Bangerwatch: Peugeot 306 Cabriolet

The Peugeot 306 Cabriolet is far too pretty to fall within the Bangerwatch category. And yet – 20 years after it made its debut – the values on the used car market put it firmly within the realms of cheap motoring.

And as far as PetrolBlog is concerned, you can’t buy a prettier car for less than a grand. Certainly not one without a roof.

We really do appreciate that, right now, the frankly awful weather means that buying a convertible is probably the furthest thing from your mind. But come the spring, you might be glad you invested £500 – yes, 500 quid – on one of Pininfarina’s nicest ever creations.

OK, admittedly, you should probably spend a few more than 500 notes on a 20-year old Pug with an electric roof. But if you approach a Peugeot 306 Cabriolet knowing that something will – like your breakfast cereals – go snap, crackle or pop at some point, then saving a few pennies on the purchase price may not be a bad thing. Come on, what’s the worst that can happen?

Probably best not to answer that.

Peugeot 306 Cabriolet

It’s a measure of Pininfarina’s work that – two decades after its launch – the Peugeot 306 Cabriolet is still one of the best looking drop-tops of recent times. Choosing between the likes of the topless versions of the Golf, Rover 214, Ford Escort, Renault 19 – and latterly the Renault Mégane – can’t have been difficult. Compare them side-by-side today, and it’s still by far and away the prettiest.

And because it was based on the already-very-good Peugeot 306, it drove very well, too. Sure, some scuttle shake was to be expected, but the majority of 306 Cabriolet owners would have put image and style far above dynamics.

Silver Peugeot 306 Cabriolet

Lowering the roof was a piece of cake. Release a couple of catches, push the roof up a little, press a button and then – 40 seconds later – the roof would disappear into the flat deck behind the rear seats. These were the days before Peugeot became obsessed with coupe-cabriolets. And the 306 looked all the better for it.

But like any fading glamour model, once you strip away a layer of expensive clothing, its true age begins to reveal itself. The interior is looking dated and – after three or four owners (some more careful than others), it’s unlikely to be in the best of shape. Rather comically, some versions came with a fake wooden centre console, which was about as out of place as Kate Middleton in a branch of Argos.

Peugeot 306 Cabriolet Dashboard

However, the heaters in the French-built 306 Cabriolet were very good. It’s something the original owners should have thanked the good people of Poissy for, especially once they realised the reality of living with a drop-top wasn’t quite as glamorous as the brochure made out.

The majority of cars sold were the top-spec SE models, which at around £20,000, weren’t exactly cheap. But looking good came at a price and the 306 Cabriolet never struggled to sell. Of the 2.8 million 306s ever built, 446, 377 were cabriolets. That’s not a bad percentage for a car such as this.

Today – in Britain anyway – there are 3,000 left on the road. Prices range from £500 for a rotter, to £2,000 for a low mileage car with bags of history. It pays to be picky, because the cam belts need to be changed every 36,000 miles and the electrics aren’t known to be one of the 306’s strong point. And when a car’s key feature is a complex, electrically folding roof, alarm bells should start ringing.

Peugeoty 306 Cabriolet Roland Garros

You’d be advised to buy a later, post-1997 facelift car, but PetrolBlog can’t help thinking the original and untouched version looks neater. And besides, who wants one of the later 1.6 or 1.8-litre engines, when an early 2.0-litre lump would be far better?

Or better still, just how good does the Peugeot 306 Roadster look? The hardtop was a factory-fitted option that never sold in huge numbers. Of the 400 or so that were sold, only 146 remain on the road today.

Peugeot 306 Roadster

Peugeot hasn’t made a prettier car since the 306 Cabriolet*. For sure, the RCZ is striking and the 308 is good looking. But the 306 Cabriolet has a timeless appeal which it’ll find hard to match in the future. And hey,  if the roof is stuck open or wedged shut, try to look at things like the Grand Old Duke of York. At least it isn’t neither stuck half way up or half way down again.

Question is, is PetrolBlog off its rocker, or does the wider PB community share its love of this ageing – but not fading – glamour model? Answers on a postcard. Usual address. Etc, etc.

