Since the Peugeot 308 was first launched, the manufacturer has managed to shift a whopping 760,000 units. By anyone's standards, that is a lot of cars. The most recent generation of 308 saw the introduction of Peugeot's excellent iCockpit (well, it was in the 208 and 2008 immediately before it). The launch of the new Peugeot 3008 showed us the new iCockpit, an updated version of an already advanced system. Now it's the 308's turn to sample the latest generation of iCockpit along with new safety technology, new infotainment systems, and a better-than-ever engine line-up.
On the outside, this would appear to be a very mild facelift. There are some minor changes to the exterior, but it will take the eagle-eyed of you to notice. The LED lights have been updated and they now all have the Peugeot 308 LED signature incorporated into the headlights - however, it'll only be the upper-end models that offer full LED lighting. The bottom three levels will benefit from new halogen elliptical module headlights.
There is now a new bumper to the front of all models. The lower three trims (Access, Active and Allure) will share one of the new bumper designs, while GT Line, GT and GTi will share a different bumper.
All the big changes are under the bonnet and in the interior. New engines to the market include more efficient diesel and petrol engines. Peugeot are one of the first to attempt to offer real-world fuel economy figures, and they are correctly receiving kudos for this. However, we are still waiting on confirmed CO2 and fuel economy figures for the newer engines.
We focused mainly on the diesel offerings - it looks like the volume seller in Ireland will be the new BlueHDi 130. While there is a shift towards petrol (27% in 2016 to 39% to date in 2017 across the Peugeot range in Ireland), diesel will remain the volume seller for 2017 at least. The BlueHDi 130 will feature for the very first time in the new Peugeot 308. We're told that this digitally designed 1.5-litre engine involved the registration by PSA Group of over 200 new patents. It offers 10hp more than the outgoing BlueHDi 120. On-paper it offers a fuel consumption gain of between 4% and 6%. The emissions are reduced because the pollutants get treated at source and in the exhaust pipe. We drove this engine mated to a 6-speed manual gearbox. The gear changes I felt were a little on the clunky side, but it's not off-putting.
What was annoying on our road test in this model was that we had to stop half way through our drive because an AdBlue warning light came up on our dash along with a warning to get the engine fixed. This would normally be a very worrying sign, and thankfully this is one of the few times where I've experienced such a thing happen on a launch drive.
We asked Peugeot to explain the problem to us - the reason, according to Gaëtan Demoulin, Head of Product Communications for Peugeot in Europe, was human error. It seems that nobody checked the AdBlue levels of our vehicle before we started out test drive. I suppose what irked me most about this was that I think the car should have warned us that the AdBlue levels were falling in advance of the car telling us to pull over. In fairness to the manufacturer, this was a pre-production model and now is the time to find faults, if any (before mass production). This should not be a problem in full production models and I know that because of our test drive, all test cars with AdBlue were checked.
Next up on my test drive was the 2.0-litre Peugeot 308 GT BlueHDi 180. This featured an exclusive EAT8 automatic gearbox (which mirrors the appearance of the automatic gearstick in the 3008) which was developed with input from the Japanese specialists, Aisin. Apparently, it allows a 7% reduction in fuel consumption when compared with the EAT6 automatic gearbox. The new 8-speed box changes fluidly within the 180hp car, and did leave me feeling impressed. Couple the dynamic gear changes with the car's "Sport" mode, and you get an enjoyable ride. However, while I do like the artificial noises that come with the "Sport" mode, I must say that they over-do it a bit in the burble department! On both models that I tested, I found body control on corners to be good, and the ride and sound insulation in general was refined.
In terms of petrol, the new Peugeot 308 comes with a new generation of direct fuel injection PureTech engine. The PureTech 130 will offer more performance over its predecessor, and we're promised that it will return a better fuel economy and lower CO2 emission figures. This engine comes with a new 6-speed manual gearbox - which should be more fluid than the outgoing box. We didn't drive this at the launch.
The interior hasn't changed massively in terms of design. The infotainment system and iCockpit has been brought up to speed though, and while it doesn't share the piano-key toggle switches that you can find in the new 3008 and the new 5008, it does still feel similar.
The touchscreen shares the same graphics that you'd find in the 3008, and it offers the same levels of connectivity. The screen itself is sensitive enough to make navigating the system easy - with a good response speed from finger touches. It also helps that the infotainment is positioned facing the driver, which should result in less taking the eyes off the road.
