Launch Report: Peugeot 308

Reporter:

Staff Reporter

PEUGEOT boss Dave Peel has been doing a lot of head-scratching trying to fathom why the 308 doesn’t get more sales.

On paper the 2014 car of the year has everything going for it: uniquely-styled dashboard, quality trim and class-leading petrol and diesel engines.

Yet while the family hatch is number one in France, it struggles to make the top 10 here.

Peel, a driven South Walian, is on a mission to raise the French company to a high-end brand.

He wants Brits to feel the same love for Peugeot as we do for Volkswagen.

That means raising the brand’s profile with ‘come in and look at us’ showrooms, anything to change the age old perception that Peugeot is a division two player.

He has more ideas up his sleeve but right now is banking, even quietly praying, that the new 308 will get the credit and sales it deserves.

Peel’s optimism is fuelled by the extraordinary success of the 3008 SUV, my car of the year, which also waltzed away with the European Car of the Year crown.

Its sales have outstripped all expectations so much so that Peel has upped his quota three times to meet demand.

So will this heightened interest in Peugeot help lift the profile of the new 308?

That’s a tough one. By new, we mean facelift, so the upgrades are confined mainly to technology with a raft of safety features and upgrade to the i-Cockpit.

The virtually switch-free dashboard grabbed the headlines but has not been without its troubles.

First up the unusual layout. The binnacle sitting above the small steering wheel can cause problems for people of a certain height, like me, whose view of the speedo is obscured.

It is all to do with getting the best driving position and could be sorted with an additional head-up display on the windscreen.

The touchscreen response on the current model is a tad slow and the navigation has no facility for postcodes.

Those teething troubles have been ironed with new graphics and quicker response but what a pity the brilliant layout in the new 3008 with its quick key toggles and spectacular graphics is a few years away from this model.

What can we expect from this new 308? Cosmetic changes to the front with a more prominent grille and new light design are not that obvious. In fact, nearly all the new features are out of sight.

Like its rivals, Peugeot has packed the car with safety features.

Emergency braking, where the car does the job if the driver fails to react, now recognises pedestrians, while dynamic cruise control keeps the car a set distance from the vehicle ahead, accelerating and braking, even down to a stop if necessary.

Another favourite to make its way into 308 is lane departure technology, which applies a steering correction to keep the car in its lane.

On a smaller scale, but no less significant, is daylight running tail lights, something car makers should have brought in years ago.

The 308’s handling and suspension are pretty much spot on so no need to make changes but we will be seeing a new 1.5 litre turbo diesel that will eventually replace the current 1.6 diesel.

It is cleaner, quieter and more fuel efficient, and with an extra 10bhp is not short of punch.

The petrol 1.2 litre PureTech has again won ‘European engine of the year’ and is a superb alternative for those who do not run up a big mileage and is a big plus for the car.

More powerful engines get a new eight-speed automatic gearbox.

On-sale date is September, but you can order now, with prices expected to remain static and starting around £18,500, with top of the range models nearing £30,000.

It is supreme irony that the success of the 3008 is 308’s worst enemy. The SUV is the undoubted star and Peugeot has to take full advantage and cash in while it can.

When you look at the quality of the interior, which easily matches a Golf, and the daring dashboard design, which puts Golf to shame, it is hard to fathom why 308 sits relatively low in the UK rankings. It deserves better.

Email:

it@nwn.co.uk

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