*thanks to Stephen Dobie for pointing out the 406 Coupe. He has a point. Point well made. Good point.

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ABOUT AUTHOR
Gavin Big-Surname
The chief waffler and founder of PetrolBlog in 2010. Has a rather unhealthy obsession with cars from the 80s and 90s, and is on a one-man mission to collect the cars nobody else wants. Also likes tea and Hobnobs.

8 comments

  1. February 14, 2014
    Ant

    Always liked these, but sadly the aspect about them that always lingers was watching the one Fifth Gear flipped and pancaked to illustrate the poor safety of some of these hatch-based convertibles.

    Realistically it’s probably not a likely scenario but once you’ve got an image like that in your head it’s hard to shake.

    Reply
    • March 20, 2014
      S306cabrio

      Loved it ever since its launch. Check out http://www.306cabriolet.es for more pics !
      BTW ever tried flipping a 5 door saloon on a Fifth gear type ramp to see what happens?

      Reply
    • July 13, 2014
      Andy_Bee_1

      Yup, any car that is fired 2-3metres in the air and lands upside down will pancake. Probably worse to be fair, the A pillars on the 306 cabriolet are quite strong compared to your average tin can car!

      Reply
  2. July 22, 2014
    Andrew

    Didn’t have much luck with my brief fling with the 306. It had a habit of popping its rear brake cylinders (which was a known recall notice) and despite having dealer mods done to it to prevent it happening again, unfortunately it did while braking to avoid a twit who pulled in front of me then braked hard which lead to a slight meeting of the rear end of the Skoda Fabia at 20mph which destroyed the front of my Pug but only cracked the bumper of the Skoda. (damn thing was like hitting a bank vault)
    Apart from that, the interior trim was fragile and the body panels had all the integrity of a wet cardboard box. So no – quite glad if the 306 went the way of the dinosaur.

    Reply
    • March 23, 2015
      mj2k

      Popping it’s rear brake cylinders?! Not one I’ve ever heard of, not listed as a 306 recall, and pretty unlikely on a car with discs fitted all round like the 306 cab, unless the calipers have had it. Bad experience at the hands of a dodgy dealer perhaps?

      They are made out of pretty thin metal so wouldn’t be very strong in the event of a crash, but this does make them very light, which gives them excellent acceleration, braking and handling (esp with the hardtop fitted), and pretty good fuel economy too.

      They’re also a very pretty little car, very comfortable on long journeys, practical for a cabriolet (can easily seat a family of 4 and has plenty of room in the boot for a weekly shop), surprisingly reliable, and visibility is excellent with the hood down, or with the hardtop fitted.

      Add to that the fact most of them are well cared for and only come out in the summer months, and you stand a pretty good chance of ending up with a stunning little car for well under two grand which will last you longer and give you much more fun than almost anything else in the same price range.

      Reply
  3. June 21, 2015
    jgp

    I have a 97 series 1 cabrio and I am very pleased with it. It handles well and I have had no problem with it at all. The auto roof works well and it is comfortable on long journeys. The 2l engine is smooth and pulls well. It is very nippy. The boot is bigger than you think. The styling is great and it still looks smart even though it is 17 years old. I would recommend one as a summer runaround.

    Reply
  4. April 20, 2016
    Donald Howarth

    I have owned a 306 Cab 2.0 automatic for 2 years in New Zealand. Bought at 167km and now showing 177km, been utterly reliable,all electrics work incl folding hood, uses no oil, does not drip fluids. Handles & rides well & Im fussy. had 4 x 205 GTi/CTis & 4x 405 Mi16s. I drive it hard, very happy with all round capability, even the air con works well in our hot summer. Paid NZ$ 2700.

    Reply
  5. May 18, 2016
    Tim dundas

    I have owned my 2.0 cab foralmost ten years now and it still puts a smile on my face ; great fun to drive has now done 148000 miles and uses no oil between changes mine is used every day summer and winter to take me to work it has a great heater to!
    It originally cost me £2200 best car I have owned so far.

    Reply

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