Ever heard of ‘perception lag’?
It’s when the view of the general populous takes time to catch up with the actual reality of a situation. And here’s a textbook example – the second-generation Peugeot 308.
Launched in 2014 with an all-new platform and an all-new drivetrain, it shares only its three-numeral name with the ugly, overweight and uninteresting 308 hatch/wagon (2007-13) it superseded. While it’s been a smash hit overseas – indeed, Peugeot’s financial salvation following a brush with near-bankruptcy – and has a European Car of the Year award under its belt, the 308 range managed just 395 sales in Australia in 2018. But a change of importer and a renewed focus in this country gives the 308 a chance of achieving the popularity it deserves.
Is it enjoyable to drive?
Here’s where the 308 comes into its own. It may not have the overall dynamic polish of the plush-riding Volkswagen Golf but the Peugeot has verve and chassis poise on its side. This is an engaging and encouraging car to drive on twisty roads, backed by the confidence of its four-square stance and the vast purchase of its premium-quality Michelin tyres.
Not everyone is going to love the 308’s ‘i-Cockpit’ driving position, combining a small, low-set steering wheel with an instrument pack sited in a ‘head-up’ position above it. But you quickly warm to the wieldiness of the 308’s sporty little wheel, and the pleasure in punting this car around, both in town and out on the open road.
Like its many revered forebears – think 404, 504, 505 and 405 – the 308 loves a run, eating up distance with an effortless nonchalance. Backed by the torquey suaveness of its superb engine, the 308 Allure drives like a proper premium hatch.
Does it perform as you expect?
The superb torque and effortless driveability of Peugeot’s turbo triple makes it scarcely believable that its capacity is just 1199cc. Few would believe so much polish and performance could be extracted from such humble on-paper specs.
It combines the intriguing beat of a three-cylinder engine with an easy keenness to rev and suave refinement. You can absolutely cane the 308’s delightful engine without any level of intrusion. In fact, it’s as enjoyable pushing this engine to its limits as it is making almost no effort in maintaining speed up hills or wafting along on its turbocharged chub.
Channelling all this polished performance – we’ve consistently seen 9.1sec from 0-100km/h, beating Peugeot’s claim – is an excellent six-speed automatic transmission with an idle-stop system. And if you press the ‘S’ button (for ‘Sport’) near the staggered-gate shift lever, the 308 amps up both gearshift speed and throttle response, making the most of every fulfilling fragment of grunt.
Certainly the 308’s impressively trim weight – just 1150kg – helps make the most of this fine engine, but it also aids efficiency, as well as agility. And that’s the foundation of the 308’s likeability. It performs beyond expectation and delivers genuine pleasure in the way it goes about its business.
Add to that the current model’s reputation for affordable, trouble-free motoring and it’s a little surprising that more people aren’t driving a current 308. But those that do find never-ending appreciation in its svelte styling, a great stance, proper interior design flair, and one of the most charming engines of our time.