If you’re thinking of buying the new Peugeot 308, don’t. Not yet, anyway.
The company released UK specs and prices for its latest hatchback yesterday, and for a potential C segment customer, they catalogue an attractive prospect. In entry-level Access trim, with the 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol engine, the car starts at £14,495; that’s cheaper than a starter Volkswagen Golf or Seat Leon, and very close indeed to where the Kia Cee’d and Hyundai i30 begin.
Ford will sell you a Focus cheaper, but only in the kind of poverty spec that would make a Greek car hire firm blanch. The 308 comes with air-con, cruise control, Bluetooth and a DAB tuner - pretty much the first four things that should be at the top of anyone’s kit wish list. Chuck another £2k at the problem and you can have the 1.6-litre HDI, which at 95g/km CO2, will be tax free to boot.
So why wait? Well, for a start, you can’t really have the Access trim. Yes, it sounds good, but it doesn’t come with alloy wheels or rear parking sensors or Peugeot’s new 9.7-inch touchscreen, so at resale time it’s going to be about as attractive as a used Network Rail toilet. Realistically, you need the Active level above it, which gets it all plus an electric handbrake, dual-zone chiller, auto headlights and wipers, and, enticingly, sat-nav.
You could have all that right now of course. Except you definitely shouldn’t. Because you’ve upgraded to the Active trim, a whole new range of engines are now available; including the turbocharged version of the aforementioned three-pot, which instead of cranking out a measly (and insufficient) 82bhp, develops 130bhp while also gently lowering CO2 emissions.
Peugeot’s Benjamin Hindsley, an Englishman tasked with overseeing the 308’s overall attributes, reckons the motor is more than a match for Ford’s award-winning 1.0-litre Ecoboost: an engine which, for now, it will outperform - 172lb ft of torque nixes 125lb ft - and significantly undercut the Ford, since it retails at £17,945 compared to the similarly specced £19,795 Titanium Focus.
But it’s not available. Not yet. Frustratingly, all the new Euro 6 compliant engines are currently in project orbit, circling the 308 range like airliners waiting to dock at a fog-bound Heathrow. They will not land until March next year.
Even then, the petrol motor may very well not be the one to go for if you’ve real miles to do. Hindsley, with a smile on his face, reported to Autocar that the new 2.0-litre Blue HDI has proven an exciting prospect aboard the lightened 308, and now looks certain to sink below the 100g/km CO2 threshold, too.
With 150bhp and 277lb ft of torque likely to fix the 1.6-litre HDI’s dispiriting lack of genuine oomph, and over 70mpg quoted on a combined run, it might just be the uplift the new hatchback needs to better compete with the class leaders - especially at the extremely competitive price of £19,995. Of course there’s still the hurdle of English roads and right hand drive to negotiate, but Hindsley promises the days of Britons driving a distinctly second-class Peugeot are long gone.
As well as ensuring that a cupholder remains front and centre for all of the UK’s coffee-obsessed commuters (the suddenly minimalist, we-never-snack French designers had visions of removing it completely), our man in Sochaux pronounced himself particularly proud of the 308‘s right-side footwell; now just as capacious as the left, and therefore capable of accommodating three properly spaced pedals rather than offset boot-snaggers.