A LOT TO LOVE IN NEW PUG
CHIC NEW HATCH WITH ALL THE EXTRAS
THE Euro car market is a pretty tough place to be in and the one to emerge with the European Car of the Year title is the new Peugeot 308, a chic hatch with a lot of premium touches and impressive technology.
It also claimed the ' most beautiful interior' award and comes in three levels of trim: Access, Active and Allure, with the latter also available in wagon form.
Prices start at a competitive $21,990 for the Access manual, with a $2000 premium for the six-speed auto. The Active hatch, as reviewed here, is an auto-only model at $27,340 and then come the Allures, from $30,490 to $37,490.
There are two engines to choose from, a 2.0-litre diesel or a 1.2-litre. A 1.6-litre is due later this year in the 308 GT.
Our Active had the little petrol motor, a terrific three-cylinder turbo that puts out 96kW and 230Nm. That's simply stunning, virtually on a par with some respected 1.8 and 2.0-litre hot hatches of just a couple of years ago.
It can run to 100km/h in nine seconds and to a max of about 210km/h.
What's more, it uses very little fuel, aided in city traffic by the standard Start&Stop feature.
We recorded an average 6.9litres/100km, mostly in suburbia, but better than 5.0litres/100 can be achieved on the open road.
The driver gets a futuristic 'i-Cockpit' featuring a small leatherbound and flatbottomed steering wheel and a binnacle housing twin dials; speedo to the left and the reverse-rotating rev counter to the right.
A centre screen houses a large colour touchscreen, which controls the dual-zone aircon and a variety of other functions, but missing from ours was a reversing camera and SatNav.
For those, you need to move up to the Allure, and the camera is only in the Allure Touring (wagon). Sacre bleu!
Also, we discovered that ' electronic parking assistance' in Pug-speak does not mean a self-parking system, but merely tres ordinaire parking sensors.
The front seats are excellent, the back ones pretty good, too, and they can be folded so the cargo space can be expanded from a useful 435litres to a gigantic 1274.
Other good bits include LED daytime running lights, 16-inch alloys, aircon in the glovebox, tyre pressure monitoring, autoon lights and wipers and the whole bouillabaisse of safety gear.
The handsome car sits lower than the previous model and use of an advanced new platform has made it lighter (by 140kg) and better handling.
Pugs have always been known for their bon handling qualities, but this one is exceptional.
It gives a wonderfully comfy, composed ride, and we loved how the mighty mouse engine delivered performance without slurping much essence (we got 6.8litres/100km around suburbia) and the car's outstanding on-road dynamics.
It's beautifully built, has most of the bells and whistles in the Active and we were sorry to say au revoir after our few days in it.
But we sure did miss a reversing camera, one that should be standard in a car of this calibre.
Verdict: There's a lot of amour in the 308. Keen drivers will be seriously smitten.
The new 308 is Euro Car of the Year for good reason.