TOUR­ING DE FRANCE

Southern Gazette (Belmont) - - DRIVE WAY - Bill McKin­non

PEU­GEOT’S 3008 and 5008 SUVs are spear­head­ing the French brand’s bid to re-es­tab­lish it­self as a player in Aus­tralia af­ter a decade or so of de­cline and de­cay, caused by a lack of com­mit­ment from man­age­ment, spo­radic new prod­uct, over­am­bi­tious pric­ing and that en­demic French malaise: a well-earned rep­u­ta­tion for un­re­li­a­bil­ity.

It’s a shame the brand still car­ries re­li­a­bil­ity bag­gage, be­cause Peu­geot, when in­spired, is ca­pa­ble of very good things.

Such as the 308 Tour­ing we’re test­ing today. And, please, I know it’s not an SUV but don’t stop read­ing. This is just as good as, if not bet­ter than, a fam­ily wagon.

Peu­geot’s an­swer to the VW Golf, the 308 has been lauded as the French maker’s best small car since the 306 of the mid-1990s.

It’s had a few up­dates since launch­ing in 2014, most re­cently late last year, when it picked up a suite of driver as­sist safety tech from the 3008, up­graded touch­screen in­fo­tain­ment with Ap­ple CarPlay/An­droid Auto con­nec­tiv­ity and mir­ror­ing, a new shift by wire six-speed au­to­matic, hands­free park­ing and the usual facelift/new rear lights treat­ment.

Priced at $37,990, the Al­lure Tour­ing is the sole wagon in the 308 range. It runs a 2.0-litre turbo diesel with a rel­a­tively hum­ble 110kW of power and a solid 370Nm of torque, driv­ing the front wheels.

Stan­dard equip­ment also in­cludes one­touch win­dows all around, dual-zone air­con (plus a small chilled glove­box), leather wrapped steer­ing wheel, cloth/Al­can­tara up­hol­stery, man­ual seat ad­just­ment, 17inch al­loys and man­ual tail­gate.

The driv­ing po­si­tion is unique. Ana­log di­als are on top of the dash, so to see them prop­erly you must have the steer­ing wheel set low and the seat set high.

The cute, pe­tite steer­ing wheel does feel sorta-kinda sporty, but the rest of the car isn’t. Com­fort­able and sup­port­ive on long drives, the driver’s seat has am­ple ad­justa­bil­ity. It’s tight in the back seat and though the high, firm bench is well suited to kids, they won’t ap­pre­ci­ate the ab­sence of air vents and 12V/USB out­lets.

Boot space is more gen­er­ous than the 3008 SUV, with a whop­ping (for its size) 625L in five-seater mode and up to 1740L with the back seats folded, which also ex­tends the boot floor to 1.8m.

The ride, on op­tional 18-inch wheels with 225/40 Miche­lins, is much firmer than the SUV, es­pe­cially around town. On rough coun­try roads, it's more com­pli­ant, though lack­ing the sup­ple­ness that once char­ac­terised Peu­geots.

Peu­geot’s 2.0-litre turbo diesel packs con­sid­er­ably less wal­lop here than in the 3008 SUV (133kW/400Nm) and the 0100km/h trip takes a leisurely 10 sec­onds.

How­ever, it's a sweet en­gine, with that char­ac­ter­is­tic oiler tractabil­ity and strong over­tak­ing per­for­mance.

Peu­geot diesels are renowned for as­ton­ish­ing fuel econ­omy. You can eas­ily do mid-to-high fours on a high­way cruise, which will give you more than 1000km from the 53L tank, while 7.0L-8.5L/100km around town, as­sisted by au­to­matic stop­start, is hardly hoover­ing it down, ei­ther.

Verdict: Yet more proof that SUVs are not the only an­swer to the fam­ily wagon ques­tion. In most re­spects this is just as good as, if not bet­ter than, the 3008 GT, plus it's got a big­ger boot and costs $11,500 less.

Peu­geot’s 308 Al­lure Tour­ing.

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