This small car is comprehensively outsold by cars that cost more than six times as much. But there are some very good reasons you should consider one.
This small car is comprehensively outsold by cars that cost more than six times as much. But there are some very good reasons you should consider one.

Why buyers are wrong about this car

Small hatchbacks may be out of favour with the buying public but they provide more rewards for the driving enthusiast.

The Peugeot 308 is something of a hidden gem, with a great three-cylinder turbo engine and sharp driving dynamics. It's expensive, though.

OWNERSHIP IS AN ELITE CLUB

Peugeot's pitch to prospective customers is to "stand out and stand apart". Given the fact that Porsche's 911 outsold the 308 by more than four-to-one in September, that's not an empty promise. The car has been a hit overseas, winning a European Car of the Year award and selling up a storm. An overly ambitious pricing strategy has handicapped the sharp-looking little French hatchback Down Under, though. That's a shame because it's a stylish and fun to drive alternative to some of the vanilla options that crowd the small-car market. At $32,732 for the entry level Allure - and $37,358 for our GT-Line test vehicle - it's cheaper than it used to be but it still finds itself butting heads with some pretty impressive rivals, including the Mazda3 and Volkswagen Golf, which deliver more power and technology for the same price.

The 308 is held back by a high starting price.
The 308 is held back by a high starting price.

IT DRIVES WELL

On paper, the 308's 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbo seems ill-equipped to set the heart racing. It puts out a modest 96kW of power and takes a leisurely 11 seconds to reach 100km/h. But it has decent torque available from low in the rev range, which makes it surprisingly zippy off the mark. On the highway it feels relatively unstressed, with enough reserves for overtaking comfortably. The six-speed auto shifts smoothly and keeps the little enough purring along in its sweet spot, allowing you to enjoy the above par driving dynamics. The 308 feels well balanced and lively through the corners, with sharp, nicely weighted steering and decent grip at the limit. Despite its age - this generation launched back in 2014 - it's among the more enjoyable hatches to drive. It's impressively efficient, too, with an achievable fuel use claim of 5.0L/100km.

A stylish and calm interior is a welcome change.
A stylish and calm interior is a welcome change.

THE CABIN IS REFRESHINGLY MINIMALIST

The 308's interior doesn't look as modern as newer arrivals, but the designers have got the basics right so it's aged gracefully. The dash is uncluttered and the 9.7-inch centre touchscreen is easy enough to navigate. Steering wheel controls work well, ensuring your attention remains on the road. It may feel a little old-fashioned, but the materials have a quality feel and the ergonomics are sound. The GT-Line lifts the cabin ambience with a panoramic glass roof, sportier trim with red highlights, red illumination for the instruments and a flat-bottomed leather steering wheel.

IT'S KEPT UP WITH TECH ADVANCES

It may be getting long in the tooth, but Peugeot has done a good job of keeping the 308 competitive in the tech stakes. Infotainment runs to Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, satnav and digital radio, although a single USB socket (albeit supported by two 12-volt plugs) is not enough for the connectivity demands of the modern family. Other pluses include keyless entry, push-button start, front and rear sensors and semiautomatic parking.

IT'S A SAFE BET

Driver assistance technology has moved ahead in leaps and bounds since 2014, but regular equipment updates have kept the 308 in the hunt. Its automated emergency braking works at highway speeds and detects pedestrians and cyclists, while lane-keep assist and blind-spot monitoring are standard. It's lacking the rear-cross traffic alert and adaptive cruise control common on rivals at this price point, though.

Originally published as Why buyers are wrong about this car



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