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You know when you find a cool cafe or restaurant, or even a travel destination that hasn’t been discovered yet? And you feel kind of smug about it?
That’s sort of what it feels like driving the Peugeot 308.
You can’t help but think, why aren’t more people buying these?
There are a few reasons, of course. Despite Peugeot feeling like that secret cool new brand no one knows about, it’s actually been around for more than a century. And it has a long history in Australia, even building cars here from the 1950s through to the '80s.
In recent years, Peugeot has crept further upmarket and no longer plays in the same price bracket as Hyundai and Toyota. It is now in the same semi-premium space as Volkswagen. So not as pricey as Benz or BMW, but also not cheap.
And that’s another reason you may not have seen heaps of new Peugeot 308s on the roads yet - apart from the fact it’s only been on sale since late last year.
The 308 starts from $43,990 before on-road costs for the GT hatch. The GT Premium hatch that I have been driving for the past three months starts at $48,990 BOC.
A lot of people equate the size of a car with the price. For example, some people think spending a lot of money on a hatchback is not worth it because it’s small. But what if you don’t need a lot of space, or you don’t want to take up that much room on the road?
I fall into this category. I don’t need nor want a large car. It’s pointless for me. So, I see value more in terms of what you get equipment-wise, rather than the physical size of a car.
And on that front, the Peugeot excels. It has a standard features list that reads like a high-end luxury car.
It comes with a panoramic glass sunroof, keyless entry and start with a proximity key, Nappa leather trim and leather steering wheel, heated front seats with massage function, power-adjustable driver’s seat, ambient lighting, auto-dimming frameless rear-view mirror, electric, heated and power-folding exterior mirrors, automatic air conditioning, Matrix LED headlights and 18-inch alloy wheels.
Despite only getting four from a possible five-star ANCAP rating (it lost points in the adult occupant protection test), the driver assistance offering is solid.
Autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with low light pedestrian and cyclist detection, rear cross-traffic alert, long-range blind spot detection, adaptive cruise control with ‘Stop & Go’ function and a lot more are standard.
On the road, the lane keeping aid is super smooth. It’s one of the better examples of this sort of tech as it never overwhelms the drive experience. Very subtle, yet effective.
Even some of the alert chimes (I think it was a lane departure alert) sound adorable and not at all jarring like some other brands.
So well equipped is the 308 GT Premium that the only option is premium paint that ranges in price from $690 to $1050, depending on the hue.
But the drop-dead gorgeous ‘Olivine Green’ paint of our long-term press car is, thankfully, standard. We recently saw another 308 GT Premium hatch in the ‘Elixir Red’ paint, which is also stunning.
I know design is subjective, BUT the new 308 is the best looking small car on the market today. A squat stance that’s low to the ground, sporty, sharp lines, beautifully designed head and tail-lights (the latter with 3D ‘claw effect’), a pert behind… it’s ticking all of my boxes.
That cool, modern, slightly edgy vibe is also found inside. The dash design has different layers and there’s a bit going on but it’s never busy. Everything is there for a reason. The dark Nappa leather quilted seats are striking and super comfortable. Also, that massage function actually works a treat!
I’ve mentioned this before but the ‘i-cockpit’ set-up works for me, and I am six foot (183cm) tall. Ample seat and steering wheel adjustability will ensure you’ll find your perfect driving position. But I appreciate it won’t be for everyone.
The customisable 10-inch multimedia set-up takes some navigating to work out and I still found it somewhat confusing three months in. It’s clever - perhaps too clever for me - and the graphics are cool.
One issue with this system was a lag with the reversing camera. It wasn’t every time you engage reverse, but often enough to be frustrating.
Storage gets a big tick in the 308, with big door bins for bottles and more, sizable central bins and little nooks. The phone charger is mostly fine but if you use it when Apple CarPlay is active, the phone will overheat and the connection will cut in and out. However, this isn’t a Peugeot issue - I have experienced this with many cars recently.
There’s more space in the second row than you’d think, including a surprising amount of headroom, even with the sunroof. Very clever packaging back there and comfy seats too.
You miss out on the practicality of a spare wheel - it only comes with a tyre repair kit - but the upside is a spacious boot.
In my previous monthly 308 review I highlighted how we fit four grown men and their long weekend luggage in this car without it being too squeezy.
So it’s got the looks, the gear and the fancy interior, but can it cut it on the road?
The short answer is a resounding yes!
The 308’s peppy 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine delivers 96kW of power and 230Nm of torque, which doesn’t sound like a lot. And the 0-100km/h dash is done in 9.7 seconds. These are not hot hatch figures. But they don’t represent how fun and engaging the Peugeot 308 is.
There is turbo lag when accelerating from a standing start, and sometimes it’s more pronounced - so don’t try and get across an intersection if a tram is coming, for example. However, it is still responsive, and the engine comes alive once you’re on the go.
The 308 has an unmistakable three-cylinder engine note that is just lovely. Even on some steeper hills, the little engine keeps on giving and it never sounds like it’s straining. It’s also more than capable of overtaking when you need it to.
I’ve talked up its dynamic chops before but it’s worth repeating. The balanced chassis, well-tuned suspension setup, relatively light weight (1258kg) and light yet sharp steering make for a superb driving experience. It may not have hot hatch-like performance figures but my goodness it can tackle a corner with the best of them.
Try not smiling when driving this car on a twisty mountain road. In fact try not smiling when you’re driving this thing to the shops to buy bread!
I truly believe the 308 could well be the new dynamic benchmark in the small car class.
Peugeot claims a combined cycle fuel use figure of 5.3 litres per 100 kilometres, and around town you can probably get single-digit figures.
However, clearly I engaged in some enthusiastic driving in my last month with the 308 because I calculated a figure of 11.7 litres over close to 300 kilometres of driving.
The service schedule is every 15,000 kilometres or 12 months, whichever comes first. And service plan pricing ranges from $1000 for three years to $1800 for five years.
Acquired: April, 2023
Distance travelled this month: 277km
Average energy consumption this month: 11.7L/100km
Based on new car retail price
In an era when there are more than a few generic yet passable cars, it’s been a genuine pleasure to spend three months with the Peugeot 308 GT Premium hatch. It’s not perfect, but it’s a reminder of how good Peugeot can be when it gets all of the ingredients right.
I think this represents great value for money, given what you get for your $48,990, offers up a well-equipped, spacious, and stylish interior, and has brought me more joy than most cars I have driven in the past year.
Maybe instead of buying that European small SUV you’ve had your eye on, go and drive the Peugeot 308 first. I reckon it will put a big smile on your face.
Until next time, mon amour.
Based on new car retail priceVIEW PRICING & SPECS
Based on new car retail price