Target acquired for 308

Target acquired for 308

It is a bit of a cliché to write that the last French car should strike fear into the heart of the Germans, heck Citroen even ran an advertising series based on the concept when it launched the C5.

But dang it, I am going to.

The company is quite up front about its target. When speaking to members of the engineering team in Peugeot’s home base of Sochaux, France, the question of what they were benchmarking came up, and they was a single word clear cut answer.

“Golf.”

It appears the French brand appears to be tired of competing in the market on quirk and cost, and has instead gunned straight for its German rival with the new 308 – and come away with a car that has to make no apologies.

It has been given the best chance of doing so with a new platform – EMP2, which we will see in all C and D segment Peugeot’s and Citroen’s, as already seen under the latest Citroen Picasso, and a new range of PureTech three-cylinder turbo-charged engines.

EMP2 took 600 people four years to complete, and focuses on dropping weight, improving efficiency and keeping costs in check. It is lighter – 70Kg for the platform, and total of 140kg for the 308 – thanks to the use of aluminum and plastic composite in places like the trunk floor. For the 308 the bonnet is aluminium while the hatch lid is thermoplastic.

The PureTech units, alongside Euro 6 diesels – are stunningly fuel efficient, with consumptions from under 5-litres per 100km.

This month (October) New Zealand will get the Pure-tech 1.2-litre 3-cylinder petrol with a six-speed automatic, and a 2.0-litre diesel – putting our just 20hp more, with the same transmission.

In January we will see a 1.6-litre petrol with the automatic, and a manual option for the 1.2-litre model.

Grant Smith, general manager of Sime Darby’s Automobile division, has high hopes for the model – code names T9.

“We are targetting Golf 7, and quite legitimately,” Smith says. “This is going to be a game changer for us, and make it possible to get the market share we have been looking for.”

His sales ambitions are also lofty.

“We are targetting 450-500 in the first year of full production, and I think we will be able to conquest a lot of buyers we have not been able to in the past,” he explains.

It has taken significant discounting – prices dropping under $26k, to get the current 308 to monthly sales anywhere near that level.

He would have loved to have seen the car land a year ago – especially with it taking the European Car of the Year title earlier this year – but he had to wait for automatic transmissions to be avaible.

That style of box has always been a bugbear for the French brand, but an edict from management has been issued there will be no new model without a decent auto.

The 308 will not be that cheap – but the pricing for the car, available in hatch and wagon – are extremely sharp. There will be no CoupeCabriolet model this time, the company pulling out of what is a falling market in that case.

peugeot308sideThe range will start with an Access 96kW PureTech , with a six-speed manual at $30,990, with a $2000 premium for automatic.

The automatic Active model is $34,990.

The higher-specification Allure with a 1.6-litre 110kw turbo four-cylinder and automatic is $38,990, while the same specification with a diesel is $42,990.

Station wagons – now only five-seaters over the previously available seven-seat options are $36,990 for a 96kW PureTech automatic, and $40,990 for the diesel.

See the end of the story for full specifications.

The drivetrain needs some discussion.

The PureTech has been seen in New Zealand before, but in normally-aspirated form in the smaller 208. In the 308 we get the the top line of the engine, producing 96kW, and 230Nm of torque – 75% of that available from 1500rpm.

It is lighter, and cleaner, then the 1.6-litre it replaces, and uses 25% less fuel.

That means a combined cycle in the hatches of 4.8-litres per 100km for the petrol manual, 5.2 for the automatic, and 4.1 for the diesel.

The BlueHDi produces 96kW and 240Nm of torque – and is Euro 6 compatible – needing both a particulate filter and a uses an AdBlue catalyst system – which needs to be topped up every 10,000km – the same spacing as servicing.

Straight to what Peugeot does well, the 308 has an excellent ride, and it remained comfortable on Mallorca’s pock-marked rural roads – and on somewhat of a Gran-Tour of southern France and parts of Switzerland.

