French revolution finally breaks years of resistance.
First published in the February 2016 issue of Wheels magazine, Australia’s most experienced and most trusted car magazine since 1953.
LIKE passing a baton in a relay, barely a month after I gifted the Corby clan my Citroen C4 Picasso, here I am in its platform buddy, the Peugeot 308 – the much-loved red 1.2-litre Active auto that Byron has been cooing like a Peacock about since March.
Appropriately, the first time both of us saw the new 308 in the flesh was on a motorway outside London, returning from a road trip. Amusing ourselves at the magnificence of Byron’s new drag-queen name (Krystal Methioudakis), the sight of the low-spec, navy-blue 308 under a dull English sky was like being fed cold fish and chips. We were both gutted. How could Peugeot be so boring?
Two months later, the Australian 308 line-up debuted at COTY 2014 and opinions instantly shifted, to the point where Peugeot’s comeback car stood a bloody good chance of taking the prize. And it’s been nothing but growing admiration since. From the base Access to the feisty Peugeot 308 GT, the 308 is something I could seriously own.
But there’s arguably none finer than Byron’s former filly. So when the opportunity arose to transport a car-load full of old mags on the 850km-plus slog back to Sydney, the 308 stuck its hand up and opened its derriere.
With the boot and footwells crammed, the 308’s handsome shape looked suitably hunkered down and, even with the load, the brilliant torque of its turbo triple made motoring a joy. From Friday to Sunday I blatted about Melbourne like some Op Shop collector hoarding tat, then on the Monday guided the Pug back to its home state.
Do you realise how much magazines weigh? Yet the 308 hauled them interstate and still returned excellent economy.
Having done virtually the same journey in the C4 Picasso, without a load, the 308’s effortlessness on the Hume is even more incredible. The torque is so terrific that the Aisin six-speed auto only kicked back to fifth once on the entire trip. The unladen Citroen has a better power-to-weight ratio (92kW per tonne versus 83), but the three-pot’s performance transcends what its on-paper specs promise.
And the economy! Despite that load and several foot-flat extensions up through its rev range after pit stops or dispatching slow-moving traffic, the 308 1.2 auto averaged 6.8L/100km for the journey, and that includes three days of city slogging with the same load. In the Citroen, I clocked 8.1L/100km.
Both PSA cars share a few faults, like a Bluetooth phone system that must have its volume level at less than 20 or it echoes in the caller’s ears, and the fiddly procedure for choosing tracks with an iPod plugged into the multimedia system. But they’re minor irritations you can work around.
What shone most is the 308’s cohesion. I think it makes better use of its EMP2 platform than the Picasso, particularly in terms of general agility and urban ride. Yet both are superb at smashing out day-long drives minus fatigue and discomfort. Not to mention excuses. Finally, here’s a small Peugeot hatchback you’ll want to own for reasons other than the way it looks.
My first long-termer at Wheels was a Peugeot – a 406 HDi manual sedan back in 2001 – and while I was a fan, some of its faults simply wouldn’t be tolerated now. Like cruise control that occasionally went out to lunch, or a stereo that didn’t always turn off with the ignition. Its gravelly diesel had so little poke below 2000rpm it would almost stall leaving the underground car park at work. And at about 4000rpm it would asphyxiate itself. Still, the 406 was pretty to look at, had great seats, and its ride – despite being criticised back then for being firmer than previous Pugs – was a revelation compared to how most cars feel today.Nathan Ponchard
Read part 7 of our Peugeot 308 long-term car review.
Peugeot 308 Active
Price as tested: $26,890
Part 8: 882km @ 6.8L/100km
Overall: 11,619km @ 6.6L/100km
Date acquired: March 2015