Mazda 3 2014 review
The new version of Australia's favourite car among private buyers has arrived. The third-generation Mazda 3 is being unloaded at dealerships, and not a moment too soon.
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The compact 308 aims for many Australian bases, leading with a thrifty three-cylinder.
A price cut of more than $5000 and a new fuel-efficient three-cylinder turbo engine are the proof that Peugeot is finally listening to small-car buyers in Australia.
Its all-new 308 is benchmarked against the Volkswagen Golf and aimed at the people who buy a Golf or Mazda3 without even considering a Peugeot, despite the long-term excellence of the French company's design and suspension work. Peugeot cars have always worked well in Australia because they cope easily with the worst of our roads and make few demands on the driver. The new 308 sticks with that theme.
It's not the best car in the compact class, but it is one of the better ones. And it's the sort of car you can drive all day without thinking about a chiropractor or taking something for a headache.
Peugeot likes to trumpet the new 308's victory in this year's European Car of the Year award, something it has rarely achieved. It also likes to talk about added value and class and comfort, four million kilometres of testing and a bunch of other facts and figures including a smaller body and a 140-kilogram weight loss.
But it is less happy when the talk turns to the ultra-competitive, price-driven car business in Australia and failings such as the absence of a standard rear-view camera.
So a starting price of $21,990 is good, although not as good as $19,990 on a drive-away deal, and the basic car comes only with steel wheels and there's no colour infotainment screen.
At the top, for now, is the fully loaded Allure touring wagon with 110kW diesel and auto at $37,490. Still, Peugeot is hitting all the bases with a choice of hatchback and wagon bodies, five equipment levels, six-speed automatic and manual gearboxes, and three engines with six power outputs. The headliner is the new PureTech three-cylinder with self-shifting six-speeder that helps it meet coming Euro6 emission regulations.
"We need to ensure we can cater for every customer. It's not a one-size-fits all plan," Peugeot Australia national marketing manager for Dimitri Andreatidis tells Carsguide. "The all-new 308 will help us re-establish ourselves in the small-car segment. It is one of the most important.
"It's an important part of the Peugeot plan. Our internal sales expectations are irrelevant. We believe demand will exceed supply." That's big talk for a company whose sales high mark of 10,000 cars occurred well in the past and it has not come close to the benchmark in recent years. It will be lucky to deliver 5000 cars this year.
But the 308 is good, the smaller 208 is also good despite being overpriced. There is some excitement on the horizon including a facelift for the 508 - really just a grille and an infotainment touchscreen, with sharper pricing - and a 30th anniversary celebration of the 205 GTI.
Making sense of the 308 is difficult, partly because there is a two-stage rollout. The 1.2-litre turbo triple and 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel arrive next month and 1.6-litre petrol engines are due in March.
But the bottom line is $21,990 for a hatch with Access pack, PureTech 1.2 (96kW/ 230N) and five-speed manual (97 per cent of Peugeot buyers go for auto, which in this case means $23,990). There are six airbags, aircon, the usual electronic aids and a compact leather-wrapped wheel.
Big change include soft-touch plastics, firm-feel switches, ample soundproofing and even door closures that have a solid sound and feel.
The Australian press preview for the new 308 is a four-day run through the French countryside, on a route chosen to prove the car works in all conditions. There is choice of sedan and wagon, petrol and diesel, manual and auto, and equipment levels up to a full-length sunroof.
But the real interest is the basic car, which does not feel basic at all. The three-cylinder turbo equipped with stop-start is eager and responsive, the six-speed auto works well, it is quiet and comfy in all five seats and the cabin - perhaps a visual trick - feels roomier than a Golf.
It's not remotely sporty, despite Peugeot's claims, but it rides and handles very well indeed. It has the composure that Korean brands have been chasing for years. I'm not a fan of Peugeot's head-up instrument layout. I cannot see the digital speedo but the steering wheel is a ripper and connected to steering with real feel.
The 308 is the best new Peugeot in a long time and reflects all sorts of fresh thinking. It's not a Golf but it's close and worth a preliminary four-star rating until we can get it home and lined up against the Volkswagen champ.
|CC Allure Turbo||1.6L, PULP, 6 SP MAN||$16,900 – 23,540||2014 Peugeot 308 2014 CC Allure Turbo Pricing and Specs|
|Access||1.2L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO||$7,100 – 11,000||2014 Peugeot 308 2014 Access Pricing and Specs|
|Active||1.2L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO||$8,900 – 13,420||2014 Peugeot 308 2014 Active Pricing and Specs|
|Active Turbo||1.6L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO||$7,800 – 12,100||2014 Peugeot 308 2014 Active Turbo Pricing and Specs|