The new second-generation Peugeot 308 has been seven years in the making and the French car maker has big plans for the revamped small car, hoping it will re-establish the brand within the segment and be a disruptive force against the top-sellers.
The new Peugeot 308 Australian range will be released in two phases, and under the bonnet it’s an all turbocharged, six-speed, stop-start engine line-up - and the cost of entry in to the 2014 European Car of the Year is considerably lower than its predecessor.
The first release will be the 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine capable of producing 96kW and 230Nm, which is available in the Access base model hatch with a manual or automatic transmission (from $21,990 manual; $23,990 auto) - well below the previous entry-level model, the Style, which started at $27,490.
Features include cloth trim, 15-inch steel wheels, a space-saver spare, six airbags, halogen headlamps, LED daytime running lights, manual air-conditioning, CD player, radio controls behind the steering wheel, Bluetooth and USB and cruise control.
The next step up is the Active variant, which has the same engine and a standard auto, priced at $27,340. It adds 16-inch alloy wheels, 9.7-inch touchscreen, automatic lights and wipers, automatic dual-zone climate control, rear parking sensors, leather parking brake and steering wheel, seat back pockets, rear armrest with ski-port, steering wheel controls, hill start assist and satin chrome interior highlights.
There are two Allure hatch options in the first phase of the launch, both automatic with either a 1.2-litre petrol engine ($30,490) or a 2.0-litre BlueHDi four-cylinder turbo diesel with 110kW and 240Nm ($34,790). The Touring is available with this diesel auto drivetrain, priced at $37,490.
The Allure comes with 16 or 17-inch alloy wheels, satellite navigation, head up instrument cluster, full LED headlights, front parking sensors, programmable cruise control, electric parking brake, interior mood lighting, chrome grill bars, fog lamps. The Allure Touring scores aluminium roof rails, boot rails with movable anchors, "Magic Flat" seating system, a cargo blind and a reverse-view camera.
The Allure Premium has 18-inch alloy wheels, the Driver Assistance Pack, blind spot monitoring, park assist, panoramic glass roof, head up instrument display with a colour LED screen, music storage, an extra USB port, massage front seats, keyless entry, push-button start and Alcantara trim.
From March 2015 a 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol with 110kW and 240Nm arrives, which will be offered in the Allure hatch and also in the Touring bodystyle. Prices are still to be confirmed.
A second 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol with 151kW and 285Nm and a six-speed manual will be offered in the GT specification, as will a punchy 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel with 133kW and 400Nm and a six-speed auto with sports mode.
The GT gets 18-inch alloy wheels, dual chrome exhaust, GT badging, sports mode with engine acoustics, a lower chassis, red stitching highlights, paddle shifters, chrome trim on the door handles, alloy pedals and door sills and GT floor mats, it also gets the Alcantara trim.
Options include Nappa leather seats at $3100 in the Allure and $2500 in the Allure Premium and GT. Metallic paint will set you back $900, pearlescent $1700.
A round trip from Mallorca in Spain to St Tropez in France, then to Switzerland and winding up back in Sochaux, France, saw us spend days behind the wheel of the new car, and gave us the chance to get to know the new addition to the modern Peugeot family quite intimately.
The cars driven throughout the program were European-spec vehicles, and we spent most of our time in the ‘Feline’ which is almost identical to the local Allure Premium.
Compared to the previous generation, it's an all-new machine both inside and out. It shares its new front-end styling with the 208, 2008 and updated 508. Peugeot is aiming to head up-market, and is rolling out its new look with each new generation and model update. It’s certainly looking well placed to compete with the Volkswagen Golf and Mazda 3.
The exterior of the new Peugeot 308 speaks a completely different design language to the previous generation. The look is far more German than the quirky style the French are renowned for – something that may upset some French design purists but is likely to appeal to a far broader segment of the market.
In a class first, higher spec models come with full LED headlights, daytime running lights and taillights. The new headlight design – with 31 LEDs in each assembly – enforces the new signature look for Peugeot. Lower spec cars have to settle for halogen-powered lighting. The rear profile line is smoother, ditching the previous bubble butt, and in another claimed first in the hatchback segment, the tailgate is made from composite thermoplastic, helping to reduce the overall weight of the new-gen t0 1090 kilograms in its lightest, most basic guise.
The 308 is built on the EMP2 (Efficient Modular Platform 2), which accounts for 70kg of the 140kg weight reduction. It has a flatter underside to help enhance aerodynamics too. The future will see 50 per cent of Peugeot vehicles being underpinned by EMP2. It’s capable of providing a foundation for hatch, touring, coupe, cabriolet, MPV and SUV.
