Mercedes-Benz A-Class VS Peugeot 308
- Ride comfort
- So-so warranty
- Okay only rear headroom
- Tight rear door apertures
- Super cool interior
- Practicality plus
- Looks and feels premium
- Sparse back seat
- Turbo lag an issue
- A tad pricey
Meet the world’s most aerodynamically efficient passenger car. Mercedes-Benz says the drag co-efficient for this new sedan version of its fourth-generation A-Class is the lowest ever measured for a passenger vehicle.
Which is quite a claim, but you only have to look at it to see how much work has gone into marrying good looks with slippery aero performance.
There’s clearly something in the (presumably Perrier sparkling) water over at Peugeot HQ. Once a perennial European also-ran, the French brand has been on something of a hot streak of late, producing super-solid offerings right across the board, headlined by the very good 3008 and 5008 SUVs.
It is, of course, still a European company, and so if its SUVs are good, the brand's humble station wagon - a body style that remains ever popular in France - should be blooming fantastic. And a 2018 update has seen Peugeot throw in some extra safety kit, and overhaul the ownership program, at no extra cost.
But there’s only one way to really find out, of course, so we snaffled the keys to the 308 Touring in top-spec Allure trim to put it to the test.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
Mercedes-Benz knows its way around a sedan, and this A-Class is a well-equipped, comfortable and efficient city-sized four-door.
But more than that, to my eyes anyway, it’s a perfect example of restrained form matching aero function with beautiful results.
Would your preference be an A-Class with a hatch or a boot? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
Seriously, it's cars like the 308 Touring (and the best from Skoda and others, to be fair) that make you wonder exactly how SUVs took such a stranglehold on the Australian market. It's super easy to drive and park, as practical as a rolling Swiss Army knife, and it looks pretty damn good to boot.
The only real question mark is the price, with near-enough $40k feeling rather a lot for a wagon that misses some of the creature comforts and interior material choices of cars in that price bracket.
Is Peugeot's 308 Touring a desirable SUV alternative? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
A global carmaker can’t hold its head up in public without a formal design strategy, and Mercedes-Benz uses ‘Sensual Purity’ as a guiding principle in developing the look and feel of its current models. It may sound airy-fairy, but I for one reckon it’s accurate in describing the A-Class sedan.
The overall form is flowing and minimalist, the major exception being a hard character line running down the side of the car from the trailing edge of the angular LED headlights and along the top of the doors to link with the tail-lights.
A rear-biased glasshouse emphasises the length of the bonnet, at the same time delivering a broad, muscular stance with short overhangs front and rear.
Ultra-fine panel gaps, careful sealing around the headlights and curved strakes either side of the bonnet keep the look clean and simple, not to mention super-slippery.
The interior has been styled to within an inch of its life, the dash dominated by the slick twin 10.25-inch widescreen ‘MBUX’ display covering instruments, ventilation, media and vehicle settings.
Five signature, turbine-style air vents (three in the centre, and one at each edge) lift the dash’s visual interest, and the quality of fit and finish is top-shelf.
It’s effortlessly understated, the 308 Touring; both inside and out. The two-tier and textured Peugeot grille looks clean and purposeful, while the rear-end design is clean and simple, too. In fact, the only angle we’re not in love with is the side-on view, where it looks somehow swollen and top-heavy in the middle.
Inside, the doors are wrapped in soft-touch materials, And I LOVE the interior. It’s unique and super understated - the very definition of minimalism - which kind of hides the fact that some of the materials feel a little hard and cheap in places. The moonroof (a cost option) is terrific, too, spanning the length of the cabin.
At a bit over 4.5m long, a fraction under 1.8m wide, and close to 1.5m tall the A-Class sedan is 130mm longer and 6.0mm higher than the hatch version.
The A-Class sedan driver is presented with the same sleek widescreen display as found in the hatch, and storage runs to two cupholders in the centre console, a lidded bin/armrest between the seats (including twin USB ports), decent door pockets with room for bottles and a medium-size glove box.
In a swap to the rear, sitting behind the driver’s seat set to my (183cm) position, I enjoyed adequate knee and headroom, although stretching up a to a straight-back position led to a scalp to headlining interface.
In the A 200 a centre fold-down armrest incorporates two cupholders, again there are generous pockets in the doors with room for bottles, and adjustable ventilation outlets are set into the back of the front centre console. Always a plus.
There are three belted positions across the rear, but the adults using them for anything other than short journeys will have to be good friends and flexible. Best for two grown-ups, and three kids will be fine.
One snag is the size of the rear door aperture. Okay for taller people on the way in, but a limb-unfolding gymnastic exercise on exit.
