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Peugeot on a winner with 308

06:00 24 July 2014

Peugeot 308's many talents and innovative design has been rewarded by it being judged European Car of the Year.

Peugeot 308's many talents and innovative design has been rewarded by it being judged European Car of the Year.

Peugeot

Peugeot’s new 308 hatch has boosted its image with new-found quality and a top title, says motoring editor Andy Russell.

Peugeot 308 Active e-THP 130

Price: Peugeot 308 Active e-THP 130, £17,945 (hatchback range £14,495 to £24,045)

Engine: 1,198cc, 130bhp, three-cylinder turbo petrol

Performance: 0-62mph 9.6 seconds; top speed 128mph

MPG: Urban 48.7; extra urban 72.4; combined 61.4

CO2 emissions: 107g/km

Benefit-in-kind tax rate: 14%

Insurance group: 14E (out of 50)

Warranty: Three years or 60,000 miles

Will it fit in the garage? Length 4,253mm; width (including door mirrors) 2,043mm; height 1,457mm

When you compete in a sector dominated by the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra and Volkswagen Golf you need all the help you can get to stand a chance of stealing their limelight.

Peugeot is off to a flying start with the new 308 – don’t confuse it with the old 308 because the whole Peugeot range is going to end in 08 from now on with the arrival of the 108 – being voted European Car of the Year 2014.

That emphasises this is a very different car from its dumpy and rather dull predecessor because this new 308 is instrumental in driving the brand’s image upmarket. For a start, it looks dynamic and desirable but that is just half the battle. The new 308 has also got to be good to drive and the it doesn’t disappoint with an all-new platform pushing the wheels further out to the corners and that bigger footprint contributes greatly to the hatchback’s well-planted, stable feel and refined ride quality.

But the 308 also introduces a host of new and revised engines and, for a car-maker renowned for diesels, it is petrol power in the spotlight.

For the 308 is the first Peugeot to get the new 1.2-litre e-THP, three-cylinder turbo petrol engine in 110 and 130bhp outputs – all the benefits of a 1.6-litre naturally-aspirated unit that it replaces but offering much better on economy and emissions.

I’ve been driving the more powerful version and, despite its relatively small capacity, it’s a stonkingly powerful little engine, pulling smoothly and willingly from low revs, delivering plenty of mid-range oomph and spinning freely to the red line for entertaining performance. But it also cruises comfortably and quietly at motorway speeds and returned 50mpg in real-world driving. What I wasn’t so keen on was the six-speed manual gearbox’s sloppy shift – fortunately the more powerful 1.2 e-THP is also available with a six-speed automatic.

Regardless of which engine you choose – and there’s something for everyone’s needs – this new 308 is very good to drive.

The suspension is tuned to blend a well-damped, cosseting ride with nimble, responsive handling and the smaller flat-bottomed steering wheel adds to the sporty feel and entertaining fun factor.

The 308 is the most compact hatchback in its sector but has a record-breaking 470 litres of boot space – 35 litres of which is under the boot floor. So what does that tell you? Yes, it’s now over-endowed with legroom in the back but, fortunately, Peugeot says customers are mainly couples, not necessarily with children at home. It will seat four, even five, average adults provided those in the back don’t have long legs which would mean front passengers having to give up some of their ample space. My test car was fitted with the panoramic glass roof, standard on range-topping Feline and a £500 option on Active and Allure, which also ate into headroom.

But if a big boot outweighs rear legroom as your priority, the 308 does not disappoint. It’s vast and well-shaped and the 60/40 rear seat backs fold flat but leave a step up from the boot floor which is disappointing.

The highlight of the interior is what the driver is going to see all the time – the dashboard – which is so important. In the case of the 308 it’s a selling point but takes a little coming to terms with if you are used to lots of buttons. The 308’s new i-Cockpit is has a minimalist feel and look about it with many key functions controlled through the 9.7in touchscreen – standard on all but entry-level Access. At first it seems as though there is something missing on the fascia, with an absence of huge number of controls, but you soon appreciate the smart functional design and complete lack of fuss.

The dash design also sees the instruments raised to the top of the fascia so you look at them over, rather than through, the steering wheel. It adds another element to finding the ideal seating set-up but, fortunately, it’s not an issue with a good range of adjustment and the needle of the rev counter, on the right of the instrument cluster, goes anti-clockwise – it’s designed to make it visible visible but it looks strange at first.

Lots of soft-touch plastic trim and brightwork highlights heighten the upmarket ambience of the stylish and curvaceous interior. Large doorbins and a large central lidded locker between the front seats make up for the tiny glovebox – a downside of switching from left to right-hand drive. Forward visibility is good but chunky rear pillars hinder reversing.

Available in Access, Active, Allure and Feline trims, Active is going to meet most people’s practical needs with dual-zone air conditioning, rear parking sensors, automatic headlamps and wipers, touchscreen and satellite navigation.

The new 308 has won the recognition and prestigious title it needs to get it noticed so deserves to be on your shopping list – driving it could well seal the deal.

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Meet the Editor

Andy Russell

Andy Russell

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EDP motoring editor, journalist who loves wheels and engines but hates cleaning them.

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