They say first impressions never lie. If true, Peugeot’s new 308 hatchback should be a winner.
The French hatch is one of the prettiest cars on the road, especially in our test car’s rich metallic green livery, which is refreshingly a complimentary option.
Step into the cockpit and the magic continues. The quality of materials and finishes rivals that of some prestige brands, from the perforated leather seats with green stitching to the racy, flat-bottomed leather steering wheel.
Peugeot hasn’t skimped on the technology either. There’s a classy-looking central touchscreen with favorite buttons underneath to make navigation easier, while the 3D display in front of the driver can be reconfigured into several different layouts. Ambient lighting in a choice of eight shades adds class after dark.
Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto combine with a wireless charging pad and a plethora of USB-C ports to ensure you and the crew stay connected on long journeys, while rear passengers have individual vents.
Now for the bad news. The cheapest 308 is the GT model at $43,990, while the GT Premium hatch is $48,990 and the station wagon is $50,490. A plug-in hybrid variant will be available next year, but it is expected to be several thousand dollars more expensive. The pricing puts the 308 dangerously close to the Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series. The most expensive Golf — excluding the performance GTI and R variants — is $10,000 cheaper than the GT Premium and has a larger, more powerful engine.
The Peugeot’s cabin is more plush than the Golf, with standard leather interiors and better-quality materials in some areas, but the Volkswagen is a more accomplished performer on the road.
The 308 isn’t a bad drive, but the latest generation doesn’t have the sharp reflexes of its predecessor.
It appears to be designed more for convenience than speed, which will appeal to many buyers.
The suspension soaks up bumps and bumps impressively at speed, although the low-profile 18-inch tires in our test tended to soak up the tiniest bumps in the road at lower speeds.
The steering points accurately, but ultimately lacks the feel of some rivals, while the Peugeot doesn’t corner as eagerly as its predecessor.
The three-cylinder engine, essentially carried over from the previous generation, gets the job done with a minimum of fuss, delivering more than its 96 kW of power would suggest and consuming just 5.3 l/100 km. It can get a little noisy when pushed, however, and the eight-speed auto doesn’t do it any favors, being occasionally sluggish to throttle inputs. A claimed 9.7 seconds to 100 km/h is leisurely by today’s standards.
All safety bases are largely covered and the 308’s sophisticated matrix headlights can shade oncoming traffic, allowing you to keep your high beams on at all times.
Overall, the 308 feels like a more mature, if less exciting, car. The cabin is impressively quiet, allowing you to make the most of the Focal sound system, which is standard on the GT Premium.
The seats are also comfortable and supportive, with plenty of adjustment options for different heights. It’s a larger car than its predecessor, but rear kneeroom and headroom remain a bit cramped. The boot is a good size.
The 308 wouldn’t be French because if it didn’t have some puzzling quirks. In order to see the instruments properly, the steering wheel must be positioned lower than many drivers would like, while the metal gear selector in the center console becomes too hot to touch if the car is left in the sun for too long. Physical controls for the air conditioning would also be welcome, as adjusting the temperature via the screen can be a little tricky.
Unfortunately, during our test, our press developed gremlins that won’t start. The culprit turned out to be a faulty 12-volt battery, which caused the car to throw up a series of worrying engine and transmission fault messages.
The 308 is an attractive, well-appointed hatch, but Peugeot needs to sharpen its pencil to attract buyers.
PEUGEOT 308 GT PREMIUM
PRICE $48,990 plus on-road
ENGINE 1.2 liter three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, 96 kW and 230 Nm
WARRANTY/SERVICE five years/unlimited mileage, $1800 for five years prepaid
SAFETY Six airbags, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning and blind spot assistant, rear cross-traffic warning, active cruise control
SPARE PART repair set
BAGGAGE 384 liters
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