But of course the reason we’re all here is the boot, and the sedan’s extra length translates to an additional 60 litres of luggage space for a total cargo volume of 430 litres (VDA).
Extra space is one thing, but usability is another. The benefit of a hatch is a large opening that allows bulky stuff to find a home, and Merc has pushed the sedan’s boot aperture to just under a metre across and there’s half a metre between the base of the rear window and the lower edge of the boot lid.
That’s made a big difference and access is good, with the rear seats folding 40/20/40 to add extra flexibility and volume. There are also tie-down hooks at each corner of the floor (a luggage net is included) and a netted pocket behind the passenger side wheel tub (with 12-volt outlet).
At the time of writing Mercedes-Benz wasn’t quoting towing specifications, and don’t bother looking for a spare wheel, the tyres are run-flats.
At 4585mm long and 2043mm wide, the 308 Touring is seriously practical, and yet small enough that it never feels intimidating to drive or park in the city.
The biggest number, of course, is reserved for that whopping boot. With the rear seats in place, you can expect 625 litres of storage space, but drop the second row and that number swells to a seriously impressive 1740 litres. That really is heaps, and it means you can carry big suitcases with a car full of passengers, or flatpack furniture should you ditch the rear-seat riders.
For passengers, the front-seat space is ample, with a single cupholder and room for bottles in each of the front doors. The entertainment connections are simple, with easy-reach USB and AUX connections and the ability to mirror your smartphone on the big screen in the cabin.
The backseat is a little tighter, though (a reminder that this car is actually based on a small hatchback). The legroom is ample behind my own (I’m 176cm) driving position, but headroom feels cramped, and the door trims protrude into the cabin in a way that will eat into shoulder room if you were to go three across the back.
Weirder still, there is nothing in the way of creature comforts back there. Rear air vents are the most obvious omission, but there’s also nowhere to plug a phone in.
You’ll find two ISOFIX attachment points, one in each window seat, as well as two cupholders in the pull-down seat divider. Happily, there is room in each rear door for bottles.
Price and features
The A-Class sedan is launching with two variants, the A 200 at $49,400, before on-road costs, and an entry-level A 180, arriving in August 2019 at $44,900.
We’ll cover active and passive safety tech in the safety section, but above and beyond that standard equipment for the A 180 runs to 17-inch alloy wheels, ‘Artico’ faux leather upholstery, the ‘MBUX’ widescreen cockpit display (two 10.25-inch digital screens), auto LED headlights and DRLs, keyless entry and start, auto-dimming rearview mirror, climate-control, sat nav, multi-function sports steering wheel, cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, ‘Active Parking Assist’ (with ultrasonic proximity sensors front and rear), tinted glass, plus nine-speaker, 225W audio with digital radio, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The A200 steps up to 18-inch alloy rims, and adds a dual exhaust system, four-way electrical adjustment for the driver’s seat (with lumbar support), a folding rear armrest (with twin cupholders), adaptive high-beam assist, and a wireless device charging bay.
The 308 Touring is available in just the single trim level, the high-spec Allure, and will cost you a not-insignificant $37,990 plus on-road costs. Our's was then fitted with nappa leather trim and 18-inch alloys, as well as a sunroof, boosting the as-tested price to $41,690.
Engine & trans
Both models are powered by the same 1.3-litre (M282) direct-injection four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine as the hatch, the A180 tuned to deliver 100kW (at 5500rpm) and 200Nm (at 1460rpm), with the A 200 bumping that up to 120kW (at 5500rpm) and 250Nm (at 1620rpm).
I really like the 308 Touring’s turbocharged 2.0-litre diesel engine. It’s loud from outside the car, sure, but its unobtrusive from the cabin, which is what matters, and the low-down power delivery really suits the city-based nature of the wagon.
It will generate 110kW at 3750rpm and 370Nm at 2000rpm. The engine is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission, and sends its power to the front wheels. It's enough for a fairly leisurely 10-second sprint from 0-100km/h and a 209km/h top speed.
Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle is 5.7L/100km for both models, with a CO2 emissions figure of 130g/km.
Over roughly 250km of open highway driving on the launch program the A 200’s on-board computer coughed up a figure of 6.3L/100km. So, the real-world highway cycle figure is higher than the claimed combined number. Which is a miss, but not a massive one, and fuel-efficiency is still pretty impressive.
Minimum fuel requirement is 95 RON premium unleaded, and you’ll need 43 litres of it (plus a 5.0-litre reserve) to fill the tank.
Three things stand out on first meeting with the A-Class sedan – ride comfort, steering feel, and road noise, or rather the lack of it.
The ‘biggest’ compliment you can pay a small car is that it rides like a bigger one, and behind the A 200’s wheel you’d swear the wheelbase was appreciably longer than the 2.7 metres it actually measures.
