- FIRST DRIVE – PEUGEOT 308
PEUGEOT is expecting its new generation 308 hatchback to take off in style when it hits the streets this month.
It is a car the French brand believes to be the best and most robust vehicle it has ever built.
And to fully expose aspects of the 308’s technology, Peugeot took the unprecedented step of beginning its launch exercise in pitch dark.
Concealing the cars in a remote aircraft hangar deep in the Hampshire countryside, the idea was to demonstrate the model’s new full LED headlamps and its i-Cockpit interior.
While the lights – with 31 LEDs in each unit – are sharp and instantaneous, they are only included on the top pair of the four trim grades.
The i-Cockpit, though, features on every car and is a breath of fresh air for drivers who can’t abide clutter.
Simple, intuitive and upmarket, it comprises a raised instrument panel, high centre console and 9.7-inch touchscreen.
There’s just a single button, then everything else – multimedia, airflow, sat-nav, heating – is controlled by touching the screen.
The importance of the new generation 308, which costs from £14,495, to Peugeot can’t be underestimated.
It fits into the most competitive area of the UK market, one from which some 600,000 new cars were sold last year.
While lower, shorter and boasting better passenger space than before, the newcomer sits on a new platform that took seven and a half years to develop.
A combination of high strength steel, parts like the boot floor being made from composites and processes like laser rather than spot welding have resulted in the 308 being 140kg lighter – and that’s the weight equivalent of two adults.
Upshot is a more aerodynamic vehicle, one that’s positive, sporty and comfortable to drive or be driven in.
And with emissions from as low as 82g/km from the 1.6-litre BlueHDi version – from next spring at least – and up to 91.1mpg it’s extremely economical too.
As part of an extensive powertrain line-up the 308 will be the first Peugeot to benefit from turbocharged versions of the brand’s three cylinder 1.2-litre petrol engine, producing 110 or 130bhp.
There’s also a 1.2 VTi model with 82bhp, a pair of 1.6-litre THP petrol models with 125 or 155bhp and 1.6 or 2.0-litre HDi diesels.
I drove three different engines, all with separate trim levels, on a night/day press exercise that took in the best part of 150 miles and mixed town, motorway and rural roads.
The simplicity of the i-Cockpit set-up, along with supportive seats, a small steering wheel and a soft-touch, high quality feel from the car’s fixtures make the 308 a very desirable car to drive.
The 1.6 e-HDi 115, which will cost from £17,245 in entry level Access spec, stood out as a strong, sweet unit with 100g/km of emissions and a 74.3mpg average fuel figure.
Peugeot has made several comfort and safety aids available, like collision alert and braking systems, and sat-nav is standard on all bar entry level cars.
Where the company has missed a trick, however, is making blind spot monitoring – in my view one of the most important safety features around – as an extra-colt option.
Given that it only costs £200, and probably far less to the manufacturer, Peugeot could have gained huge credibility by making it standard.
That said, Pug fans are in for treat with the 308 – and industry experts are already predicting it will retain more than 34 per cent of its value after three years.