This car has been around since 2008 and for SG$100k, gives you a whole lot of car for the money. The 308 1.6 I drove is a Malaysian specced car. Which only lacks the glass roof of the one sold in Singapore. Over in Singapore, you'd get a panoramic glass roof, dual zone air-conditioning, 16 inch wheels on 205/55/16 tires and the big smiley mouth to go with it. It has so happy a face that Peugeot recently changed its design philosophy a tad bit. Do a search on the Peugeot SR1 concept to see the changes in design philosophy.
Now before telling you guys out there on how it drives, I'll give you a low down on how it looks. It is basically a Peugeot 307 that has been going on a steroid trip. Some anabolic steroids here, there and it now has a butt like Jlo's, slightly more bulbous sides and a longer front overhang with that very happy toothy grin. It looks good in 17inch wheels and tires, but on the 16inches that the 1.6 comes with, it looks slightly under tired. The large body overwhelming the smallish looking wheel and tire combo.
The interior looks classy enough, with dual climate controls for the front passengers and it is very spacious. The meter cluster looks classy and expensive with those chrome trimming rings around them and the feel of the switches are pretty tactile to the touch. The information display center at the middle displays not only the time but also the date. The seats are a tad large, while you do get support in the right places, a big guy like me can still move around. And they are set slightly high. Which is typical of most hatchbacks nowadays. With the expanse of space around the front and that steeply raked A-pillar, it makes you feel like you are driving a mini-SUV/MPV. Not very sporty if you get my drift (the same goes to the 308 Turbo as it has the same interior basically).
Right, lets get down to driving it. Firstly, it isn't that fast. The combination on making an engine that is pretty good in the Mini Cooper (yes, the 308 uses the same engine as the Mini – a BMW-PSA joint venture) into something not very thrilling is basically this. Add 120bhp/160Nm to a slightly ancient by today's standard 4speed automatic gearbox (with manual tiptronic function located at the gear shift) and then to a body that weighs about 1310kgs you get a car that leisurely accelerates from 0 to 100km/h in about 12.5seconds. The Mini Cooper in automatic form could do it in 10.4seconds owning to an almost 120kg weight reduction. You do get a lot more space that you don't have in a Mini but if you're into driving, you have to get the smaller Mini, as even in the smaller 207 1.6 Sport Automatic the 4 speed gearbox still makes the car slow.
The car rides on McPherson struts up front and a beam axle at the rear. It feels as if the car isn't really tied down like Peugeots of old. It does not have that carpet-like ride of the 405 or even the 305 that came long before this. It also does not have the body control like the older Peugeots. If you attack a corner with this 308 it will get unsettled pretty fast. While there is grip, there's no finesse.
The large body feels at odds with the tires and the suspension. If there was ripples, it wouldn't glide over them. If there was a bump or an undulation the suspension would be slow to react. This is especially true mid corner where if you encounter a bump, the whole rear end would jiggle and get caught out. Like the whole beam axle goes sideways, a little. The steering's not much help as it lacks any feel of the road. It's as if Peugeot skimped on the suspension development on this car.
It could be because this car is actually an evolution of the earlier 307. Peugeot did a whole new body styling for it but the suspension settings weren't upgraded to suit the larger body and heavier weight of the car. It shows. In fact the 308 Turbo also has this same feeling of unsettledness. It has more grip due to the larger wheel setup and more torque to pull it out of corners over this slower normally aspirated 308. It is obvious that the non-turbo 308 needs a lot more stroking to go fast. This 2010 car had some improvements according to Peugeot. But no tweaks were made on the suspension by the looks of it.
It's not as if you cannot go fast with this car. You can, as you can cruise very comfortably at around 140km/h if you wanted to. But attack a string of corners and the 308 does not feel at home doing so. It goes "Oh my God!!! What are you trying to do to me?!!".
It does feel at home pottering round the city streets though, with its slightly high up driving position, light steering, airy cabin and decent acceleration at the traffic lights. Just don't expect it to be entertaining while you're driving it and you'll be fine.
Much like a croissant, crispy on the outside, but soft and fluffy on the inside. And yes, slightly flaky too.