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Peugeot 308 1.6A VTi: A lion with little or no bite whatsoever

By Rigval on 06 Sep 2010

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There have been quite a few French cars tested recently over at SgCarMart recently and those of you who cannot get enough of anything French, I am glad to report that I had a spin in a 2010 308 VTi 1.6 quite recently.

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.

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The only difference this 120bhp normally aspirated 1.6 liter Vti has compared to the 1.6liter THP Turbo are the turbocharger that pushes out 140bhp but 240Nm of torque instead of 160Nm and that the rims on the Turbo are 17inches in diameter with 225/45/17 tires. The rest is pretty much similar and the interior looks like it is built better than French cars from the early 2000s or before. In those days, especially pre1990s, French cars usually will have those useless bits of trim falling off leaving only the funcional items behind for the driver to use. All the more better if you intend to go racing in one – shedding bits of plastic and hardened rubber is good for the power to weight ratio of a car.

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.

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The one thing that I do not quite like is that the styling has compromised the visibility around the front pillars. The A-pillar is already thick and then you add that extra bit the designers put as strengthening for the large door frames as well as the large side mirrors you may have a blind spot in those areas.You do get the same feeling in a Honda Civic or a Jazz which has the same sloping A-pillars, but it feels so much more thicker here. Probably to the thicker A-pillars. It is however not as bad as the twin A-pillars in the Suzuki SX4 by the way.

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.

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So I gunned it down the road, the 308 leisurely gaining momentum. It may be smooth , but it is quite boring so I basically used it in manual tiptronic mode almost all of the time. Even with the engine screaming it is pretty subdued in the passenger cabin. So your passengers wouldn't really notice that you're trying hard. The only thing that would tell your passengers that you're really belting it is if you are taking corners in the 308.

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.

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Peugeot, 308 1.6a,308 VTi and 2 more...

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Rigval
Written by Rigval
Born in 1972. Married with a kid. Loves B-road drives and have driven cars from the 1950s to date.



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Danz Sep 06 2010 05:23 PM
Dear MCF members,

I've driven a Peugeot 405 before, no resale value for Peugeot. I may be wrong. Anyhow, I must agree the french produces stylish cars. The design and specs are great! The finishes are first class.

My 2 cents worth.....thanks
TylnaBelka Oct 17 2011 05:18 AM
This is a simple cool car.

Check: tylna belka if you will need repair a rear axle.
  • 1
 
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