Not your usual hatch

Text and Photos by Chris Van Hoven

As a European brand that doesn’t quite cater to the high-end market like BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, or Audi do, Peugeot has few direct competitors besides Volkswagen locally. It’s a position that presents opportunities and challenges in equal measure as they can target a specific niche group of buyers looking for high-quality cars with a discernible premium feel, while having to maintain enough perceived value to woo customers away from Japanese brands. As Peugeot’s entry to the C-segment compact car category, the 308 has a lot riding on its shoulders. Does it deliver? We delve into the details to find out.

 

Euro styling

The Peugeot 308 we have today is the base model 1.6-liter Allure Hatchback. It’s a well-proportioned compact that successfully merges subtle, understated elegance with a dash of athleticism. Distinctive touches like the row of LED daytime running lights up front and the signature “claw” LED lights at the rear provide the 308’s only style standouts, with the overall aesthetic remaining handsomely subdued. Our test unit benefitted from handsome 17 inch alloy wheels, though stock units typically ship with 16 inch alloys.

 

Interesting inside

The 308’s interior, while still retaining a minimalist design language, is the most interesting aspect of the car. Peugeot’s insistence to fix what isn’t broken results in changes that take some warming up to. While the overall styling of Peugeot’s “i-Cockpit” cabin is cohesive and intuitive, certain details, such as the reverse tachometer with a needle that climbs counter-clockwise, and the absolute lack of buttons or switches save for a single solitary volume knob, beg the question, “was this really necessary?”

The large 9.7-inch touchscreen that dominates the center dash does an admirable job of juggling all the car’s functions, which includes the audio system (powering six-speaker Arkamys), communications, and air-conditioning. Necessary or not, the lack of buttons, knobs, or switches combined with the lever-less electronic parking brake, leaves you with one of the cleanest cabins offered today, which some will greatly appreciate.

Similarly unique is the 308’s small-diameter steering wheel, which allows the driver to view the instrument cluster over the steering wheel instead of through it. The steering wheel’s smaller diameter also reduces the effort needed to turn, while allowing you to provide steering input at a faster rate. Overall, Peugeot succeeds in making the driver and passenger feel that they’re in a premium car, as the quality of the plastics used throughout the cabin are excellent, and the chrome highlights are tastefully done.

The 308’s front seats feature height adjustment for both driver and passenger, with manual lumbar adjustment available for the driver’s seat. The seats are a mixture of fabric and leather that still feel upscale despite being base-model kit. Ergonomics and accommodations up front are impressive, with snug seats and lots of room for the driver and passenger.

The rear tells a different story however, as the seats may be uncomfortable for taller passengers. However, the inches that the 308 sacrificed for rear legroom were donated to the luggage space, offering 385 liters of cargo space with the rear seats up — one of the most spacious in its class. The rear seats can be folded down for added space and versatility.

 

Rewarding drive

Powering the base model 308 hatchback is a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder petrol engine with a twin-scroll turbo that outputs 150 bhp and 240 Nm of torque. While we prefer Peugeot’s fantastic 1.6 Blue HDi Diesel engine, the 308’s petrol-fueled power plant is no slouch. The 6-speed automatic transmission is mated to the engine properly, providing smooth shifts throughout each gear. It has no problem zipping around with relatively light throttle input; and when floored, the engine happily obliges, reaching 0-100 km/h in around eight seconds. Front and rear disc brakes provide nippy stopping power when you need it.

At low speed, the 308 is adequately nimble and can easily squeeze itself in and out of tight traffic. The new EMP2 platform the 308 is based on is 140 kg lighter than the previous generation chassis, which helps in driving dynamics, but doesn’t completely save the 308 from some slight body roll under heavy turn ins.

The smaller steering wheel presents a disadvantage here as well, as the car becomes slightly trickier to drive when taking turns at speed. The 308 also absorbs bumps and road irregularities surprisingly well, rewarding its passengers with a highly comfortable ride over most road surfaces.  99 percent of Peugeot 308 owners who will not be taking mountain roads at 80-100 km/h will no doubt enjoy the 308’s bias for comfort versus handling.

 

Valued safety

The Peugeot 308 comes with a complete suite of safety features at all trim levels, with six airbags, ABS, ESP, Hill Start Assist and parking sensors all standard. At P1,490,000, we believe the Peugeot 308 offers enough Euro flair, convenience and safety features, and premium build quality to justify its P200,000 – P300,000 increase over its Japanese contemporaries. Whether or not these features are important to you, is another story. But if you are in the market for a compact that’s a little more upscale than the alternatives, then you’d do well to give the 308 a long glance.

Originally posted by Manila Bulletin