The 308 five-door hatch is smaller 4250mm long (-20mm), 1460mm high (-50mm) and the wheelbase is 2620mm (+12mm) than the bloated car it replaces, while the Touring wagon is longer, measuring 4580mm in length (+80mm), 1470mm high (-80mm) and features a 2730mm wheelbase (+20mm).
Despite being more diminutive, the boot space in the hatch is now five litres greater at 435L to the security cover, with the rear seats folded and stacked to the roof that grows to a whopping 1274L. The new shape provides a low loading lip with a wide, more rectangular opening very handy for road trips when luggage is being lugged in and out.
The Touring boot space is 625L up to 1740L with the new ‘Magic Flat’ fold down rear seating system, offering more space and ease of access.
Then interior has also undergone a complete overhaul. Peugeot’s i-Cockpit features a compact steering wheel, head up instrument panel, 9.7-inch media screen, and elevated central console.
Interior quality has been enhanced with soft-touch materials on the dash and doors, door mechanisms have been improved so the sound made by closing the door is more "reassuring" and acoustics treatment has been improved.
The head up instrument panel has split opinion in the CarAdvice office; personally it works for me.
As is the case in the 208 and 2008, it sits above the small steering wheel, meaning you no longer have to look at the instruments through the gap in the steering wheel. The aim is to keep your line-of-sight at a higher angle, closer to the road and what’s ahead.
You can bring up a digital speedo in the centre of the instrument cluster and the speed limit is shown too. The tachometer needle revs the opposite direction to the speedometer – just like an Aston Martin.
Peugeot claims the surfaces have been treated with anti-static agents to reduce dust clinging to the dash and centre console, but we managed to collect a noticeable dusting while driving through Mallorca.
All models except the entry-level Access get a touchscreen system. Peugeot claim it’s a 9.7-inch screen, which is slightly misleading, as it’s a 7.0-inch unit flanked by a surrounding border with touch buttons.
The centre console is minimalist because a lot of the functions including driving aids, air conditioning, audio and phone are all accessible through the screen, which is easy to use with large simple icons – its almost idiot proof.
Higher specifications also get satellite navigation with speed camera alert, which, in France, directed us through a few random detours for seemingly no particular reason on a number of occasions. Let's hope the Australian maps system is better.
The dash is covered in soft-touch materials with chrome accents, and while it is quite simple, it still has a premium feel about it. The base model, however, looks flat and unfinished, missing out on the satin chrome touches and the media screen.
While the 208 and 2008 lose their CD slot, one remains in the 308, along with USB or Bluetooth and a 12-volt power outlet in the centre console. European versions score a 220V power point in the back where the rear-passenger air-vents should be.
Disappointingly, Australian 308s miss out on the power outlet, and also on the rear air-vents. The lack of touchscreen in the base model also drags the interior back a decade compared to the other trim-levels.
There’s only one cup-holder in the front, hidden in a slide compartment between the driver and front passenger seats. The genius in this is that the circular section folds up and the cavity can be used to store phones, wallets and the like.
Otherwise, storage options are abundant with deep, wide door pockets front and rear, map pockets and two cup holders and a ski-port in the back.
The seats are comfortable, well bolstered and shaped. The range starts with a cloth trim, and the Allure Premium and GT get alcantara/PVC seats. Higher spec models have hands-free entry and push-button start, though a reverse-view camera is only available on the Allure Premium variant. That spec also gets blind-spot monitoring, radar cruise control, emergency collision warning and emergency collision braking, but the systems only work when cruise control is active.
On the road, the 308's ride and handling has been improved through the reduced weight of the new vehicle, as well as the new front and rear axles.
The steering is direct and firm while the ride is comfortable and quiet. Our jaunt saw us encounter cobbled and pothole-filled urban streets, wide-open freeways, windy mountain roads and bumpy rural tracks, and the 308 left us impressed with its bump absorption, while road and engine noise was kept to a minimum.
The Touring feels a bit firmer over bumps, but it’s been calibrated to bear more weight so that was to be expected.
The new generation gearbox supplied by Aisin offers faster gear changes and improved economy. The gear changes in the petrol automatic versions we drove were smooth and grippy down low in the rev-range.
Unlike the updated 508 we drove recently it was pleasing to discover the 308 doesn't suffer low-rev turbo lag. Cruising up and down hills, slowing down for cyclists then speeding up to overtake, the engines we tested remained composed and able to handle urban, country, the open road and hills with ample power.
As is the case with Peugeot's other passenger cars, a five-year capped price servicing program will be offered. Intervals are every 12 months or 15,000km, and the costs ranges between $514 and $686 per annum.
The all-new Peugeot has been redesigned, re-engineered and rebuilt from the ground up – minus a few nuts and bolts (literally). It looks sophisticated and more mainstream, the range of features available is impressive and it drives beautifully. Based on our European sojourn, the new-generation 308 deserves to put up a fight for a larger share of the small car segment.
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