Cape Town - Peugeot has launched several hot vehicles in South Africa with the new 308 shaking up the hatchback market with ferocity.
It might not be reflecting in sales, at least compared to its rivals but Peugeot's vehicles are certainly being noticed.
Already crowned as the 2014 European Car of the Year, the Peugeot 308 is a finalist for the 2016 WesBank/SAGMJ South African Car of the Year.
Its current iteration is the best-looking 308 yet and I doubt many will argue. It's more compact than its predecessor though it gains a more spacious interior; better looks, a large boot, improved ergonomics and trim.
1. It's a 'hot' hatch
Road users were craning their necks to get a better look at the Pug 308 in traffic. I received numerous 'thumbs up' from everyone including taxi drivers, moms and school-children. Peugeot has launched yet another stunner but is it practical...
2. It's a comfortable car in all aspects
The seats are sporty in the front and snug at the rear. The quality of equipment is of a high standard.
The GT Line's rear sports narrow twin-exhausts, LEDs, a new grille (at least compared to the Active derivative) and large alloys.
The 1.2 PureTech e-THP 130 is capable of 96kW/240Nm combined with a six-speed manual gearbox.
The Peugeot 308GT Line also has a sportier sibling in the guise of the 308 GT tuned to 151kW. View the gallery here.
Take a peek at the 308 GT in this cool video: 20 vehicle checks you must do!
How does it drive?
I had driven the 1.6 THP 308 GT a week earlier and it had a lot more punch in its boosted drive than the 96kW 1.2 unit.
Despite the lose of power, the drive was pleasant and has plenty of power on the open road and during overtaking manoeuvre. Gear ratios are short and allows for a spirited a drive from its revvy 1.2 turbo.
What it lacks in power it more than makes up for in its design.
3. The issue of space...
The sporty steering wheel takes some getting used to; It's great but the cabin is huge so it feels a bit out of place at first. The more you drive the car, the better your realise it's suited for the driving experience.
Peugeot reckons the "ergonomic layout combines a small-diameter steering wheel with an elevated instrument binnacle, allowing an unencumbered view of the road and the key instrumentation".
Although the automaker claims to have more legroom and a more spacious interior, I think it only applies to the front seats. I'd prefer more room at the rear - especially if you have a tall husband who needs to sit at the back, along with baby kit, for the little one. Peugeot SA - can you please bring the 308 SW here in South Africa please?
4. Less is always more.
I love the uncluttered facia as it keeps the driver focused on the road without having to fuss about with a complicated centre-piece.
My biggest grip with the interior is the position of the hazard button. I kept having to fumble for it and in turn take my eyes off the road whenever it needed to be used (i.e signalling drivers that allowed me to overtake on country roads). My suggestion here is that the button be moved higher.
In fact, why isn't the hazard button placed on multi-function steering wheels - for any brand?
5. Revving backwards?
This too needed some getting used to and made me want to read everything else from back-to-front when I got out of the car. I thought it was silly but whenever the car started up, the lights went on and the sporty cluster needles sprang-up in unison albeit in opposite directions. It's actually pretty cool.
Is the Peugeot 308 a worthy contender for the title of 2016 SA Car of the Year? I believe so. It's good-looking, fun to drive and has enough space to warrant it as an all-rounder. It definitely has some tough competition in the rest of the CoTY pack, not to mention its market segment.
Below is a list of finalists for the 2016 CoTY (in no particular order):
Peugeot 308 1.2 PureTech GT Line - R329 900