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The original 308 was once the car of choice for young, sophisticated thrusters. It was, at the time, the sole affordable European hatchback with an invigoratingly young and modern edge over the old and ageing Japane...
How impressive a product or otherwise depends on the expectations of the user, which is influenced by past experiences and shaped by a benchmark provided by similar items. It's relativism. This writer is no psychic,...
I have had a car in the past that was equipped with the same drivetrain as the old 308 Turbo (MINI Cooper S Countryman, which had the same THP 1.6 with the same Aisin 6 speed auto as the old 308 Turbo), so I would say I could compare the performance of the powertrain of the old 308 Turbo indirectly to this new one.
First off, looks. Boy have Peugeot done it. At night, from the triclaw light bars at the rear, to the LED headlights, and the interior design too, it is impressive really. At no point do you feel you are buying a 130k car, cause to be honest, it looks almost on par to the class best, read VW Golf. The reality is that once you step in to the 308, it just looks so calm and harmonious, unlike the Mk3 Focus which feels busy, and at least in the non ST, also feels a bit poorly made...
Seats are really impressive for the price point. Finally no more fabric seats, instead we get some nice leather + alcantara finished units. Personally I would have preferred all leather, but not too big of an issue, it's more of a personal choice as I don't like alcantara's feel. Having said that, the seats are very very comfortable, almost Golf like, though they feel slightly more supportive than the Golf on the sides. This however may be an issue for plus sized individuals. The driver's seat has a pretty impressive massage system, would be useful in traffic, though it is more of a novelty and something I could gladly live without.
Engine wise, here is the biggest departure over the old THP. One of the biggest change is the new engine is all new, and interestingly it is also slightly down on power where the old THP Prince engine was a 156hp unit (giving it the THP 156 monicker) while the new one is a 150hp unit (giving a THP 150 monicker now) - a 6hp difference. But the even bigger change is the power delivery. One big issue about the old one was the way power was delivered, where there was a bit of a turbo lag, before the boost kicks in, and when it does, it really pushes you back in your seat. However one thing I did notice in the new THP 150 is the pretty obvious lack of the turbo boost, it is so linear compared to the old one, heck it feels like a TSI. Engine note isn't too bad, and so far mine is still brand new so not really pushing it to very high revs yet. But right now, very refined, though no more turbo blowoff like on the old THP 156. Passing power is good, and it is effortless to merge into a highway, tried and tested.
Handling & composure is another strong suit in this car. It is not as razor sharp as the Focus or Golf, but for what is essentially a Euro family hatch, it is really good. Body roll is very contained, and it can give the Golf a run for the money. The steering is good, and unlike the Asian cars, it tightens up pretty well under speed. You do feel pretty confident even at about 120-130 km/h.
Safety is a huge advantage for the 308. Where do I start... First off, you get a full keyless entry and start system, standard. Something that the Golf still doesn't have, which beats my why VGM doesn't spec that in. Golf (foreign markets) style, the push button is on the centre console, near the cupholders. It feels solid and does have a sense of quality unlike some overly light Asian cars, it is the little things that count. Automatic lights and wipers are all included standard, which is also good but that is class expected. Same with 6 airbags and ESP as standard too. Reversing camera and all round parking sensors are also included, though the diagram itself is not well done like in the VW or Ford system, where the zones are clearly marked and large enough to see. In this case, there is a sense there was more thought into engineering the reversing camera instead of the sensors, as the diagram of the car is too small, in fact I initially couldn't find it as I was expecting a larger car icon. But the biggest party trick of the 308 is the adaptive cruise control, which does work in conjunction with the collision warning. I notice the collision warning is not too bad, you get a friendly message if you get a bit close to the car ahead, which just says you are too close to the car in front, but no beeps, fine with me. The adaptive cruise is useful on longer journeys, especially considering that the cruising ability of this car is good. I feel this is a much better system compared to the Focus which only is an emergency braking system, but not adaptive cruise.
Specs, in typical Peugeot Malaysia form, is good. In addition to the safety, you do get some cool toys like panoramic sunroof (which I truly enjoy, gives a sense of light into the cabin especially since it is all black inside), massaging driver's seat, touchscreen with a good resolution that feels much better than the one in the 208 and better quality display compared to some Germans (read VW Golf and Audi A3). This is also including the all LED front and rear lights and very good looking large rims.