After a day touring the island in the larger 508 sedan, a smaller hatch back was just the measure – mostly giving us a bigger margin with which to avoid tourists, who hell bent on driving down the middle of the already narrow roads.

Suspension is relatively simple – Macpherson strut upfront and a space-saving torsion beam in the rear. But in the detail, Peugeot has taken steps such as not welding the front suspension turret mounting points until as late in the production process as possible to reduce alignment tolerances to as low as 0.5 mm, and raising the front attachment points of the rear beam to give it more upwards travel.

Engineers says while the chassis can handle a multilink suspension system, the torsion beat provides, ‘the bet balance between weight, handling and cost.’

Steering is electrically assisted, but enjoys reasonable feel and is quick and direct – enhanced by a 350mm steering wheel, down 20 to 30 mm from most others.

The PureTech engines are a standout. They do take a split second to spool up, something exacerbated when the transmission needs to come to the party as well – such as powering on out of a corner, but for the most part the 1.2-litre 130hp unit New Zealand will diminutive capacity – feeling more like a decent 1.8.

They bring something three cylinder engines are known for, a husky, offbeat note. When fitted with the drivers dynamic system – like other European car makers, Peugeot provide a switch that makes the transmission and Electric Power Steering more aggressive – it also adds some enhancement to the aural experience by pumping into the cabin artificial engine noise. There is a hint of throaty flat six to the result – we recorded the sound and really the only hint that the soundtrack was not coming from something more exotic, were the gearshifts being slower than something more exotic.

And that is being harsh on the box – for it does a great job. The Aisin-Warner EAT6, developed by the Japanese firm, and calibrated and fine tuned by Peugeot, does a fine job – and is far superior to the four-speed efforts which were pretty much standard in French cars until now.

It works well most of the time. Obviously it slower to shift than the twin-clutch units it is up against,but it is smoother. Shift into sport and it holds gears where needed, although seems to lock out sixth – annoying when you transfer from B-road fun to motorway. There are paddles, but they don’t like to drop more than one gear at a time on a downshift – as most will in a performance mode – and the paddles do not move with the wheel, making them less than ideal for spirited driving.

Safety; Euro NCAP 5 star, a full suite of airbags and braking assistance, with lane change departure and other intellegent  niceties on higher models.

peugeot308drivingInside, soft touch surfaces abound, and the overall interior – dominated by a twin-gauge binnacle and large colour touch screen – is clean and spacious, particularly in the front. Peugeot looked over the southern border to Alfa Romeo for inspiration for the fantastic leather seats, sculpted and comfortable even for big kiwi blokes, they feel perhaps a little too high, but are otherwise great.

The interior follows the firm’s new I-Cockpit concept. The wheel is lower and instruments higher, giving a clear view. The 9.7-inch touchscreen is brought closer of the driver and more in eyeline.

My only complaint is the simplification has gone too far. You need to look twice at the HVAC controls to work out what you are doing, and I am not sure I want to be reliant on a screen for so much of the vehicles operations.

A simple, but practical, touch is that the slider for the front seat runs full width and has a chunky plastic handle on it. Great thinking.

Although that slider produces possibly one of the small issues with the interior. Peugeot has gifted taller drivers with a range on the front seat that can go almost all the way to the back seat. Most won’t, but even with a six-footer in the front, rear legroom is getting a little snug. That said, we did fit a six-foot man behind another six-foot man, but after an hour or two it was becoming a little painful.

Head and shoulder room is however excellent. The 308 has a squared-off look to the main cabin – its lines very similar to that of a BMW 1-Series hatch, but with the packaging advantages of front wheel drive it feels roomy and airy.

That practical shape has not really harmed the look of the 308, the bold new family grill is framed by headlights – on the Allure featuring LEDs and smaller than past designs, which the company says gives them a more ‘technological’ look – more purposeful.

Size is similar to the outgoing car – it is slightly lower and wider – shorter overall but with a longer 2.62 meter wheelbase, good for usable interior space. Boots in both the hatch and wagon are impressive. Load heights are low and capacity is 501 litres on the hatch, up to 1400 with the seats folded, 810 on the wagon with seats up, 1625 when folded flat.

