Base price: $38,990.
Powertrain and performance: 1.6-litre turbo petrol four, 110kW/240Nm, 6-speed automatic, front-drive, Combined economy 6.5 litres per 100km, 0-100km/h 8.5 seconds.
Vital statistics: 4253mm long, 1457mm high, luggage capacity 501 litres, fuel tank 53 litres, 18-inch alloy wheels on 225/40 tyres.
We like: Style, handling, cabin quality.
We don’t like: Unfinished feel to transmission, touch-screen infotainment system can be slow.
How it rates: 7/10
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? Peugeot’s new 308 range covers many bases: there are five-door hatchback and wagon body styles, entry-level Active and top-specification Allure versions and a range of engines, from a quirky entry-level three-cylinder to the obligatory (for a French maker) turbo-diesel.
We’ve tested the 308 already in Active wagon trim and loved it. But in many respects the 308’s credentials as a Volkswagen Golf rival – make no mistake, that’s what it is supposed to be – rest with the model featured here, the flagship Allure hatchback with a 1.6-litre turbo-petrol powerplant.
It certainly looks the part: quietly conservative lines offset by extra brightwork and handsome 18-inch alloys. But does that air of sophistication carry through to the driver and passenger experience?
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? The Allure’s 1.6-litre engine is familiar from previous Peugeot and Mini models: it was a co-development between PSA and BMW. It’s a strong and economical powerplant, with a relaxed power delivery that suits this 308’s pseudo-luxury status.
However, the Allure powertrain isn’t nearly as impressive or enjoyable as that in the three-cylinder Active models. That’s due not to the engine but the transmission: the calibration is easily confused by changing driving styles and it occasionally hangs between ratios in low-speed city driving.
The same six-speed gearbox seems so much smoother in the three-pot 308. Perhaps that’s because the engine is working harder and the transmission has to adopt a more high-energy approach to cog-changing. Light-throttle and low-speed work seems to be its downfall in the Allure.
The Allure rides beautifully, even on its large 18-inch alloys. The 308 is also supremely competent in the corners, with consistent steering weight and a fluent chassis.
Indeed, it’s a much more impressive dynamic package at speed than in urban driving: impressive handling allows you to be decisive with the powertrain, which brings out the best in that problematic transmission.
IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH? The 308’s cabin will polarise people, thanks to Peugeot’s so-called ‘i-cockpit’ design. Also used in the 208 supermini, this places the main instruments high up on the dashboard and locates the small steering wheel very low, meaning that you look over – rather than through – it to see the dials.
It’s a bit like driving a toy car at first, but once you become acclimatised to the unusual layout it has benefits. The small steering wheel adds to the impression of sportiness and your eyes don’t have to refocus from the road as much to read the instruments.
You could also argue this is Peugeot being different simply for the sake of it, but there’s no harm in that when the whole configuration works so well.
The Allure specification makes the most of the 308’s minimalist interior architecture; there are only five buttons on the centre console. Most major functions are contained in a nicely integrated touch-screen, which looks great – although it can be a bit sluggish to respond to commands that require a bit of processing power, like making a change to a satellite navigation setting or searching your iPod for a specific track.
The Allure does address the main complaint we had with the 308 Active: that it didn’t make enough use of that impressive screen because it lacked a reversing camera and satellite navigation. The Allure has both as standard.
In general, the 308’s interior is idiosyncratic but undeniably well-finished, with plenty of soft-touch materials and elegant switchgear.
SHOULD I BUY ONE? In some respects the 308 Allure does indeed take on the Golf at its own game: it looks sophisticated, the chassis is great and the cabin is a quality affair.
What lets the car down is the erratic nature of the powertrain, especially with regard to the six-speed automatic transmission. It’s not a patch on the cheaper three-cylinder model for smoothness and verve.
We appreciate the specification and style of the Allure, but we’d say the 1.2-litre Active is still the model that shows the 308 at its best. At least until we’ve tried the turbo-diesel.
- Blind spot warning: No
- Lane guidance: No
- Cruise control: Yes
- Automatic lights/wipers: Yes/yes
- Parking radar: Front and rear with camera
- Self-parking technology: No
- Head-up display: No
- Satellite navigation: Yes
- Keyless entry/start: Yes/Yes
- Stop-start: Yes
- Air conditioning: Dual climate
- Heated/ventilated seats: No
- Power seat adjustment/memory: Yes/Yes
- Leather upholstery: $3500 including massage function
- Power boot or tailgate: No
- Split/folding rear seats: 60/40
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