THE bigger, safer and greener Peugeot 308 goes on sale on September 20.
Six years after the 307 was introduced the successor retains the “semi-tall” profile but it comes as a larger package to improve room, ride and handling.
Not only is it bristling with safety features, and more can be ordered, but under the bonnets of the models are some of the industry’s most advanced low pollution, high efficiency engines. A new type of energy saving Michelin tyre is also being launched on the 308.
There are six engines in the new 308 series, equally split between petrol and diesel, and nearly all have five-speed manual gearboxes, except for the top diesel which comes with a six-speed unit to maximise economy potential.
The new series has two distinctive front ends, depending on trim level. The ‘classic’ nose is used on Urban and S versions with the colour coded or ‘sport’ design coming with Sport, SE and GT. There are also classic and sport tail treatments giving a rear diffuser and bigger rear lights on the top three trim levels.
The SE and GT versions come with standard panoramic glass sunroof extending almost the entire length of the cabin and it’s optional on Sport derivatives.
Peugeot says the 308 has been designed from the inside out to maximise room and occupant satisfaction. There are a variety of interior trim treatments and colours to compliment the exterior choices but all have six airbags and depending on model you can get up to nine.
Entry level Urban versions get ABS, EBA, electric front windows, central locking and radio/ cd player while the S versions include manual air conditioning; Sport derivatives gain cruise control and electric back windows, MP3 compatibility and alloys; SE come with panoramic roof and ambiance pack, powered mirrors, additional storage, auto lights and wipers and GT versions get half-leather trim, tyre and parking sensors, directional headlamps, Bluetooth connectivity and larger alloys.
Under the bonnet the engine choice comprises 95bhp 1.4 and 120 or 150T 1.6 petrol engines, or 90 and 110bhp 1.6 as well as 136bhp 2.0 diesels, the top versions with particulate filters.
For the new model, Michelin has developed a new type of tyre with very low rolling resistance, improving performance and economy as a result. It will be fitted initially to the 90 and 110bhp diesel versions and is claimed to cut emissions by 4g/km of CO2.
Peugeot anticipates selling about 9,500 308 models in the UK this year, and after the three-door is added this is expected to rise to 40,000 by the end of 2008, with a rough 60/ 40 split between fleet and retail buyers.
Peugeot is keen to develop the range with an SW derivative, an Estate and later a Coupe Cabriolet, building on the previous 307 UK sales of 312,000 since 2001. Automatic and bioflex petrol models will be added to the range along with the additional body styles.
Peugeot is proud of the two million kilometres driven and time it has spent developing and testing the 308 and claims this will result in fewer problems in ownership, which will help with residual value and customer satisfaction.
Initially, the Peugeot 308 will be launched with the more popular five-door bodystyle and there will be 16 models from £12,595 to £20,045. The three-door series will join the line-up by the end of the year adding another 12 models between £11,995 and £19,445 but the SE versions will not be available in three-door style.
Of the models I tried - both diesel and petrol - I was very impressed by their smoothness, flexibility and performance.
There is excellent room, a large boot, very airy panoramic roof on some and a very smooth ride with good roadholding.
The engines are fairly quiet unless pushed, the gearchanges direct, brakes strong and steering shows good feedback.
Inside there is tasteful trim, with good fitting, no rattles and excellent seat adjustment and folding arrangements as well as an enormous amount of oddments space throughout.