Unfortunately, it does not feature the 12.3" TFT display that can be found in the Peugeot 3008 and 5008. The instrument binnacles are positioned just above the tiny Peugeot 308 steering wheel, and because of the dimensions of the steering wheel, it is easy to keep an eye on the dials and the road at the same time. Some people may give out about the workings of the touch screen, but having driven cars with iCockpit in them before, I found it easy to navigate through the aircon and all other areas of the system - with that said, it may take you a couple of days to get used to it if you've never used it before.
Because I've just mentioned it, let's talk about that tiny steering wheel. This seems to be a bit of a "love it/hate it" item for people. Personally, I love the smaller steering wheel, I find that it makes me feel closer to the road - it also helps that the steering in the 308 has always been quite stable and precise, and body control has never been a major issue.
Other new features which have been brought to the updated Peugeot 308 include safety features like; Active Safety Brake and Distance Alert. These two items combined can be very useful and they would not be dissimilar to the likes of “City Safety” from Volvo. In fact, many manufacturers are now ensuring to make it available to their newer vehicles. I think it's called “Safety Sense” in a Toyota - they all have different names, which can be annoying!
What Distance Alert does is it warns the driver if the vehicle is on course to collide with a vehicle or pedestrian ahead. If the driver doesn't respond to the alert, then the Active Safety Brake kicks in immediately. The car brakes straight away. In many incidents, this can result in completely avoiding collisions at best, and at worst it should lessen the impact. Active City Brake kicks in at speeds between 5km/h and 140km/h when another moving vehicle is detected. It also kicks in when the car is driving under 80km/h and it notices a stopped vehicle in its path. At speeds of less than 60km/h it operates when it detects a pedestrian.
The system can only detect cars which are stopped or going in the same direction, and pedestrians. The system does not detect motorbikes, animals, and objects on the road. With that said, I know that many manufacturers are constantly trying to improve this, and now Volvo, for example, are testing their vehicles to detect moose and kangaroos.
Other new safety equipment available to the updated 308 includes, Active Lane Departure warning. Once again, this is nothing new to the motor world, however, its introduction to new cars will play a big part in making our roads safer. Lane Departure Warning detects when a car is about to leave a lane, without the car using its indicators. It uses a camera to detect road markings - if the car is driving over 80km/h and if the system thinks you are unintentionally leaving a lane, an audio and visual alarm will be triggered. At speeds of between 65km/h and 180km/h the system will try to correct the steering gradually. However, if it's a case that the driver is just changing lane without using an indicator, it can be easy to override by just holding the steering wheel in position. This system, along with a new standard Driver Attention Warning system should help lower the risk of road deaths from people falling asleep at the wheel. The Driver Attention Warning system will send the driver a warning if the car has been travelling without stopping for two hours at over 65km/h. Cameras are used to keep an eye on the car's trajectory in comparison to road markings. If it thinks that you are suffering from fatigue or lack of attention it will send numerous audio and visual alarms into the vehicle.
Other advanced driving systems which will be introduced into the Peugeot 308 include; Automatic Headlamp Control (switches lights between full beam and dipped headlamps depending on lighting conditions and traffic), Speed Sign Recognition, Speed Suggestion, Active Blind Spot Monitoring, Visio 360-degree parking, Park Assist (where the car does the steering into the space for you) and Adaptive Cruise Control.
Adaptive Cruise Control shows us just how close we are to autonomous driving. So, we all know what Cruise Control is... right? Well, Adaptive Cruise Control is the same idea, but this system will maintain a distance between you and the car in front and will slow down and accelerate dependent on the speed of the car in front. For example, if you wanted to set your speed to 120km/h on the motorway and you're cruising along, but in the same lane you approach a car which is doing 117km/h, the Adaptive Cruise Control will keep you at a safe distance from the car in front and will lower your car's speed to 117km/h. It then goes back to 120 km/h as you attempt to overtake in the right lane. If you opt for a Peugeot 308 with the new 8-speed automatic transmission, this system can bring the vehicle to a full stop. It will slow you to 30km/h in a manual version.
All these safety systems are welcome in all cars. Sadly, they are not all available as standard with the Peugeot 308 - if they were, the price would be higher for the consumer, and believe it or not, the government has the nerve to actually charge VRT on added safety features - this is not good and the powers that be need to stop thinking in monetary terms when it comes to safety equipment within cars.
The Peugeot 308 is a very successful car for Peugeot and the new changes are welcome. After the very successful launch of the 3008 and the 5008, Peugeot needed to give a kick-start to their 308 - especially with Volkswagen Golf updates and the most recent Opel Astra. Some of the older engines from the 308 will be phased out very soon and the new 1.5 diesel and PureTech engines are ahead of the game in combatting NOx emissions.
This car should arrive in Ireland from September or October of this year. Prices are to be confirmed - but based on current pricing, they should start in and around the €19,550 mark.