There are parts of Peugeot's second generation 308 hatch that June Neary really likes...
Will It Suit Me?
The long lamented Peugeot's 306 family hatch was a fine car, but since its heyday things have moved on a long way. You see, although it looked good and drove brilliantly, it wasn't exactly on the pace when it came to quality and practicality. Its replacement, the 307, tried to put that right, Peugeot devoting so much resource to creating plenty of space and improving the finish that it was ditchwater dull to drive and its bottom-feeder face was hard to warm to.
With the first generation 308, Peugeot tried to bring all the elements together and nearly pulled it off. Despite being built on the same platform as the 307 it was better to drive and had more efficient engines. Thing is, it was hardly much better looking. Until now that is. Peugeot has brought us a MK2 model 308 that looks to be a far more complete proposition. I love the latest look, but will I love the rest of the car?
One of the first things that I spotted about the interior of the 308 was the vast number of storage pockets, luggage hooks and nets, slide out trays and cubbyholes. If you're carrying anything from a diamond dripping engagement ring to a 1.5-litre bottle of coke, you'll find somewhere secure to stow it - although the trick may be remembering exactly which pocket you put it in. For chocoholics like me, the air-conditioned glove box keeps your Cadburys just as you would want to find it, rather than the sloppy mess that so often results.
The interior is dominated by a 9.7-inch touchscreen and while some of the materials quality is a bit variable, sit in a Golf Mk 7 and you'll come to a similar conclusion. This 308 gets the tiny steering wheel debuted on the 208, but in this instance, it's possible for shorter drivers to see the dials over the top of it. The contra-rotating rev counter is a neat touch, the oversized manual gear knob less so. Space all round is more than adequate and the 470-litre boot is excellent.
Rear accommodation is impressive and the decor, while a little sombre, feels as though it comes from a car high up the automotive hierarchy. Good fuel economy, a comfortable driving position and plenty of space make this an ideal car for work around town or for longer trips. I could even see my family going on holiday in one, such is the comfort and available space.
The controversial gaping mouth of the previous 308 (not my cup of tea) has thankfully been consigned to the dustbin and the latest 308 is a far cleaner looking. The front end features a sculpted bonnet and sharky headlights but there's a maturity, a confidence, about the styling. It's not trying too hard. We like that.
Behind the Wheel
Being a Peugeot, spirited driving is most definitely on the cards. The petrol engine line up opens with an 82bhp, 1.2-litre three-cylinder, then there's a choice of either 110 or 130bhp versions of this engine. The zippiest model is the 1.6-litre THP turbo with either 125 or 156bhp. Go diesel and you're looking at a 1.6-litre turbodiesel, but there are various choices: the base 92bhp unit is cheapest but the 115bhp e-HDi variant is just as clean and frugal. Even more efficient is the 'BlueHDi' 120bhp unit. The same 'BlueHDi' badge is worn by the single 2.0-litre diesel on offer, which develops 150bhp. Transmissions are fairly standard fare, with five and six-speed manuals or a six-speed torque-converter automatic.
All-round visibility is excellent thanks to a high driving position and every control falls easily to hand. In emergency braking situations, not only does the ABS cut in to bring you safely to a halt, but the hazard lights will illuminate to show those following that you are stepping sharpish on the anchors. The idea is to alert them to the emergency ahead in the hope that they will actually notice that something is amiss and use the brakes themselves. You can but hope.
The 308 features six airbags as standard. In addition to the familiar twin front and side bags, curtain airbags protect both front and rear passengers from flying glass and side impact in the event of an accident. Active head restraints, ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution and fuel supply cut-offs combine to make the 308 an impressively safe environment for the family, which would be one of my prime considerations in looking for a new car to join my household.
Other thoughtful applications include a boot that automatically locks when you pull away, protecting the contents from opportunistic thieves while stopped in traffic, and door linings that are fitted with reinforced cowlings that shield the lock elements. The Peugeot people seem to have thought of everything.
Value For Money
Prices range in the £15,000 to £25,000 bracket and there's a choice between Access, Active, Allure and Feline trim levels. The bodystyle choice is between the five-door hatch I tried or an SW estate. Engine options range between a choice of three different 1.6-litre HDi diesels, plus a 2.0-litre HDi unit. Petrol people choose between 82, 110 or 130bhp versions of the 1.2-litre unit, or a turbo 1.6 THP with either 125 or 156bhp.
Equipment levels are strong across the range. All models get air conditioning, ESP (Electronic Stability Programme), anti lock brakes, electronic brake force distribution, emergency brake assist, front and rear electric windows with child security, remote control central door locking with deadlocks and six airbags.
Could I Live With One?
It would be a genuine pleasure to have a Peugeot 308 on my driveway. Cute looks, enviable performance, economy and style appeal to every automotive sense that I possess. As French is the language of love, I'm not surprised that the Peugeot fits in so perfectly, and if you put in enough practice, you can even get it to roll off the tongue in the same alluring way as cherie. Let's try it - Purrrrr-geot. Perfect.