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Click to view road test review picture gallery“Peugeot’s new 308
  range is unpinned by
  a raft of improvements
  to size, comfort and
  driveability that will put
  a smile on the faces of
  all new owners. David
  Miles explains...”

MORE NEW MODELS, MORE NEW TECHNOLOGY to lower CO2 emissions, shorter vehicle life cycles, less warranty issues and improved profitability were the core messages from Christian Streiff, chairman of PSA Peugeot Citroen yester-day. He said Peugeot has set goals for restoring growth and profitability and for the company to rank among the European Top Five in terms of service and quality.

He added that PSA plans to reduce quality incidents by half and shorten warranty resolution times by two-thirds. They also plan to introduce 29 new model ranges between 2007 and 2010 with the average age of the line-up reducing to three years compared to
4.5 years in 2006.

The PSA group also aims to reduce the average CO2 emissions from
its vehicles by at least 10g/km. This will be achieved in part by the introduction of HDi diesel hybrids (in 2010) and one million 'Stop & Start' engines from 2011.

Meanwhile, in the UK, Peugeot was busy launching its new 308 five-door hatchbacks to the motoring media.

Peugeot admits that replacing the popular Peugeot 307 range of hatch-backs, coupé-cabriolets and SW estates is no easy task. Over 311,000 have been sold in the UK since 2001. Peugeot said there were warranty issues with the first 307 models but since the 2005 facelift, the quality of the cars had improved significantly.

Last year, the UK 307 range sales accounted for 40,000 units; 72 per cent of which were three- and five-door hatchback models, 23 per cent SW and Estates and 10 per cent CC coupé -cabriolets. Retail customers traditionally account for 48 per cent of sales and fleet and business users 52 per cent. UK sales of the new 308 models — the new Peugeot 308 range arrives in the UK on 20 September — are expected to be around 40,000 a year.

Prices for the new 308 five-door models start at £12,595 and rise
to £20,495. Three-door models — which won't go on sale until December — start at £11,995 and top out at £19,445. Peugeot in the UK said this week that the prices of the 308 Hatchback range are virtually 'budget neutral' compared with the outgoing 307 range — the new models have a better specification, much improved quality, more interior space, some new engines and in some cases are actually — like-for-like — cheaper in price.

Peugeot UK sales director David Brookman also mentioned that Peugeot's Passport personal leasing plan had proven to be enormously popular with 40 per cent of the 207 private buyers — Peugeot UK believe it is going to become as popular within the other sectors of the market, spreading up to C and D sector cars. For the record, the Peugeot 308 will be available for less than £3,000 deposit and monthly payments of £230 (based on an interest rate of 5.9 per cent).

Brookman added that this has been possible because indications from the trade specialists at CAP suggest the Peugeot 308 will have one of the highest residual values in the C-sector after three years/60,000 miles.

The new 308 models use a modified version of the outgoing 307 plat-form — but with a greater emphasis on aerodynamics and keeping the increase in overall weight to a minimum with the use of lightweight materials such as aluminium in the suspension system, high strength lightweight steel and composite body panels and re-designed impact areas. In part, these changes improve safety, performance and reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. The 308 has also achieved a Euro NCAP 5-star rating for occupant safety, along with a 4-star child occupant safety and 3-star pedestrian protection rating.

The new 308 is Peugeot's first model to carry the new '8' generation figure. The 308 is longer and wider than the 307 models it replaces.
As mentioned already, five-door Hatchbacks of the new 308 range will go on sale from 20 September; three-door versions will follow later this year and Estate and SW versions will go on sale in the spring of 2008. The 'CC' coupé-cabriolet models will follow early in 2009. A 308 diesel hybrid model is scheduled for sale in 2010 and an Ethanol-fuelled derivative will be offered for sale in other countries where there exist ample supplies of the fuel. If the infrastructure is in place to support this alternative fuel, this version could come to the UK.

Peugeot is also likely to confirm that the stunning Frankfurt Show 308 RC Z Concept model will lead to a lightweight production version that will join the line-up in late 2009. This sports version will have a carbon-fibre hard roof and will be a 'halo' model for the entire range.

At launch, the new 308s will be available with six engine options.
Three of these are petrol — 1.4-litre VTi 95bhp, 1.6-litre VTi 120bhp and a turbocharged 1.6-litre THP 150bhp. All these units come from
the engine partnership between PS Peugeot-Citroen and BMW and make use of a five-speed manual gearbox.

