted touch screen system. This display is optional on the Active trim level and standard in the Allure and it really brings the interior together, so you'll be missing out of you pinch pennies here. It controls the car's media, trip computer, Bluetooth and various vehicle settings. Should you want to personalise your 108, Peugeot offer seven different themes which feature decals, trim inserts, and seat fabrics like houndstooth and tartan.
Market and Model
You'll need just over £10,000 to land the entry-level 1.0-litre Active three-door with a Top! Opting for the five-door car will only tack around £400 onto that asking price, and the Active is available with or without Stop & Start, Peugeot listing these as two separate models. Should you want a bit more go, the 1.2-litre engine is offered in Allure Pure Tech trim starting at just under £12,000 in three-door form or just over £12,000 as a five-door. Unfortunately there's no option of an automatic gearbox as yet. New to the 108 is MirrorLink, which allows the user to control their car's applications through the touch screens of their smart phones. Apple iOS, Android and Windows Mobile platforms are all supported, but do remember that the system won't allow you to start updating your Facebook status when the car's on the move. Safety equipment shouldn't be an issue as even the entry-level car is fitted with Hill Start Assist, anti-lock brakes, emergency collision braking system, and electronic stability control. There are full length curtain airbags, two side airbags and two front airbags. Both rear seats are also fitted with ISOFIX child seat mounts.
Cost of Ownership
Even if you aren't the least bit interested in the sliding fabric roof, you might well have been thinking that the 108 Top! might just make a smarter buy than the standard car thanks to beefier residual values. We're not so sure about that. The price premium over its hard top sibling is over £2,000, so it has further to fall. Were it priced around £500 above the standard model, it would certainly be a stronger residual choice, but the ownership price premium leaves little doubt that the soft top will work out more expensive to run over a typical three year ownership period. Day to day costs are kept well in check. Go for the 1.0-litre car and you're looking at a combined fuel economy figure of 68.9mpg and emissions of 95g/km without the Stop & Start technology. Pay the extra £250-odd for it and economy improves to 74.3mpg and emissions drop to a minuscule 88g/km. The 1.2-litre lump is no fuel hog either. It ekes 65.7 miles from a gallon of 95RON which means that emissions squueze under the 100g/km barrier at 99g/km.
The Peugeot 108 Top! cabriolet is an interesting addition to the canon of dinky drop tops. With at least £2,500 worth of clearance between it and the Fiat 500C and offering the rear seats missing from a Smart Fortwo Cabrio, it looks a shoe-in for success. The fact that it's available with a choice of engines and in both three and five-door guises only bolsters its appeal. It's just a shame that there's no automatic gearbox on offer as that's always a plus for an urban scoot. Peugeot needs to make hay while the sun is shining with this model. It's fairly certain that once its rivals clock how well it's selling that copycat models will appear. As it stands, the 108 Top! cabriolet is in the box seat. Chalk another success up to Peugeot's rejuvenated hit factory.