French cor­rec­tion

Peu­geot has 308 rea­sons to be con­fi­dent, writes PAUL GOVER

Herald Sun - Motoring - - First Drive -

THIS year has been dif­fi­cult for Peu­geot. The French com­pany’s sales are down about 20 per cent at a time when the rest of the car busi­ness, un­til this month, has been do­ing nicely.

Peu­geot puts its trou­bles down to the tran­si­tion to the new com­pact 308. It says the ar­rival of the Tour­ing wagon, which will be joined by the 308CC be­fore the end of the year, will turn things around.

It also be­lieves its new Ex­pert and Part­ner vans, which landed at the same time as the Tour­ing, will give it a much-needed boost on the com­mer­cial front.

‘‘It’s been a tough year for us. How­ever, I think run­ning out the 307 is well be­hind us and we can make up lost ground,’’ Peu­geot na­tional sales man­ager Ken Thomas says.

‘‘We’re go­ing to cap­i­talise on the strong rep­u­ta­tion we have built in the small-wagon mar­ket. It’s an im­por­tant launch for this brand. It has great styling, tech­nol­ogy and unique fea­tures,’’ he says.

The 308 Tour­ing is more like an over­sized hatch­back than a tra­di­tional wagon, so in some ways it is sim­i­lar to the new Holden Com­modore Sport­wagon. But the Peu­geot is uniquely French, from its good looks to an em­pha­sis on the diesel en­gine, which is ex­pected to at­tract most buy­ers.

The ob­jec­tive is to sell more than 1000 wag­ons be­fore the end of the year, and closer to 1900 next year. Peu­geot aims to reach 9000 to­tal sales this year.

The Tour­ing pack­age is priced from $30,590 with a choice of two trim lev­els, four en­gines — two diesel, two petrol— and au­to­matic and man­ual gear­boxes with front-wheel drive. The spec­i­fi­ca­tion is pretty com­pre­hen­sive, though elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol is only an op­tion on the ba­sic CS model. The Tour­ing is based on the latest 308 me­chan­i­cal pack­age, which means fully in­de­pen­dent sus­pen­sion, four­wheel disc brakes, six airbags, anti-skid brakes with brake as­sist and a sys­tem that trig­gers the haz­ard lights in ex­treme brak­ing.

The XS opens the ac­tion with air­con­di­tion­ing, cruise con­trol, re­mote cen­tral lock­ing and a full-length glass sun­roof.

The XSE tips in elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol, rear park­ing radar, al­loy wheels and rain­sens­ing wipers. Leather seats and a mul­ti­me­dia sound sys­tem are op­tional.

The four-cylin­der en­gines are 88kW and 103kW petrol mo­tors, which Peu­geot calls VTi and THP for the turbo, and 80kW and 100kW diesels. There is a six-speed man­ual for all en­gines, but the au­to­matic is only a four-speed on the petrol en­gines, six on the diesels.

Peu­geot does all its com­par­isons against the out­go­ing 307, talk­ing up the in­creased rigid­ity of the new body, the big­ger boot and more cabin space.

But the bot­tom line on a wagon is seat­ing and space. The Tour­ing has ‘‘theatre’’ seats in tiered set­tings to im­prove vis­i­bil­ity and re­duce the chance of a child be­com­ing car-sick, though the third-row line-up is called ‘‘oc­ca­sional’’. There are many stor­age choices.

‘‘There are seven seats and they are plu­gand-play. You can move them around into a great many com­bi­na­tions,’’ Peu­geot’s Glenn Forester says.

Space pa­trol: the Peu­geot 308 Tour­ing is more like an over­sized hatch­back than a tra­di­tional wagon.

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