When Michael, my Uber driver, noticed where I was heading, he started his small talk with: how do you pronounce “Peugeot”? Eager to impart a bit of automotive trivia, I told him the proper way to say it: “POO-zho” and that if he ever needs a refresher, every dealer has a pronunciation guide stickered on the façade. Then he asked: mura ba yun? Mukha kasi silang mura eh (are they cheap? It’s because they look cheap). At that point, I thought: Ouch! If I were working for Peugeot or owned one, that comment would feel like a knife piercing through my chest. Although I could try reiterating things like how they’re filled with quirky yet intricate details and that they’re made in France and so forth; I’m simply calling on Michael to try out the new 308, be it the hatchback or wagon. Discounting the budget 301 which I abhorred, this is the first mainstream car that lives up to Peugeot’s brand values.
The moment I saw it, I knew Peugeot was going for something more than just shock value with the 308. Compared to its previous designs such as the RCZ and to some degree, even the 208 GTi, the 308 is going more for a visual sense of quality and refinement. That may be a downer to long-time Peugeot fans, but the tidy and appealing design at least has no angle or line that’s out of place. It’s certainly more subdued and formal than any Peugeot before it and that brings up inevitable comparisons with the Volkswagen Golf. Nonetheless, at least the 308 does continue some of its playful feline touches like those in the headlights and taillights. The hatchback is certainly the sportier looking one compared to the station wagon, but personally I like the latter’s slightly tapering roofline which, dare I say it, is reminiscent of a Jaguar wagon. Interestingly, the 1.6 Petrol Allure test unit comes with a set of 17-inch alloy wheels, though the rolling stock are a size smaller at 16-inches.
Inside, the 308 continues with Peugeot’s move towards something classier. The cleaned up cockpit is by itself, more reminiscent of a concept car than a production compact. Immediately, I noticed the lack of physical buttons. The center stack, where you usually find a plethora of controls, is now just a piece of plastic with a strip of chrome and a large volume knob. Everything, and I mean everything, has been migrated to a large 9.7-inch touchscreen that provides access on everything from climate controls to infotainment to even vehicle settings. The touchscreen icons themselves are large and easy-to-hit, but the laggy response still has me wishing for separate controls for the climate at the very least.
Perceived material quality, is by and large, a strong feature of the 308’s interior. Most plastics are pleasing to the eye and the liberally placed metallic highlights work very well to spruce things up. Still, there are some areas of hard, scratchy plastics particularly in the area below the touchscreen. A piece of advice to Peugeot: if you’re not going to put any controls in that blank piece of plastic next to the volume knob, might as well go all out and make it look like the dash is floating.
The removal of the physical buttons is by far not the most controversial aspect of the 308. That award goes to the adoption of a small diameter steering wheel coupled with an instrument panel that’s mounted above the dashboard. Peugeot calls this the “i-Cockpit” concept and it’s supposed to improve driver visibility while eliminating the need for costly solutions like a heads-up display. Does it work? Having to look over the steering wheel instead of through them to see the gauges may take some getting used to, but yes, it does work. Taller or bigger drivers will understandably not rate the adoption of this set-up as a success, but what I found is that if you lower your seating position to more than your usual, it becomes fine. And on that note, the 308 does offer a lot of seating adjustment to keep things comfortable. Plus, the suede and leather combination seats also do a fine job of keeping everyone firmly glued in their thrones during spirited driving.
Though the front passenger will have nothing to complain about, the rear accommodation is less than stellar. Young children will find it easy to get comfortable, but more legroom is needed in order to fit three full-grown adults. The luggage space, whether on the hatchback or wagon is plentiful.
Locally, Peugeot is offering a choice between two 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder motors for the 308. The gasoline one generates 150 horsepower and 240 Nm of torque from its 95-octane diet while the diesel one has 120 horsepower and 300 Nm of torque. Both of these engines are mated to an Aisin 6-speed automatic.
Starting with the gasoline-fed one first, the 308 scoots reasonably well, if you know how to modulate throttle inputs. Gingerly applying the accelerator, I find, is a surefire way for a sluggish of the line experience. Absolutely nothing happens until the turbo kicks in. And once it does, don’t expect to be pulled back into your seat. It feels reasonably punchy, but it emulates the feel closer to that of a larger displacement normally-aspirated car than a forced-induction one. 100 km/h arrives in about 8 seconds, according to the spec sheet, but it feels slightly slower than that. What’s worse, there’s a terrible case of shift shock between first and second gear. Again, I chuck this down to my half-assed throttle inputs, but then again, I’ve never suffered this problem with any other gearbox short of a dual clutch. Finally, I suffered the indignity of having to limp this particular unit back to Peugeot because of a “Check Engine Light” after just having 1,900 kilometers on the clock.
