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Monday 21 August 2017

Lion in wait: The new 308 targets the Golf

CONFUSED? ... You will be. The itinerary clearly stated we were going to France, so how the hell did I end up in Switzerland?

 

Welcome to Mulhouse Airport where there are two exits – the right hand side and you're in Basel ... the left, a gateway to France, even though all the information signs are in German.

(It's a long story involving two World Wars and an Alsatian dog.)

Yes, all is not as it would seem at the international launch of the new Peugeot 308.

It got even scarier when the dust covers came off the new offering.

Again I had to do a double take as sitting in the car park "a gauche" is a brand new hatchback that doesn't look remotely Gallic.

In fact, I'd have put my house on the car in front of me being more Germanic than anything else.

Side-on she's a dead ringer for the seventh generation Golf – complete with the oblong fly window in the rear.

Even the crisp lines flowing from the tip of the headlight unit to the back might be construed as a little bit more than a coincidence.

Thankfully, it's not all a game of clones and as soon as you get a full frontal you'll be in no doubt that this is a true Pug.

Following in the same footsteps as the 508 and more recently the 208, the C-Segment model shares the same DNA with special attention to build quality.

The new 308 gets the same conservative, yet distinctive chrome grille which is perfectly complimented by wide, cat-like slanty lights which we're told are a 'world first' with full LED headlamps (on level 3 models).

The bog standard model gets a strip of LEDs in the front bumper whilst the lion-claw rear lamps outlined by LEDs on all versions – also a first in the segment.

Inside the new 308 and one could be forgiven for thinking that your tush was inside a futuristic Vorsprung Durch Technik.

The designers have taken minimalistic to a whole new level, stripping out everything from air con/heating controls to radio and sat nav buttons and compacting it into the car's very own iPad sitting right in the centre of the dash.

Simply called the i-Cockpit, the 9.7" touch screen is home to everything you need and is controlled by seven icons found on either side of the screen.

Press the symbol like the fan and the controls for the air con/heating appear and simply poke the screen to adjust.

Other icons include car, nav, music, settings, phone and apps which you can download from Peugeot for a fee and yearly subscription.

Brilliantly simple and easy to use although some of my older colleagues feared it may be too confusing .

Build quality in the cabin is top notch too with soft touch materials and leather at every touch. The small steering wheel (of which I'm not a fan) also features but the instrument panel has been raised so faffing around is kept to a minimum as are the blind spots.

So, it looks radically different than its predecessor but is the drive?

Mercifully it's like night and day and it's the drive dynamic which will silence the critics. Reduced height (20mm),weight (140kgs), shorter overhangs and improved suspension all add to the experience. We tested the 1.6 petrol on the first leg of the test to the Peugeot factory in Sochaux and were left a tad disappointed at the lack of grunt.

The same cannot be said of the 1.6 litre diesel with oceans of torque from 115bhp 4-pot– monstering the twisty mountain roads with ease.

It cruised like a luxury limo on the motorway while returning 69mpg (4.1 litres/100km) and with emissions of just 95g/km it'll cost just €180 to tax.

A three-cylinder 1.2 litre petrol engine generating between 110-130bhp will be available from Spring 2014.

Due in showrooms by December for the January registrations, I don't think the Golf or indeed the Ford Focus will worry too much but the Korean twins are sure to have a few restless nights.

No official prices yet but a little bird tells me that the new 308 won't cost any more than €19,000.

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