Kilkenny was the venue chosen for the Irish launch of Peugeot’s new family hatch, the 308. The plan was to drive down from Dublin to the Marble City, but I chose to drive directly to Kilkenny and meet the cars there.
I grabbed the first car to arrive and headed out into heavy traffic. What I didn’t know was that the cars were competing in an economy run on their journey down but nobody took the details before I destroyed the fuel economy with my city driving. A belated apology for that one lads, but if you were the first to arrive, you had no hope of winning anyway.
Visually, the new 308 is distinctive and a much more attractive design than the car it replaces. Details include a large grille at the front surrounded by chrome, full LED headlamps on some models and lion-claw rear lamps with LEDs on all versions.
Straight away, I felt at home, the cabin providing a pleasant ambience. Peugeot have really gone for an uncluttered look for the dashboard, with most functions controlled directly by a large 9.7” colour touchscreen mounted centrally. Seven buttons surround the screen giving direct access to the various functions.
Equally, the treatment of the instrument panel is unique. It’s mounted very high to put it directly in the driver’s eyeline. It makes it very easy to keep an eye on your speed without taking your eyes far from the road. To aid visibility of the instruments, the steering wheel is smaller than normal, a feature I particularly liked.
What I didn’t like, and complained vociferously about, was the tachometer, or rev counter. The speedometer rises as normal in a clockwise direction, while the tachometer beside it runs anti-clockwise. The result is that one needle rises while the other falls and it’s surprisingly disconcerting. What makes this even more surprising is that this apparently was a deliberate design decision. Something to do with symmetry, I’m told. I hated it anyway.
Happily, the rest of the package is strong, with a spacious cabin and impressive ride comfort. The new 308 is based on a brand new platform, optimised for low weight and as a result is 70 kgs lighter than before. Other components have been redesigned and model for model, the new car is around 140 kgs lighter than before.
Although it’s 3cm shorter than the old model, the wheelbase has been greatly increased to optimise cabin space and luggage room. In fact, the 308, with a 470 litre boot, is the largest in the class. With the rear seats folder, 1,309 litres are released.
From launch, the 308 comes with a 1.6 litre HDi engine with 92 bhp and emissions of just 96 g/km. Later this year, the range will be strengthened with a new three cylinder 1.2 litre e-THP petrol, with a choice of either 110 bhp or 130 bhp. Also coming on stream are BlueHDi models, with emissions as low as 83 g/km.
Three trim levels are on offer. Access models come with air conditioning, cruise control with speed limiter, LED DRL, front electric windows, Bluetooth and a spare wheel.
Active models add dual zone climate control, 16” alloy wheels, touch screen, hill assist, leather gear knob and steering wheel, rear electric windows, front fog lamps and a full size spare wheel.
Top spec Allure trim gets 17” alloy wheels, front parking sensors, chrome window surrounds, electric folding door mirrors and full LED headlamps.
Active and Allure models can be specified with options including a reversing camera, satellite navigation or a panoramic sunroof. A Driver Assistance Pack, consisting of dynamic cruise control, emergency collision alert system and emergency collision braking system is also available.
Prices start at €18,990, for the 1.2 litre petrol Access model. The best seller is expected to be the 1.6 litre HDi Active, which sells for €22,990.
Like all new Peugeots, the new 308 comes with a five year warranty and is well worth checking out if you’re in the market for a family hatchback.
Motoring editor - The Clare Champion
Former Chairman and voting member of Irish Motoring Writers' Association