Peugeot's mid-range hatchback has grown up, but does the 308 have the "chuzpah" to pick up where the 307 left off?
The first to bear the "8" series nomenclature, the Peugeot 308 enjoyed its first public unveiling at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September and is now available in South Africa.
Styling for the new range of mid-sized hatchbacks echoes that seen on the current crop of Peugeots with a wide gaping grille and prominent elliptical headlight clusters up front.
The compact rear end is distinguished by seemingly oversized taillight clusters, a lower bumper sill and a bigger rear windscreen.
It may not be the prettiest car around, but it certainly is instantly recognisable as a Peugeot. Unfortunately, the styling on the latest generation hatchback still manages to polarise opinion.
As Peugeot says, the 308 "builds on the 307's technical platform", but the company promises better quality finishes and specification levels.
Somewhat bigger than the car it replaces, the 308's most significant gains are its bigger interior space with the larger glasshouse. An airy panoramic roof is standard on the range-topping 308 XT.
Having driven the car last year, Wheels24 can also report that the cabin is familiar as a Peugeot's too. Arrangement of instruments is well-spaced and logical, and overall quality of the materials used is good. Chrome detailing on some interior accents is noted, too.
Standard equipment is extensive. It includes automatic windscreen wipers with rain sensors, automatic lights with light sensor, up to seven airbags, an MP3 compatible audio system with auxiliary plug-ins, a refrigerated glovebox and heated electric side mirrors.
An array of safety and stability systems have also ensured 308's five-star rating in its Euro NCAP test.
And while it shares its basic architecture with that of the 307, the 308 is longer, wider and lower than its predecessor.
The car uses a McPherson strut and torsion beam suspension arrangement for a ride that is comfortably firm yet compliant.
Front and rear tracks have been widened for better stability and increased road holding. Overall steering feedback through the electro-hydraulic power steering is good.
Petrol, diesel offerings
At launch, the 308 is offered with a choice of two petrol engines while a turbodiesel will follow shortly. Indicative pricing for the 1.6 HDI is R 209 500.
The petrol engines, co-developed with BMW, are already in use in the 207 range.
The first engine is the flexible 1.6-litre VTi with variable valve and lift timing injection that produces 88 kW at 6 000 r/min and peak torque of 160 Nm at 4 250 r/min. 140 Nm of this torque is already available at 2 000 r/min.
Additionally, a turbocharged 1.6-litre engine, which has already also been seen on the 207 GT, is available for 308. Using a twin-scroll turbo, this powerplant develops 110 kW at 5 800 r/min and a maximum torque figure of 240 Nm from a low 1 400 r/min.
All models are fitted with a five-speed manual transmission.
With top speeds of 195 and 213-km/h for the naturally aspirated and turbocharged petrol derivatives, respectively, combined fuel consumption ranges from 6.7 l/100 km to 7.1 l/100 km.
Service intervals are at 30 000 km and all models are sold with a three-year/100 000 km warranty.
"We can't wait to officially launch the new 308 and to make it available to existing and prospective customers," said Kees Jan Boorsma, managing director of Peugeot Motors South Africa.
"Interest rate hikes and the strict Credit Act have applied the brakes on the new car market's phenomenal growth, so I believe what we need right now is a continued and concerted effort to acquire the tools to encourage customers to buy our product" added Boorsma.
"Over the past year or so, we have also drastically improved all our levels of aftersales service and customer satisfaction. Launching new cars and maintaining good service levels is just an example of purchase motivators."
308 XS 1.6 - R 197 900
308 XT 1.6 - R 215 900
308 X-line 1.6 - R 169 900
308 XS 1.6 auto - R 211 900