This augurs that you should skip the entry-level hatchback altogether and head straight to the 1.6 BlueHDi starting with the Allure variant station wagon. I find that this is easily the better of the two engines and easily shows off Peugeot’s diesel superiority. Not only is it just as refined and quiet as its petrol counterpart, but it’s punchy even from low revs. As the speeds go up, there’s still plenty more to summon from the mid-range and even a fair amount at the top-end for overtaking. 100 km/h takes about 2 seconds slower than the petrol, but it actually feels faster than that. The transmission is also better suited to this engine, eliminating the shift shock problem experienced with the petrol. And of course, being a diesel, it does 12.98 km/L in city traffic (average speed 13 km/h) compared to the petrol’s 6.37 km/L (average speed 11 km/h).
Driving dynamics, apart from the GTi models, isn’t a strong suit for Peugeot, but with the 308, they have closed the gap tremendously. Not only is it comfortable, but it’s actually engaging (more so in hatchback form) and handles tidily and precisely.
The downsized steering wheel takes some getting used to, because as we all know, a small diameter wheel makes for a poor lever. More turns are sometimes required to negotiate a bend or corner, a fact only exacerbated by the lack of feedback (the station wagon has a slightly weightier feel). Nonetheless, after some familiarization, the 308 does deliver a good degree of precision. Body roll is nicely controlled and it takes to bends well.
And surprisingly, the 308 is also very compliant and comfortable through bumps. Peugeot is particularly proud of the new rear suspension design where the torsion beam is suspended via the trailing arms. Along with the re-positioned dampers, it allows the rear wheels to offer a slightly curved range of movement instead of a strictly vertical one. This all equates to bumps which are all absorbed better making for a smoother, quieter ride.
For Peugeot, the arrival of the 308 signals their intention that they’re ready to go beyond the usual French quirkiness that they’ve been harping on for the past few years. They don’t need to conjure up images of the Champs-Élysées or the Louvre or Louis Vuitton or Chanel in their product briefs anymore, because their cars can now finally stand on their own merit. All in all, the 308 offers an appearance and material finish that make it feel more premium than ever before. Though some oddities still remain, there’s no denying the advancement made in refinement, comfort, and build quality. Now all it takes is to communicate this to the Filipino buying public.
2016 Peugeot 308 1.6 HB Allure & 2016 Peugeot 308 1.6 SW Allure
|Ownership||2016 Peugeot 308 1.6 HB Allure||2016 Peugeot 308 1.6 SW Allure|
|Body Type||5-door hatchback||5-door wagon|
|Engine / Drive||F/F||F/F|
|Under the Hood|
|Fuel Delivery||EFI||Common Rail, Direct Injection|
|Layout / # of Cylinders||I4||I4|
|BHP @ rpm||150 @ 6,000||120 @ 3,500|
|Nm @ rpm||240 @ 1,400||300 @ 1,750|
|Fuel / Min. Octane||Gasoline / 95~||Diesel|
|Transmission||6 AT||6 AT|
|Fuel Economy @ Ave. Speed||6.37 km/L @ 11 km/h||12.98 km/L @ 13 km/h|
|Dimensions and Weights|
|Curb Weight (kg)||1,123||1,310|
|Suspension and Tires|
|Front Suspension||Independent MacPherson Strut||Independent, MacPherson Strut|
|Rear Suspension||Torsion Beam Axle||Torsion Beam Axle|
|Front Brakes||Vented Disc||Vented Disc|
|Tires||Michelin Primacy 3 205/55
R 16 V (f & r),
Goodyear EfficientGrip 225/45 R 17 V (f & r) (as tested)
|Michelin Pilot Sport 3 225/45 R 17 V (f & r)|
|Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)||Yes||Yes|
|Traction / Stability Control||Yes||Yes|
|Parking Sensors||Front, Rear||Front, Rear|
|Other Safety Features||Hill Start Assist||Hill Start Assist|
|Fog Lamps||Front, Rear||Front, Rear|
|Steering Wheel Adjust||Tilt/Telescopic||Tilt/Telescopic|
|Steering Wheel Material||Leather||Leather|
Leather (as tested)
|Folding Rear Seat||Yes, 60/40||Yes, 60/40|
|Power Door Locks||Yes||Yes|
|Power Mirrors||Yes, with Fold||Yes, with Fold|
|Climate Control||Dual Zone||Dual Zone|
|# of Speakers||6, Arkamys||6, Arkamys|