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Peugeot's new mid size hatch is a curious mix of inspiration, innovation and aggravation. Plus ca change...
The 308 range opens with the 88kW 1.6 litre petrol/five speed manual XS, priced at $25,990 or $27,990 with a four speed automatic; an 80kW 1.6 litre turbodiesel/manual XS is $29,990 and a more generously equipped 88kW 1.6 petrol/automatic XSE is $30,390.
A 110kW 1.6 litre turbocharged petrol manual XSE is $30,590; the 103kW 1.6 auto is $32,590.
A 100kW 2.0 litre turbodiesel/six speed manual XSE is $33,590; the six speed auto is $35,790.
Top of the line petrol model is the 1.6 turbo/four speed auto XTE, at $34,790. The 100kW 2.0 litre turbodiesel/six speed auto XTE is $37,990.
A Touring wagon will also go on sale in the third quarter of 2008, at prices yet to be announced.
Three years / 100,000 kilometres.
XS models get cruise control, a single CD player with iPod plug in, power windows, trip computer, dual zone automatic air and 15 inch steel wheels are also included.
XSE specification adds stability control, a heat reflective windscreen, 16 inch alloy wheels, rain sensing wipers, automatic headlights and front and rear seatbelt indicator lights.
XTE includes a glass roof, tyre pressure sensors, a five CD stacker in the dash, perfume diffuser and 17 inch alloys.
Selected options: 16 inch alloys (XS) $900; 17 inch alloys (XSE) $500, driver's knee airbag $250, hands free phone $500, satellite navigation $3600, glass roof (XSE) $1000, metallic paint $700, leather upholstery $2900, premium leather $4500.
Our 1.6 litre turbo petrol/six speed manual XSE test car had most of these options fitted, taking its price to $40,330. Ouch.
A three year old 307 XSE 2.0 petrol hatch retains approximately 60 per cent of its new price as a trade in, which is excellent.
Peugeot has given the 308 a large glass area and interior architecture that emphasises space and light, a common theme in French cars.
The raked windscreen, angled dash and slim seats all make the cabin seem larger than it is.
Tall drivers use all the seat travel, but even so leg room is still slightly restricted because the pedals protrude a long way into the footwell.
The instruments are elegant and legible. Peugeot prefers to use stubby wands behind the steering wheel for audio and cruise control, rather than having the buttons on the wheel spokes, and it's an approach that works well. It's easy to manipulate the wand buttons with your fingers, and they are in a fixed position, so you can always find them quickly.
Vision is clear around the car. The headlights are powerful and bright.
Big door bins and a centre console bin provide useful storage.
Less impressive is a glovebox that, though refrigerated, is all but occupied by the fuse box, small cupholders and a strange five CD stacker arrangement that, on the test car, did not work properly.
Neither did the pop-up screen for the optional satellite navigation and other information displays. Sometimes it popped up, other times it decided to stay put. Some sequences in the audio/navigation menus were incomprehensible - and yes, we did read the instructions first!
Peugeot has a long record of building high levels of safety into its cars, but unfortunately it has made some safety features optional on the 308.
The 308 scored five stars out of five in Euro NCAP tests.
The base XS gets six airbags and anti-lock brakes, but not stability control. It's an extra $450.
An optional steering column airbag ($250 on XSE/XTE only) deploys to protect the legs.
The 307's structure has been strengthened and modified for more efficient crash energy dissipation for impacts in all directions. The front end has also been designed to minimise injury to pedestrians.
The seat belt unbuckled warnings, for all seats, are audible and visual. Rear seats have anti submarining solid metal bases. Rear windows can be disabled, and all windows have an anti pinch function.
Not yet rated by NRMA Insurance.
The driver's seat, upholstered in perforated leather and with heating on the test car, is slightly firmer than the usual French armchair, but still luxuriously comfortable compared with most small/mid size hatchback seats. The flimsy, inconveniently located backrest adjustment lever was difficult to use, though, as was the lumbar adjuster.
Run the tape over the 308 and its spacious feel becomes illusory. As mentioned previously, the driver's seat has limited travel.
The back seat is comfortable, with a long, generously padded cushion, positioned high for good vision. The footwell is deep, so you don't have to sit knees up. Leg room is adequate for most adults, partly because the front seat can't be pushed back too far. Head room is fine, even with the glass roof.
Three wrap over head restraints are fitted, along with child restraint anchors in the floor behind the seat. Big door bins, a small storage box in the fold down armrest and front seat pockets provide storage. Vents are also fitted in the centre console. The back windows do not completely retract.
