The Peugeot 308 Active is a charismatic little hatchback from France. It offers decent value for money in a suave and sophisticated package that is excellent fun to drive.
- Drivetrain. Don’t be fooled by the 308’s relatively meagre 1.2-litre displacement and modest 96kW/230Nm outputs. The Active’s turbocharged three-cylinder engine is a highlight. It has plenty of grunt for the lightweight hatch, and it sounds good without ever becoming intrusive in the cabin. It’s linked to a conventional six-speed automatic gearbox that is sourced from Japan and more than adequate for the job.
- Handling. There’s something about the 308’s small steering wheel and sharp front end that makes it seem so easy to tackle corners in. It’s comfortable on the open road, but carving a country lane or zipping up a city backstreet is where the 308’s character comes alive. A career in pizza delivery never sounded like such a fun idea.
- Equipment. Peugeot recently added more standard gear to the 308 Active model to make it better value for money. It now has a reversing camera and satellite navigation with free map updates. That’s on top of a high level of safety and convenience equipment like auto emergency braking, advanced cruise control, rear parking sensors, auto headlights and wipers, dual zone climate control, height adjustable front seats and LED daytime running lights.
- Interior. 308 Active feels premium inside compared to some other similarly priced competitors. Its cloth seats are comfortable and the sculptured dashboard has an architectural quality to it.
- Space. As good as the interior of the 308 is, it’s all about being in the front seats. There’s not a lot of room in the back and any adults relegated to sit there will be less comfortable than in most other small hatches. It’s also light on for storage space, and has no rear air vents or a centre armrest. Visibility is good, but anybody with long legs will be looking outside wishfully. On the other hand, boot space is good.
- Infotainment. A minimally designed dashboard and centre console area means most of the 308’s functions have to be accessed via the infotainment system on its colour touchscreen. It’s not too bad most of the time, but it would be nicer to at least have climate controls at the touch of a button rather than as part of the digital menu.
- Price. The 308 Active costs $27,990. That’s a reasonable price when considering the level of standard specification, but there are cheaper competitors which offer more rear seat space and a more conventional user experience. If you’re not a keen driver then the 308’s excellent drivetrain and handling may not hold enough appeal to sway you away from something like the Volkswagen Golf.
ANY COMPETITORS I SHOULD CONSIDER?
There are a lot of players in the affordable hatchback space. At the top of the pile is the Volkswagen Golf 92TSI. It is about as ‘one size fits all’ as a car can possibly be. It’s not quite as fun to drive as the 308 Active, but it has more rear seat room, the same premium feel and costs less at $25,490 driveaway. It does miss out on some of the active safety systems and convenience features found in 308.
Other sportier competitors include the new Holden Astra and Subaru Impreza, the Ford Focus, Honda Civic and Mazda 3. The new Renault Megane is a French alternative that looks like a compelling option on paper, though it suffers from the same rear seat issues as the Peugeot and isn’t quite as exciting to drive in base model form.