So, a little while ago here I posted a very glowing review of my 2008 Ford Territory TX – my first car. In March this year, though, a family discussion of my needs and the car’s age and resale etc came up, and the decision was made to switch from the trusty but aging Tezza.
Ideally, the next car would be a direct replacement – a dog-mobile/tow car with preferably a diesel engine and lower mileage. A Ford Mondeo was given definite consideration, but the Peugeot 308 ended up being the winner without even having been previously considered. I simply walked into Australian Motors, asked what they had – they showed me the 308, and it was love at first drive. No towbar or dogs in this one, though!
In short, I’d say the 308 is understated but handsome. It’s the Active grade, which means it scores LEDs front and back and 16-inch alloys, and it’s finished in beautiful Noir Perla Nera metallic black. Why they had to call the colour 'Black Pearl Black' in two languages beats me, though. But, it’s got a nice low stance and a flowing, almost feline look to it. I like it a lot.
The interior is also beautiful; its design is super-clean and shapely (more on that later), and the chunky steering wheel and symmetrical gauges are a sporty but attractive combination. A classy, very French design.
First up, there isn’t as much space as the Territory had. Duh. But, for a hatchback, it’s really not bad at all. I’m 6ft 3in, and my driving position is perfectly comfortable. Sitting behind my seat in the back, the leg room is a little tight for someone my size, but fine for short trips. I’ve taken five people in it before, though, no worries. The boot, however, benefits from the smallish rear seats with 435 litres of boot space – impressive, for example, when we compare it to a BMW 1 Series that has similar rear seat room but 360 litres of boot space.
The interior quality is outstanding – for a sub-$30,000 car, the interior truly feels a big step above its price point. The tasteful application of piano black and silk metal trim combined with the suave design, good equipment levels and quality construction belie its price point. Add in leather seats, and you wouldn’t be disappointed with the quality if it had a BMW badge on it.
The seats, particularly in the front, are great. Good bolstering, nice centres and quality padding and trim. Plenty of adjustment, including lumbar support and a cool design. The dash has a very attractive, clean design, but there are a couple of situations where more shortcut buttons would be nice. Most essential functions are accessible from the steering wheel, though.
Equipment levels are impressive – dual-zone climate control, touchscreen, Bluetooth with audio streaming, cruise control, speed limiter, parking sensors, leather wheel/shift lever/handbrake and a quality stereo make the interior a very comfortable place to be.
This is, by far, the aspect of the 308 that surprised me most when driving it for the first time. I was told it was a 1.2-litre engine, and my stomach dropped. I thought that it could have been such a good car, until it would inevitably struggle with the uphill South Eastern Freeway in Adelaide. Boy, was I wrong. It’s got 96kW@5500rpm but, even better, 230Nm@1750rpm. The low-down torque is outstanding and it gets up the freeway in sixth with no trouble.
Acceleration is spirited, and not just for a 1.2-litre. It’s got easily enough merging and overtaking power from its 1.2-litre turbo triple, and gets going with surprising verve. Honestly, I expected it to do 0–100km/h in something like 11 seconds, but even now it feels quicker yet than its 8.8-second claim. And yet, I average 7.1L/100km driving between the Hills and city traffic – half of what the Territory used.
Ride and Handling
These two elements are also outstanding. The 308’s kerb weight of 1150kg is noticeable, to say the least. The fact that it feels almost rear-wheel drive through corners is testament to its lightness and balance, and its direct steering, sharp brakes and almost telepathic gearbox (I almost never put it in manual mode – ‘S’ mode, which I presume stands for ‘Silly’ mode, is absolutely brilliant) make it a properly fun car.
There’s a surprising amount of outright grip, and it’s particularly confidence-inspiring in tight corners. The tighter you turn, the more grip you discover. It’s, frankly, an addictive drive.
The ride is good too. For style purposes, 18-inch wheels would definitely look cool, but that would sacrifice the supple ride and tight turning circle you gain from its handsome 16-inch alloys. The ride is not quite as soft as the Territory’s, but it is still absolutely fine, even in the Adelaide Hills where it remains compliant and settled. The rear suspension doesn’t love really big mid-corner bumps if you hit them hard, but it’s always a controlled and composed car, and a surprisingly talented cruiser.
The noise and vibration are also genuinely impressive. The fact that Peugeot has made this car 1150kg while its competitors regularly break the 1400kg barrier almost confuses me – because I can’t tell what’s missing that makes the 308 so light. And this includes not skimping on insulation. It’s a quiet car, particularly with its Goodyear Efficientgrip tyres helping keep things smooth, and is a talented road-tripper – and not just for a small car.
My recommendation is this, then: if you’re buying a car for your family, you will probably like the new i30 or the Mk7.5 Golf for their bigger back seats, and other family-friendly aspects like rear A/C vents. But, if you’re buying a small car for yourself, and the driving experience, this car is an absolute winner and a fantastic driver’s car.
The value equation (for mine at least) was pretty fantastic too – under $17,000 for a demo 308, with all its kit and new car warranty, I would say was a pretty awesome deal. I’m absolutely stoked with my 308, and until I (probably) get an XR6 Turbo in a few years, I’m very happy to call the little black Pug mine. All that remains now is to get a big sticker of Jeremy Clarkson yelling “Maniac!” on the back.