Peugeot can lay claim with some justification to inventing the folding metal roof coupe cabriolet with the ‘Eclipse’ system first seen on its 301 in 1934.


A number of Eclipse models followed including the 401, 402 and 601.


In 2000, with the launch of the B-segment hatchback-based 206CC, the name became ‘coupe cabriolet’ and Peugeot, first in with a budget-priced model, after Mercedes’ SLK, soon dominated this new market segment.


Last year one in four CCs sold in Europe had a lion on its grille as Peugeot sold 49,800 and its 207CC, the best-seller, took a 20% market share.


Now comes the new (C segment) 308 CC on sale here in the UK from 1 June, replacing the 307. Worldwide sales are expected to reach around 35,000 in 2010, the model’s first full year.


In the UK the outgoing 307CC peaked at 6,875 sales in its first full year, 2004, and still managed a healthy 2,830 last year.


The UK media launch this week was well ahead of the on-sale date but dictated by supply constraints. With just 160 being built a day in France, the availability of a full range of right-hand drive models was restricted.


But 100 RHD customers will get their hands on the car a little earlier if they choose the GT100, a limited edition launch model priced at GBP23,595 and available in May in either black or white with a numbered build sequence plaque.


The 308 CC retains its predecessor’s two-piece folding roof rather than the three-piece unit that some manufacturers (eg BMW) have opted for. Peugeot argues that this simpler approach occupies less boot space.


The 308CC adds a new feature first seen on Mercedes’ second generation SLK: the Airwave neck heating system which blows warm air from seatback vents around the front occupants’ necks and shoulders.


Peugeot’s claim is that this is the first time such a system has been used in a four-seat coupe cabriolet; the Merc has just two chairs.


A definite first is the nine-litre head airbag for the front seats. This deploys from the headrest and makes the 308 CC the only coupe cabriolet to have all lateral protection systems incorporated into the seat, including head, chest and pelvis restraints.


Most UK buyers of the outgoing 307CC chose the mid-range SE version and Peugeot GB expects that trend to continue with the 308CC, estimating that 60% of customers will buy SEs and that 55% of all customers will be female.


Engine options include 120hp 1.6 petrol, 110hp 1.6 turbodiesel and 150 bhp (140 bhp with automatic transmission) petrol engines. A top GT version has the 150 bhp petrol or 140 bhp diesel units. Automatic is also optional with the 140hp diesel engine and SE trim.