Peugeot claims that the all-new 308 is positioned to be the leader in the highly-competitive C-segment, rivaling the ever popular VW Golf and Ford Focus. That sounds like a very tall order to fill, but it seems like the 308 is off to a good start, as last year, a jury of 58 journalists representing 22 European countries crowned the 308 as the European Car of the Year 2014.
The French carmaker has certainly done it right when they came up with a subtle yet more upmarket look normally used by the segment’s German counterparts. Exterior wise, the 308 carries clean lines that project a classy and sophisticated presence. I must say I found the LED headlights that provide a strong light signature with feline characteristics very stunning, while the signature three lion claws, outlined with LEDs on the rear lamps looked very striking.
The straightforward and simple theme continues inside the cabin. As you settle into the driver’s seat, you will experience an award-winning Peugeot i-Cockpit which is arranged in such a way that allows the driver to have a relaxed driving experience and focus entirely on the road ahead. The i-Cockpit consists of a sport leather steering wheel, a high-position head-up instrument panel with stylish symmetrical design, a high centre console with a push-start button and electric parking brake as well as a 9.7-inch HD Multifuntion touchscreen.
The touchscreen centralizes the controls for all kinds of functions including the air-conditioning, reverse camera, radio, as well as USB and Bluetooth connectivity, and it’s very easy to use; unlike some cars, you don’t need to study the manual just to figure out how to turn on the radio.
The 308 also provides very good tactile feel thanks to its leather steering wheel and the soft Alcantara sport seats that provide support and body grip especially during spirited driving. The seats have a massage function which is a rare find especially in the C-segment class and apart from that, you’ll get a full-length sunroof that allows rear passengers a clear view of the sky.
The latest Peugeot 308 shares the same EMP2 platform as the Citroen C4 Picasso, and as a result, the 308 now rides lower than its predecessor, with a height of 1.46m and wider with a width of 1.80m. The front and rear overhang have been reduced, due to the new EMP2 platform, which facilitates wheel placement nearer to the four corners. This result in a slightly spacious cabin, with ample space for four ‘Asian-size’ adults.
You’d be surprised to find that the 308 is pretty spacious too. According to Peugeot, the 308 offers 470-litres of luggage space, compared to the 380-litres of boot space available in the VW Golf. For additional space, you can fold the back seats to allow up to 1309-litres of cargo room. Suffice it to say, the 308 offers plenty of luggage room for you and your family long weekend haul.
Under the hood, motivation comes from a 1.6-litre THP (Turbo High Pressure) engine that churns out 152hp and 240Nm of torque. The engine is fitted with Twin-Scroll turbocharger that pairs exhaust gases to ensure maximum flow onto the turbine, while its high-pressure direct petrol injection system improves combustion and overall engine efficiency. The powertrain is mated to the a new 6-speed automatic transmission with Quickshift Technology that provides linear and fast gearshifts.
On the road, the engine feels keen and responsive, and when I floor on the accelerator, there’s a good amount of thrust coming from the turbo engine. Cruising down the highway at high-speed can be done with ease and at the same time, the car felt planted thanks to its lower centre of gravity. The 308 takes 9.4 seconds for a 0 -100km/h sprint, whilst the top speed is limited at 211km/h.
When driven on trunk roads, the 308 rides and handles fairly well too. It’s very agile and road-hugging when tackling sharp corners, and the 308’s overall ride is comfortable and quiet especially when driving on long straights. However, I noticed that the ride can get uncomfortably jarring, especially when you drive on road bumps or broken paths, probably due to its low-profile tyres.
There’s a certain French flair or je ne sias quoi that sets the brand apart from its German or Japanese counterparts. For instance, the instrument panel is located in a high-position, designed to be seen over, rather than through, the tiny steering wheel (the same steering size found on the 208). Surprisingly, the driving position in the 308 is a lot better compared to the one in 208, where it blocked the whole view of the speedometer. Although driving with a small (351mmX329mm) steering wheel feels a little awkward at the beginning, after a few hundred kilometers of motorway, I noticed that it actually makes maneuvering much easier and accurate.
The 308 has gone through extensive testing, which should mean it won’t suffer the reliability issues of its predecessors. According to the folks at Peugeot, the 308 has been successfully driven for more than 2.5 million km and it has been tested for 2,500 hours on the 4-ram vibration and climate test beds. The air conditioning too has gone through 250,000 cycles, while the touchscreen received 4.3 million presses without failure.
Besides the common driving aids found in many new models in the market like cruise control, electric parking brake, keyless entry, push start button and reverse camera, the 308 also features an emergency collision alert that warns the driver if they detect the vehicle in front is too close. If an imminent collision with the vehicle in front is detected, the system will apply Emergency Collision braking to prevent the impact or to reduce its consequences. In case you’re wondering, no I didn’t have the chance to test the Emergency Collision braking, so we’ll just have to take Peugeot’s word for it.
The 308 is a great improvement over the car it replaces. It has a straight forward and yet appealing design, premium interior quality, offers a fun to drive experience and it is a practical car for those seeking for a decent family hatchback. This is a compelling entry from Peugeot that not only looks good on paper and in photos, but for a mere RM132,888 OTR with insurance and inclusive of GST, it can actually surprise you in so many ways.
SPECIFICATIONS: Peugeot 308 THP
Displacement: 1,598cc In-line 4 Cylinder THP engine
Transmission Type: 6-speed automatic transmission with Quickshift
Power: 152PS @ 5,000rpm
Torque: 240Nm @ 1,450rpm
Combined Drive Cycle : 6.5-litre/100km (EU)
0-100 km/h: 9.4 sec
Maximum speed: 211km/h