The 301 en­ters the sub-com­pact seg­ment ready to bat­tle the Yaris, Ti­ida and the like. But can the fetch­ing new Peu­geot de­liver the goods? wheels’ Imran Ma­lik finds out

Friday - - Contents -

Peu­geot makes a foray into the pop­u­lar sub-com­pact seg­ment with its 301.

P eugeot has en­tered the sub-com­pact mar­ket with its newly launched 301, a hand­some-look­ing lit­tle saloon, of that there’s no doubt.

In a seg­ment tra­di­tion­ally dom­i­nated by Toy­ota and its Yaris and Nis­san and its Ti­ida, the 301 turns up to the party far bet­ter dressed but, sadly, just as lousy with re­gards to per­for­mance.

This will be mu­sic to mums’ and dads’ ears, mind. They’ll be de­lighted the lit­tle 1.6-litre, which is mated to a four-speed au­to­matic (oh, how it could do with an ex­tra gear…), pro­duces just 115bhp be­cause the 301 makes the ideal first car for new driv­ers. It’s sen­si­ble, well-equipped and user-friendly – apart from the fact that the wing mir­ror switch has been hid­den un­der the steer­ing col­umn and the cruise-con­trol lever is con­cealed be­hind the fat flat­bot­tomed wheel – and this makes it a pretty good deal at just Dh55,500 for the top-spec Al­lure trim.

In­deed, new driv­ers will en­joy many things about the 301, a car Peu­geot says it de­signed for ‘emerg­ing mar­kets’, most notably the com­fort­able in­te­rior. The driver’s seat of­fers a good all-round view and there aren’t any wor­ry­ing blind

spots. What’s more, there’s am­ple head­room up front, while at the back Peu­geot claims the 121mm of legroom is the best in class.

It isn’t kid­ding; taller folk can stretch out and, some­how, it even has a 640-litre boot. The 301 cer­tainly be­lies its size. It’s no sur­prise that this is its ma­jor sell­ing point, along with the good-look­ing ex­te­rior – which bor­rows heav­ily from the SR1 Con­cept car.

I like the chrome-out­lined wide­mouth ‘float­ing grille’, the 15in alu­minium al­loys, at­trac­tive bon­net and belt­line with more creases than one of my shirts and an over­all el­e­gance that the two Ja­panese ri­vals to­tally lack. It’s far more ath­letic look­ing, thor­oughly mod­ern and there­fore com­mands your at­ten­tion. You wouldn’t bat an eyelid at a Ti­ida bum­bling past, un­less it was on fire. But the 301 is pos­i­tively chic. The French know a thing or two about style and from its looks alone, this car jumps straight to the front of the queue in its seg­ment.

Though the ma­te­ri­als in the cabin could have been bet­ter, it’s all put to­gether well and there’s noth­ing in here that will re­ally up­set you. You get what you pay for and in this case, that in­cludes a plush dash­board with lots of brushed-alu­minium trim, Blue­tooth con­nec­tiv­ity, a USB port and some use­ful driver-as­sis­tance tech­nol­ogy such as rear park­ing sen­sors. With Peu­geot pric­ing this car to sell, I’d imag­ine it will, and by the bucket. But I can’t for a sec­ond imag­ine the sales­man mak­ing a case for the four-pot and slush ’box. My ad­vice would be to skip the driv­e­train com­pletely and move on to some­thing with more power, like um, the vol­ume con­trol on the stereo.

The engine and gear­box act like com­plete strangers – it’s as if they’ve never met. Con­stantly in the wrong gear, or hold­ing on to one for too long and in des­per­ate need of a fifth, the 301 leaves much to be de­sired on the per­for­mance front. It sounds raspy – but not in a good way; it’s scream­ing in pain. Keep the revs down to 2,000rpm and you’ll spare your eardrums from a pound­ing.

It isn’t par­tic­u­larly quick, reach­ing 0-100kph even­tu­ally. OK, 10.8 sec­onds if you’re ac­tu­ally count­ing, but once it gets over the ini­tial slum­ber, it is de­cent enough to drive. It feels light on its feet, which as­sists the han­dling, as does the re­spon­sive elec­tric power steer­ing and the same pseudo-MacPher­son front and

de­formable cross-mem­ber at the rear as seen in the 208 and the RCZ. But be­ware; faster-mov­ing high­way traf­fic will blow you away like the big bad wolf.

Around town, it’s much hap­pier and fru­gal too with a claimed com­bined fig­ure of 7.1 litres-per100km. Peu­geot hasn’t skimped on safety fea­tures; it packs an elec­tronic sta­bil­ity pro­gram, ABS, four airbags, emer­gency brake as­sis­tance and Isofix child seat mount­ings.

Ig­nore the fact that the mo­tor and trans­mis­sion be­have like a squab­bling cou­ple and that the engine is un­der­pow­ered and rather noisy, and it’s a very de­cent ad­di­tion in the cut­throat sub-com­pact seg­ment. It’s my new favourite in a sec­tor of cars that I care very lit­tle about.

IN­SIDE INFO Specs and rat­ings Model:

301 Al­lure Engine: 1.6-litre four­cyl petrol Trans­mis­sion: Four­speed auto, FWD Max power: 115bhp @ 6,050rpm Max torque: 150Nm @ 4,000rpm Top speed: 188kph 0-100kph 10.8sec Price: Dh55,500 Plus: At­trac­tive ex­te­rior, com­fort­able, roomy cabin Mi­nus: Engine and gear­box

The 301 fea­tures auto air­con­di­tion­ing with dust fil­ter, height-ad­justable front seats, tilt ad­justable power steer­ing, ra­dio, MP3, CD and an AUX jack

Peu­geot claims the 301’s 121mm of rear legroom is the best in class. We’re not about to ar­gue – it’s like a black hole back there!

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