Peugeot 308 review, price and specs | evo

29 Jan 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Peugeot 308 review, price and specs | evo
Peugeot 308

Peugeot 308

review, price and specs

The new Peugeot 308 hatchback rivals the VW Golf on quality and the Ford Focus with its handling prowess

September 2013

What is it?

The new, mk2 Peugeot 308, the French company’s new rival for the Ford Focus, VW Golf. Vauxhall Astra, Audi A3 et al. Despite keeping the name of its curvaceously ugly predecessor, the new 308 is part of Peugeot’s determined pitch upmarket which is intended to distance it from Citroen and make more money (which PSA badly needs to generate). The name stays because it’s familiar, rivals tend to keep the same name through generations, and the 309 has already been used.

Also, eight is a lucky number in China which is becoming a big market for PSA.

Underpinning the new 308 is the EMP2 platform, a modular one so far seen only in the longer and taller Citroen C4 Picasso. It enables the new 308 to be slightly shorter, wider and lower than the last one, with a longer wheelbase and reduced overhangs. This helps give the new car well-resolved proportions, helped by a rising waistline, a broad, squat tail and a side-window outline whose vertical rear edge is redolent of that Peugeot style talisman yes the three-door 205.

Technical highlights?

The new 308 is around 140kg lighter than before. That lightness comes partly from the use of aluminium for bonnet, front wings and front suspension arms, a composite tailgate, and a composite boot floor whose moulded-in steel tags are welded into the main structure during the latter’s construction. As well as the familiar Peugeot engine range, now subtly massaged by replacing the 118bhp non-turbo 1.6 with a 123bhp, high-torque turbo version, turbocharged 1.2-litre three-cylinders with 108 or 128bhp will follow.

Other techy stuff includes LED headlights on top models and a large centre touchscreen whose menu-driven functions, with seven access touch-buttons, include all the air-con, satnav, music and other multimedia. Unusually, the optional six-speed automatic gearbox is an Aisin torque-converter unit, not a double-clutch one. Peugeot promises comparable shift quality, alertness and efficiency.

What’s it like to drive?

First thing you notice is the very small, low-set steering wheel with the instruments viewed above, rather than through, it. This is the idea seen first in the Peugeot 208, but it works better here with the dials properly visible from a conventionally comfortable driving position.

Then you take in what is a nicely finished cabin with a stark, smooth, minimalist dashboard, sumptuous seats (a massage function is optional, unusual on a car this small) and that striking, aluminium-look-edged central display panel. There’s an electric parking brake too, though that’s par for the course on mainstream cars nowadays. Intriguingly, the rev-counter needle rotates anti-clockwise, like an Aston Martin’s.

Peugeot 308

We tried four engines, of which two will interest evo readers. First off, the familiar 154bhp petrol turbo, which feels pretty keen here thanks to the 1165kg kerb weight, and is also very smooth and quiet. But the 148bhp, 2.0-litre turbodiesel makes a strong case for itself, too, with terrific low-end punch and a deliciously easy squirtability.

Best of all, though, is that despite the seemingly simple front strut/rear torsion beam suspension, the 308 is brilliant in the bends on this first impression.

Its steering is quick, accurate and credibly weighted, and despite the tiny steering wheel it has none of the nervous, over-light feel that troubles some 208s. Yet better, the front end bites tenaciously, understeer is resisted, the tail can be teased out with a throttle lift, and bends are strung together with a lightness of touch and a nonchalance of poise not found in a mid-size Peugeot hatch since the 306.

As in the better past Peugeots, there’s a mix here of suppleness over bumps and crispness in bends that’s very beguiling and which we didn’t quite expect. The ride is also very good indeed, as is road noise isolation. It all bodes well for the 308R, should Peugeot decide to put the Ford Focus ST rivalling hot hatch into production.

How does it compare?

Ride and handling-wise it this first impression suggests the 308 is as good as the best in class, possibly better. Quality-wise, it’s an impressive effort and the equal of a Golf, if slightly sub-Audi for perceived richness thanks to leather-look grains on some hard plastics which don’t match those on the soft slush-mouldings of dashboard and door cappings. In summary, it’s very competitive and gives an excellent reason not to assume that desirable hatchbacks are most likely to come from Germany.

Anything else I need to know?

UK sales start next January, an automatic emergency braking system is optional, the most frugal 1.6 diesel emits just 82g/km CO2, and prices will start around £14,700 for the cheapest 308 (a 1.2-litre, three-cylinder, 81bhp Access). An SW estate arrives later, but we’re unsure on whether the 308 CC will be replaced.

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