Peugeot 306 Cabriolet (1994 - 2003) review

BY ANDY ENRIGHT

Introduction

Peugeot will certainly have its work cut out when it comes to replacing the pretty 306 Cabriolet. It's difficult to see a 307-based open car replicating its success, based as it is around such a high and narrow platform. It's almost as if the 306 was made to be decapitated, resulting in this Pininfarina-styled cabrio that's way more elegant than it ever had any right to be. Used examples are fairly numerous and picking up a good one shouldn't be too tricky.

Models

Models Covered: 1994 to 1997: (2dr cabriolet; 2.0,) 1997 to 2003: (2dr cabriolet; 2.0, [Roadster])

History

Peugeot's pretty 306 cabriolet arrived in May 1994 powered by a 123bhp 2.0-litre engine. In April 1997, the range was facelifted, with a smart new nose, mild alterations at the rear and extra equipment. ABS became standard on all models in autumn 1998 and the last round of revisions (body-coloured bumpers across the range along with twin front airbags and anti-lock brakes) was announced in June 1999. At the same time a 1.8-litre version was announced with a 112bhp engine. May 2000 saw the 2.0-litre model discontinued, with a 1.6-litre 100bhp automatic version arriving in December of the same year. 2001 model year changes saw the 1.8-litre car being fitted with 15-inch Cyclone alloy wheels. The shape has aged well, the neat looks surviving well into the Peugeot 307 era, finally slipping from the line up in early 2003.

What You Get

Pininfarina and Peugeot have produced some mighty stylish creations in the past, but arguably none as stunning as the 306 Cabriolet. After all, if image and rarity aren't among your priorities in buying an affordable cabrio, the other main consideration is likely to be that of affordable practicality. Realistically, since you'll be spending more time with the top up than down, the ease of operation of the hood mechanism and both sound and noise insulation need to be excellent. In this 306 Cabrio, they are - and the convertible operation is simplicity itself. Thanks to the standard electric mechanism, you simply unclip, push the button and sit back to enjoy the spectacle as the metal cover behind you rises to swallow the hood, then falls cleanly on top of it. It may be worth ringing a few vendors to try to find a car with the optional Pininfarina-styled hard top. This is lined to reduce noise intrusion, has a heated glass rear window and is finished in the same body colour as the car. It can be removed easily for simple storage, transforming your 306 back from Coupe to Cabriolet at a stroke.

What You Pay

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What to Look For

Watch for electrical equipment failure, coolant leaks and uneven tyre wear. Check for heavy clutches and fit a decent alarm, as security isn't a 306 Cabriolet hot spot. Paint quality has also been reported as something worth inspection.

Replacement Parts

(approx based on a 1994 306 2.0 Cabriolet) Brake pads are around £62 a set, a full headlamp assembly is around £87. A clutch should cost you £225, an exhaust system (including catalyst) around £550 and a radiator up to £135. A starter motor will be about £185 and an alternator £200.

On the Road

Whichever version you choose, you'll be buying one of the better handling four door convertibles around. Yes, there is more body flex than would be the case in a hardtop 306, but that's a small price to pay for true wind in the hair, flies in the teeth motoring. Performance is zesty on most models, only the 1.6 Auto being a bit of a laggard. With the 1.8-litre version, you can expect a top speed of 117mph and 0-60mph acceleration in 12.5 seconds. At the same time, fuel consumption is nearly 45mpg at a steady 56mph. At the wheel, the driving position is close to perfection, the pedals and steering wheel just where you want them. The seats, too, are excellent, supportive on long runs and grippy through tight corners.

Overall

There aren't too many cars that offer a combination of peace of mind and feel good factor for such a reasonable amount. It's usually a trade off, but the 306 Cabriolet doesn't punish you for feeling like a million dollars. Sleek, enjoyable to drive and based on proven mechanicals, the 306 Cabriolet may not represent the freshest face on the block but when you look this good, who cares?