There are also three HDi diesel units: 1.6-litre 90bhp, 1.6-litre 110bhp and 2.0-litre 136bhp. Both 1.6-litre engines also use five-speed trans-missions whereas the 2.0-litre unit has a six-speed.

The 1.6 HDi 90 engine, says Peugeot, emits 120g/km of CO2 (under the proposed London Congestion Charge starting point) and has a com-bined fuel consumption of 62.7mpg. More engine and automatic trans-mission options will join the range as other new 308 derivatives are introduced.

During the development of the 308, Peugeot included its tyre supplier — Michelin — in the programme. This led to the creation of 'high tech' tyres for the 308 belonging to the all-new Michelin Energy Saver range. These tyres reduce rolling resistance by a considerable 20 per cent and will be fitted to the 1.6-litre HDi 90 and HDi 110 versions on both 15- and 16-inch wheels. The new tyres contribute a reduction of 4g/km of CO2, which corresponds to a reduction of around one tonne of CO2 during the average 10-year life cycle of the vehicle.

There are five trim levels: Urban, S, Sport, SE and GT. Standard equip-ment on all models includes power steering, driver airbag, passenger airbag, side airbags, curtain airbags, remote control central locking with deadlocks, electric front windows, a steering column adjustable for both reach and rake, radio/single CD player, passenger and driver seat height adjustment, anti-lock braking, trip computer and power door mirrors.

The desirable Electronic Stability Programme for added road safety is, regrettably, not available until customers reach the 'Sport' level of specification. However, air conditioning is standard on S specification vehicles and above.

The S version adds front fog lights, manual air conditioning and body-coloured door mirrors and door handles.

In addition, Sport versions get a steering column airbag, cruise control with speed limiter, rear electric windows, front seat arm rests and boot net, full body-coloured exterior, leather steering wheel, Electronic Stability Programme, radio/CD player with MP3 compatibility and divers-ity system, sports front grille styling and 17-inch alloy wheels.

The SE version goes further, adding an ambience pack (with fragrance diffuser and ambient interior lighting), Cielo panoramic glass roof, electric folding mirrors, comfort pack (lumbar support, height-adjust-able rear head restraints, under-seat storage trays, flip-up tables and rear seat arm rest), auto dimming rear view mirror, visibility pack (auto-matic headlamps and wipers), dual-zone air conditioning, sports style rear bumper and 16-inch alloy wheels.

Finally, at the top of the range, the GT version also comes with half-leather interior, carpet mats, tyre pressure sensors, alarm, rear parking sensors, headlamp washers, Xenon directional headlamps and washers, a Bluetooth hands-free kit, a colour multi-function display and 18-inch alloy wheels.

The most likely best-selling model will — because of fleet and business user demand — be the 1.6-litre HDi 110 with Sports trim priced at £16,495. The best-selling petrol model, attracting more interest from retail buyers, will be the 308 VTi 120 with SE specification costing £15,895.

We are saying the 'new' Peugeot 308 but in fact many of the compon-ents of the car are already tried-and-tested (floor pan, engines, trans-missions) so perhaps the 308 is more of an 'evolution' from the 307.

The 308 five-door hatchback is, at 4,276mm, 74mm longer, 53mm wider (at 2,038mm) with wider front and rear tracks and it looks sleeker thanks to the 12mm reduction in height. In reality, it looks a much big-ger and imposing car altogether than the 307. The signature Peugeot large 'smiling grille' (available with two types of finish depending of the specification chosen) and the deeply sculpted bonnet immediately identify the 308 as a Peugeot. To some eyes the pronounced nose combined with the long front overhang make the hatchback appear a tad front-end heavy — although the SW versions should look better balanced overall. However, give credit where it's due. The new 308 is an eye-catching and attractively-styled car with strong road presence.

But it is the interior that shows the biggest and most improved changes. Just a quick first glance and my immediate opinion was that the quality is vastly improved, the layout of the controls and instrum-ents is much better and more logical and the fascia and door trims are superb. They have a nice soft feel with variations in textured finish. We really are talking about a much better car — assuredly close to 'premium' class — and customers will love it. The curved fascia panel is positioned much further forward in the car while the centre of the fascia is now dished inwards to give both front occupants greater free space. The design also gives a lower forward sight line which makes for an impression of more space as well as improving visibility.

