Peugeot 308 VS Ford Focus
- Super cool interior
- Practicality plus
- Looks and feels premium
- Sparse back seat
- Turbo lag an issue
- A tad pricey
- Great chassis
- Surprising engine
- Optional advanced safety
- Better tyres would be nice
- Too many optional colours
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|
Ford's small hatch, the Focus, is criminally under-bought in Australia. The latest model is one of the best hatchbacks on the road and when you chuck in the decent price, impressive equipment and absurdly powerful engine for its size, it's a winner.
But you lot? You don't buy it in nearly the kinds of numbers it deserves. Partly because there isn't a bait-and-upsell boggo model to lure you in, partly because it's got a badge that is not exciting Australians any more and partly because it's not a compact SUV.
Or is(n't) it? Because alongside the ST-Line warm hatch is the identically priced and therefore technically a co-entry level model; the Focus Active. Slightly higher, with plastic cladding, drive modes and a conspicuous L on the transmission shifter, it's a little bit SUV, right?
|Engine Type||1.5L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
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.
Ten years ago, the idea that the higher-riding version of a hatchback would be a good city car would have been laughable. The Focus Active is pitched as a kind of SUV with its different low-grip driving modes, which you'll never touch if you stick to the city.
The Ford Focus is genuinely a brilliant car, no matter where you take it. The Active takes a terrific chassis, tweaks it for comfort but, ironically, doesn't lose much of the speed.
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.
For a fairly conservative hatchback, the Focus came under fire for what some termed its derivative styling. I quite like it, and not just because the styling work was led by an Australian. The front end is very much family Ford, as long as it's the European arm of the family, fitting in with its smaller sibling, the Fiesta. The Active scores the usual black cladding, higher ride height and smaller diameter wheels, in exchange for more compliant, higher-profile tyres. All of that takes nothing away from a design that I think looks pretty good.
The cabin is well put together, with just that oddly angled touchscreen causing me a bit of a twitch. The design is a fairly steady Ford interior with a lot of switchgear shared with the Fiesta, but it's all quite nice. The materials feel mostly pleasant and the hardwearing fabric on the seats feels right for this kind of car.
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.
The Focus is quite roomy compared to other cars in its class. The rear seat has good leg and headroom, with the feeling of space accentuated by large windows. Annoyingly, though, all that work put into making the rear a nice place to be is ruined by a lack of amenities like cupholders, USB ports or an armrest.
Front-seat passengers fare better with two cupholders, a roomy space at the base of the console for a phone and a wireless-charging pad. The front seats are very comfortable, too.
The boot starts at a fairly average 375 litres - clearly sacrificed for rear-seat space - and maxes out at 1320 litres with the seats down. While you have to lift things over the loading lip and down into the boot, it's one of the more sensibly shaped load areas, with straight up and down sides. Ironically, the smaller Puma has a noticeably larger boot.
Price and features
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.
The Focus Active wears a $30,990 sticker but the several people I know who bought one haven't paid that much, so Ford dealers are obviously keen to do deals. Even at that price, it's got a fair bit of stuff. The Active has 17-inch wheels, a six-speaker stereo, dual-zone climate control, reversing camera, keyless entry and start, front and rear parking sensors, cruise control, auto LED headlights, LED fog lights, sat nav, auto wipers, wireless hotspot, powered and heated folding door mirrors, wireless phone charging, a big safety package and a space-saver spare.
Ford's SYNC3 comes up on the 8.0-inch screen perched on the dashboard, which weirdly feels like it's facing away from you slightly. It has wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, sat nav, DAB+ and also looks after various functions in the car.
The panoramic sunroof is a stiff $2000 and includes an annoying perforated cover rather than a solid one.
Engine & trans
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.
Ford does an excellent range of small turbo engines. The "normal" Focus range (such as it is, now the wagon has disappeared from the market) comes with a 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine. Bucking the SUV-this-size trend (yes, I know it's not really an SUV), this punchy little unit delivers an impressive 134kW and 240Nm. They're both very decent numbers for such a small engine.
The big numbers continue with the transmission boasting eight gears, a number you don't often find in a hatchback. It's a traditional torque-converter auto, too, so those of you who have bad memories of Ford's old PowerShift twin clutches should worry no more.
Power goes to the front wheels only and you'll get from 0 to 100km/h in 8.7 seconds.
Ford's official testing for the big window sticker delivered a 6.4L/100km result on the combined cycle. In my time with the Focus, I got 7.2L/100km indicated on the dashboard, which is a pretty solid result given the Focus spent a good deal of the time on suburban or urban roads.
With its 52-litre tank, you'll cover around 800km if you manage the official figure, or just over 700km on my figures.
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?
Despite the very mild off-road pretensions, if it's a comfortable city ride you're after, the Active is the Focus to have. While the ST-Line isn't uncomfortable - not by a long way - the Active's more compliant tyres and higher ride height (30mm at the front and 34mm at the rear) iron out the bigger bumps without sacrificing much of the sportier car's impressive dynamic prowess, even with the low-rolling-resistance tyres.
The cracking 1.5-litre turbo is responsive and well-matched to the eight-speed auto. The big torque number pushes you along the road and makes overtaking much less dramatic than a 1.5-litre three-cylinder has any right to.
Ford's trademark Euro-tuned quick steering is also along for the ride, making darting in and out of gaps a quick roll of the wrist, which has the added benefit of meaning you rarely have to take your hands off the wheel for twirling. That darting is aided and abetted by the engine and gearbox, with the turbo seemingly keeping the boost flowing with little lag. It's almost like they planned it that way.
You have good vision in all directions, which almost renders the fact that the blind-spot monitoring is optional acceptable. Almost. It's very easy to get around in, easy to park and, just as importantly, easy to get in and out of. Compared to, say, a Toyota Corolla, the rear doors are very accommodating.
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.
The Active has six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, forward AEB (low speed with pedestrian avoidance and highway speeds), forward collision warning, lane-departure warning, speed-sign recognition and active lane-keep assist.
Annoyingly - and I can't for the life of me work out why this is a thing - despite some advanced safety features in the base package, you have to pay $1250 extra for blind-spot monitoring, reverse cross traffic alert and reverse AEB, which are part of the Driver Assistance Pack. No, Ford is not the only company to do this.
The back seat has two ISOFIX points and three top-tether anchors.
The Focus scored five ANCAP stars in August 2019.
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.
The first five services cost $299 each and also include a free loan car and a 12-month extension to your roadside assist membership for up to seven years.