What do you expect from a mainstream car? If you’re talking about the 2015 Peugeot 308 GT, then those expectations vary hugely, with what’s considered a “must-have” proving just as broad as the age range of the car’s audience. It’s no small issue, and one Peugeot can’t afford to ignore. Some drivers prioritize economy above all else; others demand space and luxury features; style is vital but potentially divisive; and even in this mass-market segment, driving feel can’t be ignored.
The 2015 308, then, needs to be all things to all people, and that’s a big ask. It’s also not something Peugeot has quite managed in any of its previous generations. Certainly, the outgoing 308 – heck even the 208 – is well screwed-together, spacious inside, and has the reliability and economy existing drivers love. It can’t exactly be described as heart-stoppingly handsome, though, nor especially eager even with a keen driver such as myself behind the wheel.
Peugeot says it’s addressed all of that with the prevvious 308, and from a spell with several models spanning the new range across the space of two days, I’m tempted to think they’re not exaggerating. Even if you’re not in the market for a midsize hatch-back, there’s good news for this year that could soon sway you into a Peugeot showroom.
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First things first. The new 308 looks great, a solid balance between the conservative silhouette of the outgoing car and more engaging design that should make it a little less anonymous on the road. The scythe of brushed metal that bisects the front grille is a good example, being far more visually interesting than the flat chrome of the old model. The stance looks wider, and strong creases flow down the sides and into the oversized rear lamp clusters that fall just across the tasteful line of resembling a 60s rocket ship.
Oddly, as pointed out by a friend of mine, the rear looks as though it should be on a Audi model but it’s really a Peugeot. Most cars seem to grow as they evolve, and the 2015 308 is no exception. It’s wheelbase is a bit longer, as is its rear overhang, though the front overhang is shorter. The latter forced some clever thinking in the crumple-zones, too: two new brackets underneath deform backward and pull the engine down at the same time, to slide it under the driver’s feet.
Inside, as well as extra space you have more gadgets to play with, that’s when the 7-inch DisplayAudio system debuts with bluetooth audio, a single USB and auxiliary port together with a single level cubby system in the center stack which allows you to snake your phone charger cables out the way rather than have a rats’ nest around the shifter. one would notice how the dash is cleaner,
The GT I had for review, throws in heated front leather trimmed cloth seats, dual-zone climate control, HD radio, and bigger, 17-inch alloys and those attractive LED Headlamps. Oh, the seats have a massaging feature too.
Oddly, there’s no option for blind spot alerts – warning you when there’s someone in your blind spot in the lane either side of you – nor cross-traffic alerts. The adaptive cruise control handled the freeway well, but was disconcertingly jerky at city speeds, surging forward then jolting to a halt and, at one point in stop-go traffic, flashing up a scary “BRAKE!” warning rather than bringing things to a halt itself.
I’ve been generally critical of most factory-fit infotainment from just about all the main manufacturers, but happily this 308 raises Peugeot’s game. In fact, I’d say it’s my favorite system from any of the automaker’s current cars, including anything wearing the premium German badge.
Importantly, Peugeot’s in-house system is now faster, its not Android-based, but its noteworthy – a sluggish touchscreen can be a deal-breaker since you’re never quite sure if you actually tapped the right button, distracting when you’re on the move – and has been redesigned to make it easier to navigate. Tabs and icons across the sides lead straight to the climate, car stats, audio, settings and app controls and – if fitted – the mobile connectivity via your smartphone.That’s not to say Peugeot scored 10/10.
You get limited easily-reached shortcut controls on the steering wheel, including a lazy little volume rocker that can be either pressed or rolled by the thumb (up or down), the 308 also has a physical volume knob on the center stack. You know, just in case all fails.
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Though there’s no automatic entry-level option, the gem of the 308 powerplant is the GT Line, though, the power delivery of which is so smooth and lacking in lag that you’d think Peugeot had been slapping turbochargers to its engines for years. No, you’re not going to mistake the 1.8-liter for the higher models, but neither are you going to find yourself short of pep pulling away from the lights or trying to overtake at highway rates.
Testament to Peugeot’s focus, in many ways the new 308 does indeed feel like a much more expensive model. In fact, the challenge may not be the car itself, but the brand it wears.
It’s a similar problem that Peugeot’s stablemate Citroen has faced with the DS range, trying to persuade drivers who might usually opt for a 3-Series BMW by default to give France a chance. Peugeot must’ve specifically name-checked Audi’s A3, for instance, as a benchmark by which the new 308 was designed. I’m not entirely confident that, even if it matched the driving dynamics, style, and everything else, the badge cachet will win it those sales.
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Then again, maybe that’s not such a worry. It’s notable that, on the eve of this brand new model, the outgoing 308 is still one of the most popular cars in its class in terms of retail sales. Peugeot’s existing audience is clearly finding the 308 and 208 recipe to its taste, and if the company can persuade a few extra percentage points to dine at its particular C-segment table then that – to take the food analogy to its stretched conclusion – would just be gravy.
From my first-impressions, that gravy will be free-flowing. The 2015 308 drives well, packs more technology than you might expect, and has an engine pair that match its upmarket ambitions. That makes the 308 good news all round.
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