The boot floor is short, deep and wide. A net, four shopping bag hooks, small side bin and solid load cover with an integral lidded storage compartment are provided.
The floor extends to nearly 1.5 metres using the 60/40 split fold rear seat, but front seat travel is compromised. A small porthole is provided for long objects.
A full sized spare is under the floor.
Peugeot, like other French brands (accompanied by the Italians and Land Rover), often occupies the lower end of the charts in independent quality and reliability surveys.
In the 2007 JD Powers UK Customer Satisfaction Index study, for example, which surveyed 18,000 UK car owners of 33 brands after two years, Peugeot was fifth last, beating home Fiat, Alfa Romeo, smart and Chrysler.
PSA (Peugeot Citroen) board chairman Christian Streiff, in his initial priorities statement made the day after his appointment in February 2007, identified "a difficulty in managing quality levels" in putting the issue at the top of his to do list. He called on the company to "redouble its efforts" to improve quality.
On the evidence of the test 308, those efforts are still to produce results. As mentioned previously, the CD stacker didn't work, neither did some functions on the navigation system and the pop up screen worked only half the time.
Another car we saw had a rear power window that didn't work.
On initial impression the 308's interior fit and finish looks like a million dollars, but look more closely and it's inferior to Japanese rivals like Mazda's 3 Series. The flimsy driver's seat backrest angle adjuster in the test car is a prime example. It was loose and will eventually fall off, like the same item has done on some other Peugeots we have tested, as far back as the original 206.
All four engines are at the front end of fuel efficiency and low emissions. European standard test averages (manual transmission, highway-city) are:
95 octane premium is recommended for the petrol engines. All engines score three and a half stars out of five in the Green Vehicle Guide.
We have driven the two turbodiesel engines in the previous model 307. The 1.6 is terrific once you learn how to drive around its weak-off-boost performance, which is easy enough to do with the five speed manual. As a highway car, it's superb, with strong midrange pulling power and outstanding economy.
The 2.0 litre turbodiesel/six speed automatic is the ultimate real world drivetrain here. Like others of its type, the six speed keeps the 2.0 litre running in its peak range, where all that lovely torque gets the car along smoothly and effortlessly.
Our 308 test car was fitted with the 1.6 turbo petrol/five speed manual, which we have also driven before in the 207GT and the Mini.
In the 207, the engine was sluggish at low revs, didn't spin up to proper boost with the required speed, and was matched with a loose gearbox and abrupt clutch. It was all too much hard work in the traffic.
In the 308 its delivery is much more refined and progressive. The 1.6 turbo runs like a sporty 2.0 litre, with a wide, punchy midrange and a free spinning top end that's very enjoyable to play with. It's still not too happy trundling along at walking pace in traffic, though. A six speed automatic would make it perform much better in the city.
The five speed on this occasion had a light, easy action, as did the clutch.
The Peugeot is fitted with long travel suspension that's softly sprung and lightly damped. It handles well on smooth roads, has the poise of a larger car and is finely balanced for a front wheel drive.
However moderately rough roads, typical of country NSW, tax the suspension beyond its engineering brief. It regularly runs out of travel at both ends, gives the body a severe bashing, and at times feels like it might be about to break. At this point the relatively heavy 308's stability can also become tenuous, especially if it hits a few mid corner potholes or undulations, as the damping starts to lose control of body movement. Only the Pirelli tyres (on the test car's 17 inch alloy wheels) keep roadholding at acceptable levels in these situations.
It's a similar story with the steering. On smooth roads, it's precise, nicely weighted and goes exactly where you point it, but bumps and other irregularities cause immediate and excessive steering shake, which can become violent kickback in choppy corners, especially under acceleration.
No complaints about the brakes.
Again, smooth and supple on perfect bitumen, but the suspension cannot absorb impacts effectively and on rough city streets or potholed country roads the ride deteriorates to harshness and discomfort.
The 1.6 is remarkably smooth for a four cylinder, and cruises silently at 100km/h. Suspension and tyre noise are excessive on bumpy roads.
Peugeot continues to have difficulty raising its quality and reliability standards to competitive levels, in a market where most customers expect these as a given and the majority of brands are now able to deliver. The 308's suspension is also insufficiently robust for local conditions, it is expensive and, on the road, offers nothing special to justify its premium pricetag.
We suggest taking a VW Golf, a Mazda3, Ford Focus or a Renault Megane on a test drive as well.
|Model||308 Turbo XSE|
|Body type||5-door hatchback|