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Driven: Peugeot 308 Feline. Image by Peugeot.

Driven: Peugeot 308 Feline
Peugeot's new kid in town is a remarkable return to form for the French firm, and a genuine contender for class honours.

   



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Overall rating: 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Good points: lovely to behold both inside and out, general interior quality, amazing spec for price, refined drivetrain.
Not so good: no auto start-stop, forthcoming 150 BlueHDi model might be better bet, very slight dynamic fuzziness.

Key Facts

Model tested: Peugeot 308 Feline 156 THP
Pricing: 21,345 standard; 22,020 as tested (675 optional Pearl White paint)
Engine: 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Body style: five-door hatch
Rivals: Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra, Volkswagen Golf
CO2 emissions: 134g/km
Combined economy: 48.7mpg
Top speed: 132mph
0-62mph: 8.4 seconds
Power: 156hp at 6,000rpm
Torque: 240Nm from 1,400- to 5,000rpm

Our view:

The Peugeot 308 has just won the European Car of the Year award. This in itself is no guarantee of brilliance, as some astonishing clunkers have taken the title in ages past - we present as evidence the Fiat Tipo, Ford Granada MkIII (no, really) and the Renault 9. However, this time we think it's not a bad shout at all. The new 308 succeeds the Volkswagen Golf MkVII as European Car of the Year and it's that very rival the Peugeot has to beat in the hotly-contested C-segment.

So it's perhaps no surprise the French company has made the 308 somewhat Germanic in appearance, a bit like sister firm Citroen did with the C5 a few years back. But this is not a bad thing. While some may lament the loss of 'individuality' of the 308, I would counter by saying that until recently (and with the worthy exception of the RCZ), every Peugeot since the -06 cars went out of production has been hideous, and none more so than the amorphous blobs swathed in masses of black plastic that were the 307 and old 308.

The new car, however, is as classically handsome as anything yet seen in this segment and from all angles it's a real winner. The 308 is crisply styled and a pleasure to look at - from its interesting swage lines in the door, through the light clusters front and rear that are just the right size, to the pertness of the car in profile, despite the fact it is physically quite big. That it is also visually far more interesting than Volkswagen's offering is a welcome bonus.

The excellence continues as you sit inside. Our car was a top-spec Feline and was fitted with plush sports seats, satellite navigation, keyless entry and go, adaptive cruise control, a properly panoramic glass roof (Audi and the recently tested A3 Saloon: please take note of this), dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth, two USB slots, a reversing camera with parking sensors all round, auto lights, auto wipers, a superb 9.7-inch touchscreen display to control everything and tasteful 18-inch alloys. And do you know how much of said specification was made up of cost-adding optional extras? Nothing. Not one thing. The car retails at 21,345 and the only addition was 675 on the pearlescent white paint, bringing us to 20 over 22,000. Not only that, but the quality of all materials inside was of the highest order; no cheapo plastics to be seen. As a comparison, go on Volkswagen's car configurator and for a 140hp petrol five-door Golf GT with the same high level of kit, you're looking at almost 29,000.

There are some unusual gaps in the armoury, such as no heated seats and no auto start-stop, plus the touchscreen is a little clunky at times - just one or two key function shortcut buttons on the otherwise spartan dash wouldn't go amiss - but overall this is a marvellous first blow to the Golf's solar plexus. However, it would all count for naught if the Pug was a sloppy mess in the dynamics status. But it's not. You'll first of all notice the tiny steering wheel - insert your own 'go-kart' or 'Caterham' simile here - and the clever heads-up instrument cluster, with a rev counter sweeping right-to-left, la Aston Martin. Yet the fundamental driving position and the placement of pedals, gear lever and wheel are all spot on.

The 156hp THP engine is a lovely, smooth unit and bestows brisk if not outstanding performance on the 308, with average fuel economy over 400 miles of mixed driving hovering around the 40mpg mark. Wonderfully, the ride cushions you from practically every surface imperfection, while wind noise and tyre roar are noticeable only by their absence. The steering has a decent amount of heft to it, aided by that tiny wheel, and the manual gearbox is slick. The brakes are a bit odd, with pedal feel curiously spongy, but in the end you work around that and they prove capable enough.

Yet its velvet ride and ultra-luxurious air of refinement doesn't mean it can't cut it on your favourite back road. There's a bit more understeer at the limit than you might like, and we're not about to bring up the words 'oversteer', 'lift-off' and '205 GTi', but the 308 is a solid enough handler. The engine never gets so excitingly vocal to reward wringing it out to the 6,000rpm redline, but it does have a pleasingly powerful mid-range that makes the Peugeot fun to hustle along. There's enough talent on display here to make us start salivating at the thought of a hot 308 R.

Personally, I wasn't expecting quite so much of the new 308, but it's a brilliant execution of the small hatch formula and it has more than enough character to compete in this class - more than enough, in fact, to make it a serious challenger to that default choice in this segment, the Golf. That's supremely high praise, we feel, and more than enough reason for you to try one out for yourself, because the Volkswagen offers no appreciable edge on the French newcomer, aside from badge snobbery and resale value. Well done, Peugeot - the 308 is truly superb.

Alternatives:

Ford Focus: good value and dynamics up to snuff. Forthcoming facelift will do it a world of good. But even so, still can't match Peugeot's excellent specification for the price.

Vauxhall Astra: powerful engines and smart looks, yet less resolved and ageing now. The 308 has its measure in every respect, except for a beefier diesel engine... which is already on the way.

Volkswagen Golf: bread and butter motoring, in every sense of the phrase. Surely only residual values could tempt buyers away from the Peugeot, because it offers nothing that the 308 doesn't do as well or better.


Matt Robinson - 25 Mar 2014



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2014 Peugeot 308. Image by Matt Robinson.2014 Peugeot 308. Image by Matt Robinson.2014 Peugeot 308. Image by Matt Robinson.2014 Peugeot 308. Image by Matt Robinson.2014 Peugeot 308. Image by Matt Robinson.

2014 Peugeot 308. Image by Matt Robinson.2014 Peugeot 308. Image by Matt Robinson.2014 Peugeot 308. Image by Matt Robinson.2014 Peugeot 308. Image by Matt Robinson.2014 Peugeot 308. Image by Matt Robinson.



2014 Peugeot 308. Image by Matt Robinson.
 

2014 Peugeot 308. Image by Matt Robinson.
 

2014 Peugeot 308. Image by Matt Robinson.
 

2014 Peugeot 308. Image by Matt Robinson.
 

2014 Peugeot 308. Image by Matt Robinson.
 

2014 Peugeot 308. Image by Matt Robinson.
 

2014 Peugeot 308. Image by Peugeot.
 

2014 Peugeot 308. Image by Matt Robinson.
 

2014 Peugeot 308. Image by Peugeot.
 






 

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