Everyone with even a passing interest in cars must have them – about at least one model. It’s usually a car that you probably coveted for many years, but ultimately felt particularly underwhelmed when it came to actually driving it.
It was the opposite for me recently, when I was due to swap a brand new model of a prestigious German brand in exchange for the new Peugeot 308.
I had tested a few Peugeot models in recent years, and they certainly impressed me. They have come an awful long way in terms of reliability and build quality, but I wouldn’t have got hugely excited about them.
That might sound a little harsh, but with the very best of intentions, it can take something pretty special to really whet the appetite of a motoring journalist.
And this is where the surprise came in.
As I was picking up the keys for this particular 308 model, the person from Peugeot was at pains to point out that the price of the car I was driving reflected the absolute, top-of-the-line interior and other extras. My first thought: “Ah, here we go…”. But, to be fair, nothing was over-sold and after a quick guide of the touch-screen instrument panel (we’ll come back to that) I was left to my own devices.
I was stunned. Really and truly.
How was this car, with a sticker price half that of the one I had just tested, so utterly accomplished, complete, attractive and luxurious? And I hadn’t even driven it.
The styling of the 308 speaks for itself. It follows all the latest design touches from Peugeot, but at the same time brings them together in a very special way – understated but undeniably eye-catching – this is simply a masterclass in motor elegance.
It’s a car that offers exceptional presence for a five-door model in such a modest class, and offers room for adults in the back (although I wouldn’t fancy being back there for a very long drive if I’m honest).
The LED lights, body-coloured handles, stylish alloys; all add up to a class look – but the sleek body contours and the stretched-back headlights that follow their lines really set this model apart.
Inside, well, inside is where the driver knows they are in something special – certainly in the Allure-spec car I was testing.
For starters, we have beautifully upholstered seats, the driver and front-seat passenger enjoying a kind of sport seat that helps to keep you in place without leaving bruises on your legs if you are a little less trim than you’d like.
Incredible comfort as soon as you sit down. The main points of contact make you feel like you are enjoying this car a little more than you should be – they are just that tactile.
The steering wheel is a small, racing design, with a flat bottom (my favourite kind) and reflects beautifully the kind of drive you can expect. Making full use of the dimensions of the chassis and body, the wheels are set at the extreme corners, giving this car the kind of handling that can only make you smile, and then smile even more, again.
We have a superb 1.6L diesel engine pushing out 115bhp and it gives the car exactly the kind of performance it deserves.
I was incredibly fortunate to have a weekend of driving up and down the country in the 308, and to say it is equally at home on the motorway as it is on the twisty roads of West Cork is an understatement. The roomy comfort of driving the 308 on the open road is enhanced by the beautiful panoramic roof – all of which is contrasted nicely as it takes on the mad profile of a rally car when you carve up a few corners and hairpin bends.
What all this boils down to is this, should you spend €24,390 on a 308? Well, I would!