By Wayne Gorrett
The new grown-up, trimmed-down Peugeot 308 is a worthy family car that’s both inexpensive to buy and to live with.
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UPDATE @ 03.03.2014:
On the eve of Press Day for the 84th Geneva Motor Show, the new PEUGEOT 308 has been crowned with the prestigious title of 2014 ‘Car of the Year’, awarded by a jury of journalists representing 22 European countries. Thirty new models from North American, Korean, European and Japanese manufacturers, on sale in Europe during 2013, were eligible for the 2014 ‘Car of the Year’ crown.
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This is the new slimline, Peugeot 308 ‘lite’. In case you’re confused, it most definitely is not a facelift of the current model, but an all-new 308 from the rubber up and is the first car in the marque’s history to retain the nomenclature of the model it replaces.
But there’s more to this new 308 than meets the eye – much more. It’s been in development for the past five years under the watchful and talented eye of France-based Brit, Ben Hindsley – Peugeot’s lead attribute engineer for the new 308.
An innovative blend of composites, high-tensile steel, aluminium and 12 metres of unique laser-welding on the new Efficient Modular Platform 2 (EMP2) chassis – itself the catalyst for 116 new patents – underpin a raft of new technologies and class-leading features. The new platform was first aired under the new Citroen C4 Picasso in the late summer.
The car is 140kg lighter or to put that into context, two grownups just climbed out of your old 308. Half of that weight loss is directly attributable to the new chassis. This of course triggers significant knock-on gains in economy, efficiency, agility and performance.
Is it a looker?
While its understated elegance may take a while to settle on the eyes, I think it looks the business. From a visual and aesthetic perspective, it is far removed from its good but librarian predecessor (2007-2013) it replaces. Sleek and uncluttered, the ‘horizontal’ design features a striking shoulder line running from the front to rear light clusters. The car is shorter, lower and wider than the car it replaces, with reduced overhangs and a ‘wheel in each corner’ profile completing the overall appearance.
What about engines and gearboxes?
It’s a little confusing here, but bear with…at launch, the engine line-up comprises:
• 1.2-litre VTi 60kW 82bhp 114 g/km CO2 – 5-speed manual gearbox
• 1.6-litre THP 92kW 125bhp 129g/km CO2 – 6-speed manual
• 1.6-litre THP 115kW 155bhp 129g/km CO2 – 6-speed manual
• 1.6-litre HDi 68kW 92bhp 93g/km CO2 – 5-speed manual
• 1.6-litre e-HDi 85kW 115bhp 95g/km CO2 – 6-speed manual
From spring 2014, new engines and drivetrains will be offered, including the innovative 3-cylinder 1.2-litre e-THP turbo petrol engine, new BlueHDi diesels and new generation Aisin 6-speed automatic gearboxes:
• 1.2-litre e-THP 110bhp 104g/km CO2 – 5sp manual gearbox – Euro6
• 1.2-litre e-THP 130bhp 104g/km CO2 – 6sp manual gearbox – Euro6
• 1.2-litre e-THP 130bhp 109g/km CO2 – 6sp automatic gearbox – Euro6
• 1.6-litre BlueHDi 120bhp 82g/km CO2 – 6sp manual gearbox – Euro6
• 2.0-litre BlueHDi 150bhp 103g/km CO2 – 6sp manual gearbox – Euro6
• 2.0-litre BlueHDi 150bhp 110g/km CO2 – 6sp automatic gearbox – Euro6
My pick of the engine line-up – at least until the Spring – would be the 1.6-litre 115bhp HDi diesel linked to the 5-speed manual gearbox. Thereafter, the 1.6 BlueHDi 120bhp should be the favourite. All models are available to order now.
What’s it like inside?
Peugeot promised class-leading interior quality and much improved ride comfort and handling for the new 308 – and the company has not disappointed. Inside, the new Peugeot 308 is a very pleasant place in which to pilot some considerable miles. The i-Cockpit – the raison d’être for the aviation-themed launch – is fuss- and clutter-free and very well laid out.
