When driv­ing isn’t about A to B

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - Which Car? - PEU­GEOT 308 AC­TIVE HONDA CIVIC FORD FO­CUS

THE QUES­TION There are so many small-car choices that it’s im­por­tant to find and ap­ply some fil­ters be­fore you hit the show­rooms. Bud­get buy­ers can ob­vi­ously go straight to the South Korean brands, while check­ing the lat­est deals from brands in­clud­ing Toy­ota, but things are more com­pli­cated if you’re shop­ping out­side the main­stream. In this case, driv­ing on coun­try roads could mean lazy cruis­ing or Sun­day morn­ing fun runs but, ei­ther way, there are plenty of pos­si­bil­i­ties. CHOICES One of the sportier com­pacts with the 2.5-litre en­gine and 138kW, made bet­ter with the lat­est G-Vec­tor­ing Con­trol which uses en­gine torque to bal­ance the chas­sis in cor­ners. The re­cent up­date also brought more built-in safety, al­though speed-sign recog­ni­tion for the head-up display comes only on the GT. It’s great fun to drive but not the cheap­est in the class, al­though the qual­ity is ex­cel­lent and re­sale val­ues are strong. The 308 has yet to build the fol­low­ing that it de­serves in Aus­tralia. It’s the next-best­thing to the Volk­swa­gen Golf for Euro­pean de­sign and class, also with famed Peu­geot chas­sis con­trol and won­der­fully sup­port­ive seats. The Ac­cess is the base model, not re­ally a di­rect ri­val to the SP25 with only a 1.2-litre three-cylin­der en­gine that makes 96kW. Even so it’s a fun en­gine and if you’re not an ag­gres­sive driver it will de­liver great en­joy­ment. (There is a 1.6litre but it starts from $32K.) This is the best Honda for a long time, al­though the cut-and­creased body­work is not to all tastes and Aus­tralia is not get­ting the Civic hatch un­til next year. The ba­sic car is quiet and well equipped, the 1.8-litre en­gine is strong enough for the job, it rides well on coun­try roads, and the pric­ing puts it be­tween the Peu­geot and Mazda. WILD­CARD The sharpest chas­sis in the class, even with­out go­ing up to the ST or hot rod RS mod­els, means the Fo­cus is the car for the keen­est driv­ers. The 1.5-litre turbo en­gine puts out a healthy 132kW and Ford has fi­nally done some clean-up work to re­duce the com­plex­ity and con­fu­sion of the dash­board lay­out. VER­DICT The 308 could have been built al­most specif­i­cally for cov­er­ing long dis­tances on Aus­tralian coun­try roads.

It’s a re­lax­ing drive with a qual­ity cabin, cushy in the seats and sus­pen­sion, but still sharp enough in its re­sponses for cor­ner­ing fun.

Maxx model shown

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