The first to bear the "8" series nomenclature, the Peugeot 308 enjoyed its first public unveiling at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September and will be available in South Africa in the first quarter of 2008.
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, along with a compact rear end. It may not be the prettiest car around, but it certainly is instantly recognisable as a Peugeot.
It's all-new, but it's not...
Beneath the metal, the latest generation mid-sized hatchback is based on the existing 307 platform also used for the Citroen C4 and C4 Picasso.
A bit bigger than the car it replaces, the 308's biggest gains are in interior space where the large glasshouse and panoramic roof (on the high-spec models) add airiness.
The cabin is familiar as a Peugeot's too, and the arrangement of the instruments is well-spaced and logical. The quality and feel of the materials used is good, too.
Equipment includes up to seven airbags, an MP3 compatible audio system with auxiliary plug-ins and an array of safety and stability systems.
The car uses a McPherson strut and torsion beam suspension arrangement for a ride that is comfortably firm yet compliant. And it handles well too, with minimal histrionics evidenced while pitching it through the Outeniqua Pass outside Oudtshoorn recently. Overall steering feedback is good.
Proven engine line-up
The range of engines co-developed with BMW and already used in the 207 is carried over to the 308. They include an 80-kW naturally aspirated and 110-kW turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol engine, and the 80-kW 1.6 HDI turbodiesel.
These are mated to a five-speed manual gearbox that feels far superior to that previously experienced in the 207.
When the new 308 hatcback arrives next year, it will be supplemented by the existing 307 CC and 307 SW until these derivatives are phased in.