So with so many positives, what are the challenges in the New Zealand market?

Smith admits they have a lot to do to get the car, and the brand, in front of customers. Current customers are generally around 60 and brand loyal, so much of his limited budget will go towards simply getting people into or in-front of cars, and in some cases sharing their experiences. Digital is likely to play a major role.

Hopefully potential Golf buyers will be those to notice. They will be selling themselves short if they at least do not take a look.

Specification for New Zealand

308 Access

Engine: 96kW e-THP (‘Stop & Start’)
Transmission: 6-Speed Manual/6-speed automatic
Interior Trim: Metax Mistral Cloth

• 15” ‘Ambre’ Steel Wheels
• Space Saver Spare Wheel
• Electric power steering
• ESP, ABS, EBD & EBA
• Six airbags (Front, side & curtain)
• Halogen headlights
• LED Daytime Running Lights
• Electrically adjustable door mirrors
• Manual air conditioning with particle filter
• Electric front and rear windows with anti-pinch
• Cruise control and speed limiter
• Simple head up instrument cluster with white LCD screen
• White mono multi-function display
• CD player and radio with six speakers
• Radio controls behind steering wheel
• Bluetooth with USB and AUX jack
• Height adjustment for front seats
• One-touch front window operation
• Padded plastic steering wheel
• Manual parking brake
• Acoustic laminated windscreen
• Normal Antenna

308 Active

Engine: 96kW e-THP (‘Stop & Start’)
Transmission: 6 -Speed Automatic
Interior Trim: Metax Mistral Cloth with Overstitch Detail

Access specification plus

• 16” ‘Quartz’ alloy wheels
• 9.7” Touchscreen
• Automatic lights and wipers
• Automatic bi-zone climate control with active carbon filter
• Electrochromatic rear view mirror
• One-touch electric front and rear windows
• Rear parking sensors
• Fog lights
• Illuminated vanity mirrors
• Full leather parking break and steering wheel with mounted controls
• Manual lumbar adjustment for the driver
• Seat back pockets
• Rear armrest with ski flap
• Hill start assist
• Centre armrest with storage
• Satin chrome and gloss black interior trim highlights

308 Allure

Engine: 110kW BlueHDi (`Stop&Start’) – from launch
Engine: 110kW e-THP – (`Stop&Start’) February, 2015
Transmission: 6 -Speed automatic
Interior Trim: Sports style seats in Marston Mistral cloth trim with double overstitch detail

Active specification plus:

• 17” ‘Rubis’ alloy wheels standard
• 18” ‘Saphir’ alloy wheels optional
• Satellite Navigation
• Decorative head up instrument cluster
• Full LED headlights with integrated Daytime Running Lights
• Automatic ‘Follow me home’ lighting function
• Front parking aid
• Reverse camera
• Electric folding mirrors with welcome lights
• Programmable cruise control with speed limiter
• Electric parking break surrounded by brushed aluminium centre console
• Interior mood lighting
• LED front and rear courtesy lamps
• Chrome grille bars, front fog lamps and window surround

308 Active Station Wagon

Engine: 96kW e-THP (‘Stop&Start’)
Transmission: 6 -speed automatic
Interior Trim: Marston Mistral cloth with overstitch detail

Active (hatch) plus:

• Magic Flat – automatic flat boot floor
• Removable cargo blind

308 Allure Station Wagon

Engine: 110kW THP (‘Stop&Start’) – February, 2015
Transmission: 6 -speed automatic
Interior Trim: Sports style seats in Marston Mistral cloth trim with double overstitch detail

Allure (hatch) plus:

• Aluminium roof rails
• Rails in the boot with movable anchors
• Magic Flat – automatic flat boot floor
• Removable cargo blind

-Richard Edwards travelled to Spain and France courtesy of Sime Darby and Peugeot-

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