A good view of the distinctive pre-S dash..jpg

WHAT'S IT LIKE?

French, that's what it's like!

 

Seriously, there are some aspects of car mechanics and design that only the French could conceive of, and the 304 has plenty of them! Quite why a fan belt has to go around so many corners I don't know, and the high pitched horn is hilarious. I especially like the pop up air vent grilles, which do a good impression of a toast rack.

Being French though, it has 'the look'. French and Italian classic cars have a certain something others don't; the 304 cab is a pretty thing.

PERFORMANCE AND COMFORT

If you're looking for a performance supercar this is not it, but, it is pleasant to drive. It's nimble enough to give you some fun through the bends - with just enough roll to remind you that you're in a French car - and 75bhp (when new!) in a light car means it is nippy enough. On the motorway it will just about take you to the speed limit, but well before 70mph it's crying out for a 5th gear that it doesn't have.

 

The big bucket seats are great, as are the 'S' version oversized headrests, and a low seating position makes it feel like you're going quicker than you actually are. It's comfortable enough for long journeys - though it would be useful if the driver's seat could go back just an inch or two more for comfort.

 

An aftermarket small and chunky sports steering wheel looks great on these cars and makes the pug feel sportier, but the original large skinny steering wheel gives it authenticity. In any case, the long travel gear shift can be a bit sloppy and notchy, so there's a limit to the sportiness.

Driven hard it can be fun, but it's more a car for a relaxed motor through quiet B roads when you're not in a hurry to be anywhere. Hood down + sun out = soul food :)

BUILD AND SPARE PARTS

The coach work is typically French - light and skinny. You know how some cars - like a classic VW Golf  for example - feel really heavy and solid? Well the 304 doesn't. The lightweight panels flex very easily, so don't be tempted to stand on the bonnet of one. There is little of substance to protect you from harm in a high speed accident - so have fun but drive carefully!

 

The boot is really huge for such a small car - plenty of room for a picnic hamper or a breakdown rescue kit, depending on how confident you are.

Pretty much everything you'll ever want to work on is reasonably easy to access, so the car is quite well suited to weekend tinkering. For example, changing a light bulb by unscrewing screws on the outside of the light cover is a joy lost to the modern day smart car owner! Just be careful when disassembling anything, as replacing parts you break might be a challenge.

 

Finding spare parts, in the UK at least, can be a tricky business. I had a donor car that I turned to from time to time, and I'd grab things from ebay well before I thought I needed them. If you do search parts on ebay UK, you can ignore 95% of results - the vast majority of parts, especially those listed as new, will be of no use to you. Search for used parts on ebay.fr to improve your chances.

 

There are a couple of excellent french forums where enthusiastic 304 owners gather, and as a UK owner they'll probably be all over you if you surface there. But be warned - try using google translate to describe the bit of carburettor you're looking for and see how far you get! There's also an active facebook group - see the links page for details.

SUMMING UP

Being so rare, the Peugeot 304 Cabriolet tends to spark a conversation wherever it goes. Even drab petrol station attendants take an interest and raise a smile.

 

And that, to me, is what this car is all about - a smile. It is not bling, it is not pretentious, it's not compensation for the less than well endowed. It's just a funny little French car with good looks and a decent drive that's unusual enough to raise a smile.

 

It's left field and fun.