Surprisingly zippy – those are the two words that sum up the urban experience in our long-term 2017 Peugeot 308 Active hatchback.
I mean, really, we shouldn’t be so surprised given that it has a 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbo engine with 96kW of power and 230Nm of torque, and its kerb weight is just 1150 kilograms.
The thrusty little triple has a nice chortle to it under revs, and it builds speed more rapidly than most non-turbo cars in the segment. It’s handy when you’re trying to nip away from the lights or pick a gap when you’re merging in traffic, and the six-speed automatic is, mostly, really well behaved.
The little five-door Peugeot holds gears nicely at lower speeds, and while we noticed one or two confusingly harsh shifts at times, it was, on the whole, quite smooth in its operation. There are no paddle-shifters, but there's a sport mode if you want it to rev a little harder and hang on to gears a little longer – but that is sort of against the intent of the engine, which does its best work below 2500rpm.
What isn’t so smooth is the three-cylinder’s idle, as it can be a bit grumbly if you’re sitting on the brake pedal at traffic lights. That said, there’s engine stop-start that will kick in if its not too hot or too cold outside, and when it’s in operation it ceases and re-fires the engine without too much fuss.
Still, you can forgive the three-cylinder engine some of its foibles because it’s a really refined and sweet little mill with lots of character. There’s not much turbo lag, and while some people may be turned off by the rumbly nature of the engine under revs, I personally love it.
Another thing that everyone who has driven it has loved is the way it drives. With a softer suspension tune than most of its hatchback contemporaries, it deals with speed-humps and cracked city back streets exceptionally well.
If you hit a sharp-edged bump at lower speeds the body remains nicely controlled – it isn’t as tied down as, say, a Mazda 3, with a little bit of lateral movement due its soft dampers, but it is much cushier and more comfortable in day-to-day driving for that reason.
The steering is a highlight as well. I mentioned in my previous update about the small steering wheel offering a video-game-like experience, and while the streets of Sydney are hardly akin to San Andreas – wait, they area in some areas, but I don’t hang there, and it certainly wasn’t my plan to recreate GTA in a 308 – the little hatchback’s driving demeanour is excellent.
The steering is nicely weighted – not too heavy, but weighty enough to make it feel like you’re actually getting rewarded for your efforts. And the feel through the wheel is decent, too, meaning when you’re twirling that little tiller to park it in a tight spot, you’ve got a good idea of what’s happening at the front axle.
On the topic of parking – I know I’ve already made it clear the rear-view camera can be a bit of jerk, sometimes taking too long to load, and at other times just blanking out mid-manoeuvre – the Pug’s compact dimensions help out. It measures just 4253 millimetres long, 1804mm wide and 1457mm tall – considering a Mazda 3 hatch is 217mm longer, you might find that the little 308 can be slotted into tighter spaces than its rivals.
It feels nimble and comfortable around town, but we can't help but feel it wouldn't be the most frugal car around if you purely spend in your time in the city. The company claims combined fuel use is 5.2 litres per 100 kilometres, while it says that urban driving should see use of about 6.5L/100km. We saw 9.2L/100km on our urban-intensive drives...
Stay tuned to find out what it’s like on the open road in our next long-term instalment on the 2017 Peugeot 308 Active.