How very French: a small Peugeot with a torque-rich turbo-diesel engine. We test the flagship 308 Allure HDi.
Base price: $42,990.
Powertrain and performance: 2.0-litre turbo diesel four, 110kW/370Nm, 6-speed automatic, front-drive, Combined economy 4.1 litres per 100km, 0-100km/h 8.6 seconds.
Vital statistics: 4253mm long, 1457mm high, luggage capacity 501 litres, fuel tank 53 litres, 18-inch alloy wheels on 225/40 tyres.
We like: Effortless performance, gearbox works well in this application, looks sharp.
We don’t like: Big premium over petrol model, polarising cabin design.
How it rates: 8/10
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? We’ve tested the latest Peugeot 308 in both its petrol-powered configurations: the entry-level three-cylinder Active and the upmarket four-cylinder Allure. We found the former engaging and the latter a little underwhelming, but help for the top of the range might be at hand in the form of an Allure with a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engine.
French cars and diesel engines: they just go together, don’t they?
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? Peugeot asks a $4000 premium for the Allure HDi turbo-diesel over the petrol equivalent. That seems like a lot, but then the switch to compression-ignition has many upsides and very few downsides.
The HDi makes the same power as the THP (turbo high pressure) petrol, but packs an extra 130Nm of torque.
The HDi is a mere 0.1sec slower to 100km/h than the more rev-happy petrol, but decimates it in fuel economy: an astonishing 4.1 litres per 100km versus 6.5.
The HDi’s monster torque also makes the most of the six-speed automatic gearbox, which is something we’ve had issues with in the THP-powered Allure. The self-shifter is fine in the hard-working three-cylinder model, but seems to struggle when combined with the four-pot petrol – it can be indecisive and jerky at low speeds or during changes in driving style.
The understressed nature of the HDi engine means that the gearbox has less work to do, making this arguably the best powertrain application for the 308 yet.
Relaxed yet rapid rolling acceleration also highlights the fluidity of the 308 chassis. It steers and handles with a sporty character, without sacrificing too much in the way of ride comfort – even on the 18-inch wheel and tyre package of the Allure.
IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH? We’ve discussed Peugeot’s avant garde ‘i-cockpit’ interior design a few times already in different 208 and 308 models, so we won’t dwell on it too much. Suffice to say the very high position of the instrument binnacle and the very low position of the (tiny) steering wheel require some getting used to. Some people love it, some people really don’t.
Unconventional styling aside, the cabin is replete with soft-touch plastics and interesting textures. The impression of quality definitely lifts it above the mainstream small-car market. The Allure specification makes the most of the touch-screen that’s standard on all 308 models, by providing satellite navigation and a reversing camera.
SHOULD I BUY ONE? There’s no contest when comparing the 308 HDi to its petrol equivalent: all other things being equal (which they are in Allure specification), the diesel is the hands-down winner for real-world powertrain performance.
But there’s a price to be paid for that ability, and an extra $4000 for the HDi isn’t easy to justify on economic terms unless you’re covering very high annual mileage.
But what price pleasure? If you want a 308 that’s swift and well-appointed with some large-car qualities, the HDi is hard to go past. If you want one that puts pure entertainment and sheer value high on the agenda, that 1.2-litre three-pot Active still looks pretty good.
- Blind spot warning: No
- Lane guidance: No
- Cruise control: Yes
- Automatic lights/wipers: Yes/yes
- Parking radar: Front and rear with camera
- Self-parking technology: No
- Head-up display: No
- Satellite navigation: Yes
- Keyless entry/start: Yes/Yes
- Stop-start: Yes
- Air conditioning: Dual climate
- Heated/ventilated seats: No
- Power seat adjustment/memory: Yes/Yes
- Leather upholstery: $3500 including massage function
- Power boot or tailgate: No
- Split/folding rear seats: 60/40