Peugeot puts its best foot forward to trip up VW
The new Peugeot 308 won’t spoil Golf’s game but could challenge the German giant with its style, quality and low emissions. Cabin space is sacrificed for boot space, however
Date Reviewed: January 27, 2014
Golf, as Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, so astutely observed, is a good walk spoiled. The Volkswagen Golf has been doing a good job over the past few years of putting a stagger in the walk of most of its competitors. The Golf has come to define the compact hatchback class, has been showered with awards, and, every time we drive one, the overwhelming feeling we come away with is, “why doesn’t everyone just buy one of these?”
Clearly, the motoring world would be far less interesting or diverse if that were to actually happen, but just as you cannot blame Sebastian Vettel for dominating Formula One, so you can’t blame VW for doing a better job than most – it’s up to the competition to step up to the mark.
That stepping sound you can hear in the background, then, is the arrival on the scene of Peugeot’s new 308 – the first time in history that a Peugeot badge has been retained rather than rising sequentially. The previous 308 was a decent car, but average dynamics and pretty dreadful exterior styling held it well back from the level of the Golf. In fact, it was behind most of the rest of the class, too.
This new 308 seeks to reverse that opinion, and does so with a combination of style (it certainly looks slick and modern), quality and impressively low emissions. Those emissions have been trimmed because the 308 rides on Peugeot’s new EMP2 platform, a chassis and a set of components which has seen the car shed 140kg in mass compared to its predecessor. That SlimFast plan means that none of the core diesel models emit above 100g/km of CO2, and even the petrol versions (including the forthcoming new turbocharged petrols) are well within Band A for motor tax.
There is a price for all that weight-saving, though, and it’s in the cabin. Because Peugeot was so keen to keep the overall size of the car down, it has deliberately compromised space within the cabin, meaning that rear seat space is, frankly, a bit tight. In terms of comparison to the rest of the class, it’s worse for rear-seat room than the Golf and Seat Leon, much worse than the Skoda Octavia or Toyota Auris, and about the same as a Ford Focus. Oddly, though, boot space is class-leading. Select the option box to do away with either a full-size or space-saver spare wheel and you can pack in 470 litres worth of luggage. That’s so far ahead of the class average that surely it would have made more sense to sacrifice a little luggage room in favour of rear-seat passengers?