Pareidolia is the human trait whereby we see faces in objects such as clouds, pieces of old muslin cloth, and cars. This is so prevalent that a study was conducted by Viennese company EFS Consulting which looked at whether it influenced what type of cars we like. It does.
People overwhelmingly prefer angry, dominant, masculine-looking cars as opposed to happy, playful, fun-looking cars. Whether this is social conditioning is yet to be determined (EFS will perform a study in Ethiopia soon using people who haven’t been exposed to modern cars). So where does this leave the Peugeot 308 Sport you see here? With Sport in the name, it’s obviously gagging for a liberal helping of steroidally pumped wheel arches, and a face so mean it would have frightened Kublai Kahn into messing his Emporer’s robes.
Slanting cat-like eyes and a grimacing tooth-filled mouth — that’s a good start, but what’s with the drooping punched lip? OK, two out of three ain’t bad, and from the front you don’t notice it, but start walking around to the three-quarter view and that fat lip is very noticeable.
But a car’s face is only one factor. Price, economy, performance and brand preference are others, and with a European hot hatch like the Peugeot 308, your desire for a small, peppy car that’s not run-of-the-mill is going to be one of the deciders.
The sporting credentials are adequate from the — 128kW, 240Nm, top speed of 224kph, and a 0-100kph time of 8.3 seconds. Performance doesn’t come at the expense of fuel economy with the 1.6-litre turbo delivering 7.6l/100km on the combined cycle.
A six-speed manual gearbox adds to the sporty feel, and the shifts are precise, if a little long. Care has to be taken pulling away in first gear as all of a sudden the turbo comes on boost, lots of power is channelled through the front wheels, and the traction control ends up working overtime, despite a pair of 225/40R18 tyres doing the gripping at the front.
Clean and elegant five-spoke alloys underpin the angular forward-sloping shoulder crease that makes the 308 Sport look like it’s moving forwards even when standing still. Unusually, though, despite the small size of the car, the 18-inch wheels look like they could do with being 19 or 20 inches.
I’m confused as to how a model with a Sport designation have the second highest weight of the whole range at 1471kg, a full 62kg more than the HDI AT diesel. I thought perhaps it could be a difference in specification (i.e. lots more goodies), but like in the diesel model you get the full complement of safety features — seven airbags, electronic stability program with traction control, seatbelt pretensioners, etc; the dimensions are the same; there’s the same inverted pseudo Macpherson strut suspension with linked anti-roll bar and rear torsion beam for the suspension; and the same 283mm ventilated front disc brakes and 249mm solid disc rear brakes.
I took it on a long cruise down the motorway, stereo blaring. One of the tests I usually do is how well the cruise control works. It’s easy to use in the Peugeot, but not accurate — after setting it at an indicated 106kph, I reset the average speed. The trip computer was showing an average of 102kph after less than a kilometre of fundamentally flat motorway. It didn’t get any better. I suppose under-reading is better that over-reading, but it’s still a wide margin.
I eventually found some sinuous roads to experience whether the 308 is all fire or lukewarm. In a hot hatch it’s spirited driving that is the true test of whether a marque has achieved perfection. The 308 Sport is a great deal of fun to drive. You do get the feeling that if the ESP and traction control weren’t there to guide you that you could easily be having the type of heart-in the-mouth experiences the Peugeot 205GTI was famous for, but it does grip well.
We may like angry faces in our cars, but we don’t like angry faces in people. Fortunately, rather than cause a scowl there will more than likely be a smile on your dial after you’ve finished driving the 308 Sport.
Click through to the next page to read the full specs of the Peugeot 308 Sport
Price: from $47,490
What we like
- Excellent performance/fuel consumption
What we don’t like
- Peaky first gear makes wet weather standing starts tricky
- Poor interior storage
Peugeot 308 Sport Specifications
Cubic capacity (cc), 1598
Bore x Stroke (mm), 77 x 85.8
Max power kW (HP) @ rpm, 128 @ 6000
Max torque (Nm @ rpm), 240 (260) @ 1600
Emission control, Catalytic converter
Emission standard, EURO 4
Emission of CO2 by weight, 180
European End-of-Life Vehicles Directive, 99%
Wheels and Tyres
Size, 225/40 R18
Alloy / Steel, Alloy
Spare tyre, Full size
Tyre pressure sensor, Yes
Ventilated front discs 283 mm / 26 mm
Rear solid discs with sliding calipers 249 mm / 9 mm
Electro-hydraulic power steering
Height / Reach adjust steering wheel
Front, Inverted Pseudo McPherson strut with linked anti-roll bar
Rear, Rear torsion beam, two suspension arms and an integral anti-roll bar
Maximum speed (km/h), 225
Acceleration 0-100km/h (sec), 8.3
Kerb weight (kg), 1471
Braked trailer towing weight (kg), 1650
Unbraked trailer towing weight (kg) 750
City Cycle l/100km, 10.7
Highway cycle l/100km, 5.7
Combined l/100km, 7.6
Driver and front passenger airbags
Driver’s Knee Airbag
Front side airbags
Front and rear curtain airbags
Door / boot ajar warning
Collapsible steering column
ABS (with EBFD & EBA)
Electronic Stability Program (ESP) (with ASR &
Rear 3-point seatbelts with warning
Pretensioning and load limiting front seatbelts
Force limiting rear seatbelts
Height adjustable front seatbelts
Isofi x on front passenger seat
Isofi x on rear outer seats
Fuel cut off inertia switch
Words and photos Darren Cottingham