Road tests / 5 October 2018, 3:40pm / Pritesh Ruthun
Johannesburg - The Peugeot 308 quietly disappeared from local showrooms last year, absent from the brand’s new car price list for more than six months, but it’s made a triumphant return to the country.
Available in only one derivative, Allure, but with a choice of either manual or automatic transmission, Peugeot is hoping to take some sales away from the ever popular Ford Focus and VW Golf.
The 308 hopes to attract customers with fresh LED running lights on the outside and an enhanced interior design. And, although it’s hard to tell without a Peugeot representative pointing out every single detail to you, both externally and internally, every detail of the new 308 has been refreshed.
I spotted a new grille, and the brighter, crisper headlights immediately. And, inside the 308 Allure I was pleasantly surprised to see and experience comfortable seats and a relaxed seating position.
Love it or hate it, Peugeot has retained the diminutive steering wheel that it uses in the 208, in the 308. I couldn’t adjust the steering wheel to a comfortable enough position so that it did not obscure part of the instrument cluster. Taller drivers might find it easier to see ‘over’ the steering wheel to read the instrumentation in an unhindered way, though.
On the subject on ‘unhindered’ I found the 308’s i-Cockpit® car control system to be rather annoying to use at times. For instance, if I wanted to adjust the temperature of the car’s climate control system, I would need to go into a menu via the infotainment screen to do so. This would mean I could not operate the radio at the same time, as the climate control screen would be active.
Now, one could argue that I could have used the car’s steering-mounted controls to play with the radio, but I prefer pushing buttons on a dashboard. Perhaps if the i-Cockpit’s screen responded a little faster or if its menus were a little more engaging it would be a more pleasant experience. The greater part of my test drive, though, left me frustrated by the centre console and its lack of quick-access buttons and switchgear.
Nevertheless, the 308 Allure’s i-Cockpit supports Mirror Screen technology, which duplicates your smartphone on the vehicle’s 24.6cm capacitive touchscreen. Peugeot call it a ‘triple-play system’ compatible with Mirrorlink, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smart devices.
Overall, the cabin is light and airy, and there’s enough space for moms and dads with babies or small children to move around. The (single) cup holder in the central armrest might take some getting used to with its flip-back design, but the large door pockets do come in handy.
To drive, the 308 is a bit of a mixed bag. I thoroughly enjoyed the engine, which revs sweetly and pulls strongly all the way to the rev limiter. But, I did not enjoy the automatic gearbox fitted to the car. It was slow to respond, and it let down an overall nippy (and fun to drive) car. Manual changes can be accomplished if you fancy yourself as a self-shifter, but if that’s the case, I’d suggest getting the manual version of the 308.
The six-speed auto did come into its own at low speed in traffic though, which you will like if you sit in traffic on a regular basis.
If you need a bit of technology in your car, you’ll be pleased to note that the 308 features a driver Attention Alert system, ABS, Electronic Stability Program (ESP) and Traction Control System (ASR), EBD, Emergency brake assist (EBA) with emergency brake flashing hazard lights, automatic drive-away door-locking, central locking and dead locking, anti-theft alarm, a child lock system, unfastened seatbelt warning, and ISOFIX points for baby seats.
The 96kW PureTech engine, drives really well, and it will return a top speed of 204km/h. Driven with a lighter foot, it will sip unleaded at a claimed 5.1l/100km (7.1/100km on our test car) making it an ideal car to use around town or enjoy long distance family adventures in.
Stop&Start engine technology comes standard too, but you might end up switching it off as I did, because I do not enjoy cars powering themselves down at intersections or in traffic for safety reasons.
I’d buy a 308 if I had already experienced a Focus or Golf as my daily driver for the past few years. It rides well, and handles like a typical mid-spec C-segment hatch would, and it’s packed with tech. The i-Cockpit got to me, but you will get used to it over time.
As a car that will save fuel, and go unnoticed, the Peugeot 308 is ideal. It could make for a great second car for the family too, if you want to trade in one of your older hatchbacks.
The Automatic 308 Allure sells for R369 900 and it comes with a three-year/60 000km Service Plan, three-year/100 000km Manufacturer’s warranty, and three-year/100 000km Roadside Assistance package.
You’ll also get a 12-year anti-perforation warranty (for rust) and three-year paint warranty. Servicing is recommended every 12 months or 15 000km, whichever comes first.