The new Peugeot 206CC: Cute isn’t the half of itFor the past few months, the French expat community in Seoul has been raving about the impending arrival of France’s most popular car of the moment, Peugeot. Already familiar with its old, conservative image, I didn’t expect too much ― until I saw the new Peugeot 206CC in the Cheongdam-dong showroom.
First impression: Wow, it’s so cute!
Seeing that car was like discovering a brand new “design product of the future” at a Terence Conran shop. I spent a good half-hour ogling this neat creature, painted in a lovely nail varnish color called “Moonstone.” Like the semi-precious stone, it was metallic silver with a tinge of pearly blue.
Unlike other, conservative Peugeot sedans, Peugeot’s new breed of cabriolet comes in an array of charming, youthful colors, such as “cherry red,” “Cayman green” and “Aegean blue.” Whether its hard top is up or down, this car, with a pointy antenna in the center of its windshield, looks extremely modern, even futuristic, the overall shape evoking cool concept cars at auto shows.
Lee Kang-cheol, a marketing representative for Hanbul Motors Corp., is confident about domestic sales, saying that the waiting list for the car has already surpassed 150 ― a great figure for luxury import cars before its launching date in early September.
Mr. Lee spends a few minutes on instructions. A thumb-sized latch near the side brake controls the opening and closing of the hard top. He warns me to make sure the protective panel in the trunk is pulled down before opening the top. Cars imported to Korea are all automatic, but he tells me I can try a different mode, called “sport driving.”
On the outside, the rear of the car comes up to my waistline, but with the opened hard top folded inside the trunk, actual storage space is limited. There’s no room for a spare tire; instead, the car comes with an instant tire fix kit and a tool set. So if you want to be fashionable with the Peugeot 206CC, travel light.
The interior is all about simple functions with high-concept designs. The dashboard features ― gas, temperature and RPM gauges, speedometer, CD player, air conditioning ― are elementary yet visually pleasing. Nothing has that super-high-tech appearance you normally find in concept cars. A small knob to control the side mirrors works like a child's toy: just turn left or right. The space is designed with ergonomics in mind. Driving space is comfortably roomy, and door panels come with large pockets. All four seats are covered with color-block designs, reminiscent of ’60s mod; the red-and-black leather seats available in the Special edition are extremely attractive. I can tell the car was designed for young people, as it comes with a very cute and clever water ― or beer ― bottle holder between the two back seats.
The Peugeot 206CC functions as two cars: a convenient compact car for daily commuting and a sporty convertible for weekends. I’m more than ready for to try both, but it’s raining.
On very wet roads, I press the anti-skid button. On drier roads, I try “sport driving,” a feature often found in luxury sedans with automatic transmission; the special mode is supposed to give you the feel of a sports car. I can see the RPM rise, but there’s not much change, except that I feel a little sporty. I resent the weather.
Stepping on the gas is like testing how soft a bedspring can be. Compared to that suppleness, maneuvering the steering wheel is harder. Turning sharp corners, I feel a bit uneasy and don’t dare speed up.
I try the horn, and I’m surprised by the sound. This car honks cute ― it sounds like a little girl in pink squealing over a poodle. I feel like Reese Witherspoon in “Legally Blonde.”
With a 1.6-liter engine, the Peugeot 206CC is ideal for intra-city commuting. I see that the average speed of my driving in the capital is about 40 km/h (25 mph). The car’s maximum speed reads 210 km/h, but beyond 90 km/h, it feels fast enough because the front of the car is very short. This immediate view of the road, and limited rear view due to the high trunk, make me feel a little like I’m driving a van.
Even if I floor the gas pedal, the car takes a few seconds to reach 3,000 RPM; beyond that point, the RPM drops to 2,500 and driving feels smooth and fast, sort of like a real sports car. Even on highways, though, I rarely get to drive beyond 90 km/h.
As soon as the rain stops, I want the top down. As instructed by Mr. Lee, I pull the two latches on the hard top open and pull the latch-type button on the right. With the whirring sound of an industrial robot, the trunk lid lifts up high; the hard top slowly floats above and then enters beneath the truck cover. Then the trunk closes to hide the hard top. This is extremely entertaining to watch, to myself and to everyone around me ― drivers, passengers and pedestrians stop to watch the spectacle in the middle of the street. The message: Don’t let its cute appearance fool you. The Peugeot 206CC is one serious machine.
In Korea, the standard Peugeot 206CC costs 29,400,000 won ($24,500). With automated temperature and headlight controls, leather seats and 16-inch alloy wheels added, the Special Peugeot 206CC costs 32,500,000 won.
by Ines Cho