Awards and accolades are important for car manufacturers. It enables a certain distinction against rivals and allows for bragging rights. Take for example this all-new second generation Peugeot 308 THP. It took the European Car Of The Year title last year after edging out the BMW i3 and the Tesla Model S. Personally, I’ve never driven the two electric cars that it had beaten, but is the 308 really better? We were lucky to actually get a test just before it was officially launched here earlier this year.
But first, let’s look at some background. Although BMW has a long heritage, its i3 is a new car, and so is the Tesla. The Peugeot 300 series, however, does have some history behind it. It first started out back in 1985 with the 309 when the PSA Group decided to discontinue the Talbot brand. The 309 was then succeeded by the 306 in 1993. Rally fans would remember this model as the 306 Maxi Kit Car did really well in many Group A French and World Rally Championship. The 307 then took over in 2002. Again, dirt racing fans would remember this model with the stunning 307 CC WRC Rally Car that was first driven by rallying legend Marcus Gronholm in 2004.
The 308, however, succeeded the 307 model in 2008. Unfortunately, I’m not a big fan of the wedged-shape design of the 307 in which was adopted for the first-generation 308. Fortunately, this all-new second generation model does away with that shape to take on a more traditional three-box design. A good move I must say.
Design-wise, we actually can’t compare the three as they are all different. The i3 is a small compact, the Tesla a full-size lift-back sedan and the 308, a hothatch.
That being said, this all-new second-generation Peugeot 308, is arguably one of the best-looking car in its class, with its narrow grille flanked by distinctive slim LED headlamps, stylish foglamps, muscular shoulder lines, bulging wheel arches, small rear screen and striking three-claw rear light clusters.
I particularly like the kink in the headlights and Peugeot wordings embossed at the upper chrome part of it that adds some refinement details. At night, the rear light’s three-claw can clearly be seen, giving the 308 a distinct look. And not to forget, the stance of this handsome hatchback is completed with a set of large 18-inch ‘Sapphire’ alloy wheels that fills up the entire wheel arch.
The interior, in which Peugeot calls ‘i-Cockpit’, is basically a driver-focus cabin with four integrated components which are a sports leather compact steering wheel, high position head-up instrument panel with stylishly symmetrical design needles, high centre console, and a 9.7-inch HD Multifunction Touchscreen. The dashboard layout is clutter-free, with most systems angled towards the driver. There’s also Alcantara upholstery, keyless entry with push start system, electric parking brake, six-speaker Arkamys sound system, and electric lumbar and massage function for the front seats.
With such good looks and inviting interior, I made sure to adjust the seats, steering wheel and mirrors, to get myself really comfortable for the test that was in store of us. Nasim Sdn Bhd, the local distributor of Peugeot vehicles in Malaysia, had prepared a bunch of 308s and told a group of local motoring journalists to drive not only to the East coast of Peninsular Malaysia but also to continue up to the Northern parts specifically to the beautiful beach resort that is Tanjung Jara. This provided the opportunity to test the 308 through a mix of long highways and small winding B-roads.
Starting out, I was very surprised with the acceleration it had. Although this new 308 if fitted with the similar 1.6-litre Turbo High Pressure as its previous model, it had been re-tuned for more efficiency. The new setup runs a lower horsepower of 150 hp compared to 163 hp on the previous system. However, I realised that this second-generation 308 rides on Peugeot’s new generation EMP2 platform which saves approximately 140 kg compared to its predecessor. With torque figures remains the same as the previous setup at 240 Nm between 1,450 to 4,000 rpm, a much lower weight does have quite a difference in acceleration times, in which Peugeot claims to be 9.4 seconds to get to 100 km/h.
Then comes the handling. I found the highway drive to be quite engaging but other journalists have said that the ride is a little bumpy. Maybe it’s just me for always favouring a stiffer suspension setup so i can get to feel all of the road.
We broke for lunch at Hyatt Regency in Kuantan before the final leg up to Tanjung Jara, the part in which i was waiting for as the highway ended in Kuantan and the journey up north is through small windy B-roads. That is where the true part of the test lies, especially for such a hothatch. Yup, I enjoyed every minute of it.
Although the smaller diameter compact steering wheel feels a little light, it is quite precise. That combined with its already stiff suspension, makes the twisty roads quite fun to drive through. A big determinant to this superb handling is the 308’s new dimensions of 2 cm shorter and 5 cm lower but with 1.2 cm increase in wheelbase. Another reason is its redesigned suspension pick-up points that allows the rear wheels to move in a slightly curved range instead of strictly vertical one, which translates to a smoother and quieter ride.
With the test done, the drive back to Kuala Lumpur the next day was done with less haste to enjoy the luxuries that the 308 has to offer. Space at the rear seat passenger is adequate but comfortable enough for long journeys.
A week after the test, it was launched for the Malaysian market with a pricetag of RM132,888. Not bad considering that its German rivals are priced around the RM150,000 range for a smaller displacement engine. It also comes in five distinctive colours: Pearl White, Nera Black, Artense Grey, Rouge Red and, my personal favourite, Mocha Brown.
In short, looking at my personal experience with it as a motoring journalist, the all-new second-generation Peugeot 308 THP looks good from the outside, is very comfortable on the inside, has adequate power from its turbocharged engine, handles superbly with enhanced suspension system and priced affordably, which translates to an overall good package. And the overall good package was probably enough for it to take the European Car of the Year award, as the voting for the winner is done by a jury that consists of motoring journalists from publications throughout Europe.
|Price (RM)||RM132,888 OTR|
|Engine Type||Inline-Four DOHC Turbo High Pressure (THP)|
|Power||150 hp @ 5,000 rpm|
|Torque||240 Nm @ 1,450 to 4,000 rpm|
|Gearbox||6-Speed Automatic AT6 transmission with Quickshift technology|
|Kerb Weight||1,160 kg|
|Front Suspension||Pseudo-MacPherson Front Axle|
|Rear Suspension||Deformable Cross Member|
|Front Brakes||Ventilated Disc|
|Rear Brakes||Solid Disc|
|Tyres Size||225/40 R18|