The rear accommodation is also improved, with adequate width for three adults. The backs of the front seats are neatly scalloped to im-prove knee room. Rear headroom is not great for a six-footer like me, but then the test cars I tried had the panoramic roof system which adds even more light to the inside of the car but does cut down a little on headroom.

Along with improved rear passenger legroom, the extra overall length has given the 308 five-door hatch more luggage space: 430 litres of
it, to be precise, with the rear seats in position; 1,398 litres with the three rear seats folded.

The handling, ride comfort and road-holding are likewise improved.
The wider front and rear tracks offer a flat and controlled ride with little bodyroll or fore-to-aft pitch. The suspension absorbs potholes
and bumps with relative ease, and the steering has a sharp turn-in
and responsive attitude with good feedback.

Overall the 308 feels a much more solid and 'well planted' car and this will appeal to all customers as it is definitely a move up in class and refinement. I have to say I cannot understand why Peugeot has not fitted all 308s with the Electronic Stability Programme system as standard. It certainly makes sense in the interests of improved handling safety for less experienced drivers, or when the car is fully loaded. However, what is beyond doubt is that the 1.25 million miles under-taken in the pre-launch development/refining programme has paid big dividends for the 308 customer.

All the improvements in new front, rear and side safety zones, better materials, improved specification and so forth has added weight to
the vehicle — 62kgs more than the comparable 307 models — so I expected this to take its toll on engine performance and economy.

Fortunately I had the opportunity to try the two main-selling engines this week: the 1.6-litre VTi 120 petrol unit from the PSA/BMW/MINI joint venture — the likely top choice for retail customers. The second test was with the 1.6-litre HDi 110 turbodiesel unit, which will be the mainstay power source for fleet and business car users. Both have a five-speed manual gearbox as standard although a more precise gear-change and 6-speed unit with a taller sixth gear ratio would be a benefit.

The 1.6-litre VTi engine we know already from the Peugeot 207 and MINI ranges. It is smooth, responsive and has a good fuel potential. Power output is 120bhp with 120lb ft of torque from 4,250, so it has
to be revved quite hard to keep it within the optimum power band. Certainly the extra weight in the 308 has taken its toll of bottom end 'grunt' — it takes time to get moving swiftly, but the 0-62mph figure of 10.8 seconds suggests it is no slouch. Top speed is 122mph. On the open road or around town it was surprisingly better than I expected and it will be a good choice for private buyers of all ages. The fuel economy was also better than you might expect for the 308's size and weight. Officially it returns 42.1mpg on the combined cycle. My test car returned 35mpg over a fairly short country roads route and I would expect around 40mpg to be achievable.

The second engine is the well-respected 1.6-litre HDI turbodiesel unit with 110bhp and 180lb ft of torque from just 1,750rpm. Performance figures are quoted as 119mph and 0-62mph in 11.3 seconds with 57.6mpg being the average fuel consumption. My test car returned only 40.6mpg so I reckon the extra weight has definitely taken its toll on this particular powerplant. Whilst it performed adequately well, it was certainly no ball of fire and perhaps the 1.6 petrol engine has the edge on it this time round. However, the diesel's low CO2 figure of 130g/km, giving it a £115 vehicle excise duty rating, will be appealing to fleet and business customers — exactly where this model is aimed.

Having read this far you won't be surprised when in the 1.6 petrol-engined version's 'For' column I list size, interior styling, much improved quality, driveability and sweet engine. Against I can only point to the additional weight penalty which makes it feel a little underpowered. The turbodiesel fares similarly, with size, a high quality interior and much improved styling all to its credit, along with noticeably improved road-holding and ride comfort. Again, the only criticism is that the increase in the car's weight dulls engine performance and reduces fuel economy. Not that these few grumbles will stop the 308 being a very popular and much appreciated car with its new owners. — David Miles

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Peugeot 308 SE VTi 120 5-dr | £15,895
Maximum speed: 122mph | 0-62mph: 10.8 seconds
Overall test MPG: 35mpg | Power: 120bhp | Torque: 120lb ft
CO2 159g/km | Insurance group 6

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Peugeot 308 Sport HDi 110 5-dr | £16,495
Maximum speed: 119mph | 0-62mph: 11.3 seconds
Overall test MPG: 40.6mpg | Power: 110bhp | Torque: 180lb ft
CO2 130g/km | Insurance group 7

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