The new Peugeot 308 steps up to the plate
With its radical interior makeover and impressive engine performance, Peugeot’s new 308 is taking on Ford and VW in the competitive small family car segment
Date Reviewed: September 17, 2013
Motor industry technocrats call it the C-segment, while the rest of us know it as the small family car segment. It accounts for more than a third of all car sales in Europe and two of the top three selling cars in Ireland – the other being simply a crossover variation of the segment – belong to it. It is therefore a very profitable area for car companies, one in which they invest heavily and one in which they guard their position with zeal.
Given the mainstream names that currently dominate this part of the market – the Volkswagen Golf and the Ford Focus – companies aspiring to take them on face a serious challenge, and inroads are not going to be made overnight.
The arrival of the new Peugeot 308, therefore, represents one of the greatest challenges for the French manufacturer. Peugeot does not only have to move upmarket – it also has to prove itself as a competitor to some of the most reliable and best-value cars on the market.
Given Peugeot’s lacklustre performance and image in recent years, it has much to do to convince buyers that the 308 is a credible alternative. Price, of course, will come into it but as we don’t have a price for the 308 yet, we will have to wait to see how Peugeot manages that first hurdle.
In the meantime, the company has to be given credit for making one of its best-ever efforts at innovation and improvement. The 308 feels more solid, better engineered and more thought-out than comparable cars over the year. It is certainly a major step up from the older 308.
The platform for the car is new, but has already been used for the Citroën C4 Picasso, and there are a number of styling cues from the latest Citroën line-up. There are also styling cues from the Golf that are particularly noticeable from the side. But imitation involves more than flattery – it is also a smart move to remind people that they are getting something they associate with established reliability. And it all adds up to making the 308 seem a different and stronger presence on the road.
Fiddly instruments ditched
But while the exterior styling is hardly radical, the interior makeover is. For Peugeot, at least. Those waves of dull plastic and fiddly instruments and buttons have finally been ditched. A binnacle above the steering wheel now houses the dials, but functions such as telephone connectivity, heating and air-conditioning controls and audio system have been combined in a touch-screen. Getting rid of familiar controls is a brave move though in tune with the times – but how will people adjust to it? Those who are at ease with touch-screen technology will welcome it, but those who are familiar with the near-perfect responses of an Apple or Samsung device won’t find the same precision or smooth response. The touch-screen response in this car is simply not at that level and can be downright frustrating at times.