Peugeot 308 (2015) First Drive

Peugeot 308 Drive1800x1800

You feel there’s quite a bit of hype and excitement surrounding the launch of the new Peugeot 308 in South Africa. It comes with a host of Car of the Year titles, including overall winner in Europe, a year after the Golf 7 took the same title. Peugeot South Africa has had its problems recently though with exchange rates climbing against them and products that probably weren't outstanding in their field. A change of leadership right at the top of Peugeot promises to deliver change in perception and the 308 is the first vehicle to showcase that change. We had a quick chance to drive it through the KZN Midlands to see what it’s all about.

Quality Lift

The most visible change in the new 308 is the build quality and materials used – they’re top notch. The dash panels are all soft touch or brushed aluminium and the shut gaps are tight and everything feels solidly held in place. This is a serious step up from what I’ve become used to in Peugeots. Sitting in the 308, it feels like a premium hatch, something you’d compare to an A3 or 1-Series.

The exterior too is well proportioned, I like it from the side profile especially and Peugeot has done a better job of its grille and headlight setup here than on any of its other models, it’s quite an athletic-looking hatch.

Modern Turbo Engine

The Peugeot 308 makes use of a brand new 1.2-litre turbo petrol unit and is offered in two power outputs. The entry-level model puts out 81 kW and 205 Nm of torque and will return a claimed 4.6L/100km. The engine model we drove at launch was the 96 kW and 230 Nm derivative that is a tiny bit thirstier at 4.8L/100km. The engine has great low down pull as the torque kicks in from just 1 750rpm and that makes it feel quite sporty to drive from the get-go. It gets off the line quickly and copes with overtaking well.

It does drop off in the mid-range of the revs, just when you’re expecting a continued surge of speed. It’s not slow, the power delivery just doesn't continue to deliver pacey thrills in the mid to upper end of the rev band. The six-speed ‘box feels sturdier than the usual Peugeot/Citroen flimsy shift. It’s not a shifter you want to thrash through the cogs like a Japanese lever, but it’s a definite improvement.

Life Inside

As I mentioned earlier, the quality is the biggest improvement overall and the 308 is a super place to spend your time behind the wheel. The seats have a massage function, the dials have a crisp metallic glow to them and the rev limiter works in the opposite direction – a novel addition that takes a bit of getting used to.

The infotainment system is touch sensitive and intuitive to use, it has all the add-ons you’d expect like USB, an Aux port and Bluetooth connectivity standard across the range. The boot is big too, some 420-litres that puts it above most of its rivals. I can’t help feeling that some of the boot space could have been sacrificed for a bit more rear legroom though.

Take a Ride

First impression of the Peugeot 308 on the road is good, the new chassis feels light and nimble to manoeuvre about and it’s fun to wind through sinewy stretches of tarmac like the KZN Midlands has on offer. The smaller steering wheel that’s intended to sit below the instrument cluster takes a bit of getting used to but is a jol to wield once you push on.

The steering is well weighted and the chassis gives good feedback as to what’s happening underneath you. I was impressed by the ride of the new 308, it irons out bumps in comfortable manner and breezes over potholes with very little crashiness. The chassis feels solid and again… well put together. It’s also welcoming to see all the major safety systems being employed across the range such as: ABS, EBD, ESP and a minimum of four airbags.

Peugeot 308 Pricing

Peugeot want to make it clear that the brand is moving into the premium sector so you shouldn't expect the 308 to come it at discount pricing. In order to entice buyers Peugeot is also offering a guaranteed buy back on the 308 as well as a five-year/60 000km maintenance plan. If your car does have an issue they also promise to give you a courtesy car whilst it gets fixed. At the moment, the Peugeot crew look as excited about the future as they've ever been and it will be interesting to see how the entry model Active (R275 900) and the top spec GT Line (R329 900) do against the likes of VW’s Golf, Audi’s A3 Sportback and the raft of hatchbacks that have flooded the segment.

Peugeot 308 - Price in South Africa

Peugeot 208 1.2 PureTech Active                                              R275 900

Peugeot 308 1.2 PureTech GT Line                                           R329 900