Over long undulations, even higher frequency bumps and ruts, the A-Class remains stable and composed thanks to a thoroughly sorted (strut front, torsion beam rear) suspension, with beautifully progressive damping a particular highlight.
Electromechanically-assisted steering points accurately and delivers good road feel without any undue vibration. And despite the A-Class launch drive loop covering typically coarse-chip bitumen roads through rural Victoria, overall noise levels remained impressively low.
Acceleration is brisk rather than properly sharp, but in the A 200 there’s more than enough oomph to keep things on the boil for easy highway cruising and overtaking.
With maximum torque available from just above 1600rpm, and a seven-speed dual-clutch auto transmission keeping revs in the sweet spot, the A 200 breezes through the cut and thrust of city traffic, too.
Auto shifts are smooth and quick, with manual changes via the wheel-mounted paddles adding even more direct access to your ratio of choice. And the bonus is no sign of the slow-speed shuntiness sometimes exhibited by dual-clutch autos, especially in twisting, three-point parking manoeuvres.
Special call-out for the cruise control which responds to adjustments quickly (including 10km/h jumps up or down with a firm press of the thumb) and rapidly retards downhill speeds.
Several unbroken hours in the front seat couldn’t generate a twinge of discomfort, the brakes are strong, and over-shoulder visibility is marginally better than in the hatch (not that it’s a weakness in the latter).
Add the sleek and intuitive multimedia system, high-quality audio, plus excellent ergonomics and you have a neatly resolved compact sedan that’s easy to use in the city and suburbs, keeping solid road-tripping ability up its sleeve as well.
The 308 Touring is really very impressive from behind the wheel, and feels genuinely premium on the road. That rattling diesel is loud from outside the car, but not from the cabin, and it feels solid and connected to the road below. There’s a reassuring heft to the steering, too, and it leaves you feeling like you're straddling a line between premium and mainstream.
Yes, there is a tonne of diesel delay when you first plant your right foot - so much so that you can actually get the front tyres chirping unexpectedly when it finally gets going - and the Touring is simply not that fast.
But it also, somehow, never feels underpowered. The grunt all lives at the low-end of the rev range, making it well suited to the stop-start sludge of city life.
In short, it's a solid and comfortable performer in the city, and it handles itself just fine on tighter corners (even if it takes an age to close the gap between them) too. The ride is terrific, as is often the way with French cars, the steering inspires confidence and the practicality and perks are just ridiculous.
So, who needs an SUV, then, when you can have one of these low-riders instead?
Think automotive safety and Mercedes-Benz will be one of the first names to pop into your mind, and the A 180 offers in impressive suite of active features including ABS, BA, EBD, stability and traction controls, a reversing camera (with dynamic guidelines), ‘Active Brake Assist’ (Merc-speak for AEB), ‘Adaptive Brake’, ‘Attention Assist’, ‘Blind Spot Assist’, ‘Cross-wind Assist’, ‘Lane Keep Assist’, a tyre pressure warning system, the ‘Pre-Safe’ accident anticipatory system, and ‘Traffic Sign Assist’. The A 200 adds ‘Adaptive Highbeam Assist’.
If all that fails to prevent an impact you’ll be protected by nine airbags (front, pelvis and window for driver and front passenger, side airbags for rear seat occupants and a driver’s knee bag), and the ‘Active Bonnet’ automatically tilts to minimise pedestrian injuries.
The A-Class was awarded a maximum five ANCAP stars in 2018, and for smaller occupants there are three child restraint/baby capsule top tether points across the back seat, with ISOFIX anchors on the two outer positions.
The basic safety stuff is all there, like six airbags, a reversing camera and parking sensors front and rear. But Peugeot has upped its safety game with more advanced tech, like a driver-fatigue detection system, blind-spot monitoring, active lane keep assistance, AEB and even speed-sign recognition.
The 308 range was awarded the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating when assessed in 2014.
That lags behind the mainstream market where the majority of players are now at five years/unlimited km, with some at seven years.
On the upside, Mercedes-Benz Road Care assistance is included in the deal for three years.
Service is scheduled for 12 months/25,000km (whichever comes first) with pricing available on an ‘Up-front’ or ‘Pay-as-you-go’ basis.
Pre-payment delivers a $500 saving with the first three A-Class services set at a total of $2050, compared to $2550 PAYG. Fourth and fifth services are also available for pre-purchase.
Peugeot deserves massive kudos for overhauling its once-underwhelming ownership program, and the 308 Touring now arrives with a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty with roadside assistance offered throughout.
Servicing is required very 12 months or 20,000km, with Peugeot’s capped-price-servicing program limiting annual maintenance costs to between $500 and $820 most years, depending on the service required.