Pricing this car is really good too, for the specs, it is almost cheap even. You do get a 5 year warranty (not full manufacturer warranty though - a mixed manufacturer then insurance warranty), and roadside assist thrown in, but the maintenance is not that cheap, for Euro standards it is expected but for the on the road price, not so... Peugeot should seriously consider selling a service plan along with the car, I would opt for that.
Visibility and usability of the cabin is reasonably good, not any real issue, though the rear glass isn't as large as a Golf, but parking isn't really an issue. In fact I would say the reversing camera is a bit of a waste as I prefer the mirrors that are nice and large.
Transmission, oh what a waste Peugeot. I really think they solved the slow shifts famous on the older ones, with the new EAT6 with QuickShift, but at the same time, they forgot to also solve the shift shocks. It has been a while since I had a car with apparent shift shocks, modern autos should not have this issue... Though I highly suspect this is more of a software issue, probably should get this sorted during the first inspection service. The transmission works well for the engine, giving it quite a low cruising RPM or about 2000 rpms or so, at 100 km/h.
Wind noise too is another apparent issue. I notice above 80-90 km/h there is a pretty bad rustling near the A pillar of the driver side, so much so I thought a window was open. Again, there isn't any design issues that could explain this, since the shape of the car is smooth... I suspect it is more of an issue with the door seals, which again would have to sort out during service.
Ride quality does feel a bit compromised, mainly due to the rims. While the rims look good, they are too big for the car. 18" rims on a family hatch is too big, as not only would the tyre replacements be pricey, the tyres are with small sidewalls, meaning bumps become apparent. I would prefer say 16" rims, as that would greatly improve the comfort.
Transmission shift gate too is a bit of a weird one, especially being used to the straight gate on many Germans. It has the typical French gate pattern, which I think for me needs some time to get used to, but it is not major.
I never got used to Peugeot's new small steering style, it feels off and weird for me especially being used to a normal size one. But there is a bit of improvement in the line of sight, unlike on the 208, for the most part it doesn't block the head up speedo display. And the reversed RPM gauge isn't really an issue for me too... Thought there is a bit too much hard plastic unlike the Vee-dub, but it isn't too bad, it is well screwed together.
Space wise isn't really good for me though. I felt the Golf is much bigger inside, and in terms of the boot, the Golf is more spacious too, this is mainly cause Peugeot gives a full size spare, how nice. It does give a nice flat load bay though. Electric seats are also notable absent, something I would have expected at this price point really. I mean massaging leather seats, but all manual adjustments? Err...
Navigation too isn't available at this point in time, I was told it can be had optionally for about 3k MYR as a plug and play dealer fit thing, but I don't plan to do that for now. It seems Peugeot Malaysia will offer a nav system as a software update soon, but it may take a while.
The biggest con though, is really what makes the 308 now almost perfect - it feels almost German. Where is the French flair? Where is the French weirdness we dismiss as "French stye"? But this in some sense isn't really a con though, Joe Public would love a well thought out car - in fact, who won't? It doesn't compete with say the BMW 120i or the Merc A class directly though, sure they are all Euro hatches, but there is something Merc and BMW do to make them stand out, like Merc, it is the style and the finish, while for BMW, the engine and gearbox with the RWD chassis. Just like the Golf, you know you are not buying a luxury hatch, but it is not pretending to be one, so that is fine.
Slightly better reverse camera could be given, the current one is a bit grainy for me especially on the high res screen. The reversing sensor diagram needs to be rethought out, why not look at some of the competition like VW or even BMW? Their's are pretty good I would say.
We could use a bit bigger boot too, probably a space saver would be better... And the interior materials, the centre console which has the hard keys need a softer finish to it. The current material looks good with the grain but it is hard and scratchy.
Peugeot Malaysia could consider having 16" rims instead. While the 18" Saphir rims are brilliant to look at, the 16" Quartz ones are more practical in terms of comfort and replacing tyres. Also, we could have BLIS too, that would put this on par with the Focus, and leave the Golf even further behind.
The electric parking brake could be set to disengage automatically once in drive and engage when in park, that would be more convenient. Also, since we now have an EPB, maybe have an auto hold function too.
Peugeot Malaysia could bring in the 1.2 e-THP with the 6 speed auto as well, something to take place over the old 308 VTI with the same safety, it would really open the market further. Also, they could and should consider a servicing plan. I would probably pay for that over Peugeot Protect (which by the way I was quoted about 1.7k MYR as a one off payment and covers for 5 years).
All in all, congratulations are in order for Peugeot and Peugeot Malaysia, by far and large, they finally have an answer to the Golf. Volkswagen AG and VGM should be worried, this lion is Goliath.
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