The small steering wheel and raised instrument binnacle from the 208 and 2008 are repeated here, but better attention to detail has been given which should negate the few previous negative reports of the innovative layout. Frankly, I’ve liked it from the beginning, especially the smaller steering wheel, which offers a great tactile and dynamic drive.
Apart from one critical area, the quality of materials is considerably improved over its predecessor. The premeditated, clutter-free dashboard and centre console are a delight but the small section of hard, scratchy plastic under the LCD screen lets down the overall perception. However, once again, basic controls such as heating and ventilation are buried in the 9.7in touch screen, requiring the driver to look away from the road.
While there is a touch ‘shortcut’ to them at the top of the screen when in other modes, say the satnav or audio, but it still requires a studied look and well-directed touch to access them. I mourn the demise of simple and safer intuitive dials for such basic controls.
How does it drive?
Seating is comfortable and the ride quality and cornering dynamics are really good, with the electric steering offering a precise and balanced feel. The new EMP2 chassis under the 308 delivers a mix of cruising comfort and sharp handling. There’s decent turn-in and the chassis feels agile in corners.
The suspension on the new 308 is a conventional front strut and rear torsion beam setup but with the pivot points of the rear trailing arms raised. This permits the rear wheels to move back when encountering a ridge and significantly softens the impact. The result provides a comfortable, long-legged, easy-going stride.
Around town it’s pretty nifty too and the delightfully kart-like steering wheel makes short work of urban conditions.
From a sporty-drive perspective, Peugeot’s manual gearbox was a little disappointing and felt a tad floppy and imprecise at times. Keen drivers might prefer to wait for next year’s 308 GTI, powered by the 270bhp 1.6-litre turbo-charged petrol engine from the new Peugeot RCZ-R, which I’ll drive at the end of January.
Grades and Specifications
Four grades make up the new Peugeot 308 range – Access, Active, Allure and Feline. Entry-level kit on the Access is generous and prices start from £14,495.
Access: LED rear lamps, LED daytime running lights, air conditioning, electric front windows, remote controlled central locking, cruise control with speed limiter, electrically operated and heated door mirrors, DAB radio with USB, Bluetooth.
Active adds: Front fog lights, 16″ alloy wheels, leather steering wheel & gearstick, driver lumber support, dual zone automatic air conditioning, electric handbrake, rear parking sensors, 9.7” multifunction colour touchscreen, satellite navigation.
Allure adds: 17″ alloy wheels, LED headlights, electric folding door mirrors, reversing camera, front parking sensors.
Feline adds: 18″ ‘alloy wheels, panoramic glass roof, half alcantara trimmed sports seats, passenger lumber support, Peugeot Open & Go keyless entry system.
So, what’s hot?
• The smooth, fluid design of the new 308 is attractive. The shoulder line running the length of the car from front to rear light clusters is a style highlight.
• The significant shedding of 140kg in static weight is welcomingly noticeable in the drive quality.
• The new Peugeot 308 is comfortable, roomy and spacious and Peugeot’s investment in NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) reduction is particularly evident, resulting in a quiet and refined ride, throughout the power band, noticeably more so on the diesel.
• Prices start from £14,495 for the 1.2 VTi 82bhp 5-speed manual in Access trim.
• The interior materials are of better quality than its predecessor.
• The overall ride and drive quality is very good. Cornering dynamics are well improved.
• The recommended 1.6 HDi 115bhp diesel in 5-speed manual guise offers good real-world fuel economy (claimed 74.3mpg, expect low 60’s). With CO2 emissions at 99g/km, it means zero VED tax at least for the time-being, until the Government or Boris move the goal posts due to reduced revenues.
• Not a lot to be honest. The use of inferior scratchy plastic around the centre console CD player, directly under the screen is tangibly tacky.
• Lack of basic intuitive controls – technology for technology’s sake, with its inherent ‘eyes-off-the-road’ safety concerns.
• Some may find the wind noise around the wing mirrors and B-pillar intrusive at cruising speeds.
The new grown-up, trimmed-down Peugeot 308 is a worthy family car that’s inexpensive to buy and live with. Low emissions, efficient economical engines all wrapped up in a neat, stylish package.
Apart from one or two niggles which shouldn’t scupper a deal, what’s not to like?