Peugeot 308: Welcome to Parkers

  • How now brown Peugeot: new 308 joins the Parkers fleet
  • Three-cylinder petrol engine provides decent performance
  • High grade Feline trim means it’s packed with toys too

“It’s called Rich Oak.” That’s the response to the first question everyone asks about the new Parkers long-termer I’m the custodian of for the next few months, Peugeot’s all-new 308.

Nobody wants to know whether the 1.2-litre three-cylinder engine is up to the task, whether the interior quality’s up to Golf levels, how easy that 9.7-inch touchscreen control for almost all the car’s ancillary functions is to use on the move or even if it’s a worthy winner of the coveted Car of the Year title. No, they want to know why I chose a brown car.

Brown’s a special car colour for me, because it reminds me of the hues prevalent in the late 1970s when my automotive passion was first unlocked. Back then, it was a limited choice: you could have a shade that mimicked Cadbury’s finest, a metallic version of the same, or, if you were in it for the long-term, buy unwisely and watch whatever colour car you’d bought turn rusty. The good old days, eh?

Lately bronzed shades are making a comeback and add an air of distinction in a roadscape dominated by red, white and silver. It’s not just the colour that’s making a return, either, because this new 308 (I’ll explore why it’s not the 309 in a future update), marks Peugeot’s renaissance in the family hatchback class. Not since the oft-eulogised 306 departed back in 2001 has the French marque had such a strong presence in this market segment.

There’s so much to talk about with this particular car too, so I’ll give the headline features a light touch here and explore each in more depth over the coming weeks and months.

Climb aboard the 308’s roomy cabin and you’re immediately struck by three things: the fit and finish, that high-set-instruments-and-low-set-steering-wheel ratio and, of course, the minimalism. Not only are sat-nav, phone and infotainment functions accessed via that central touchscreen, but so are the air-con controls, trip computer and digital photo frame functions.

This particular 308 is finished in top-of-the-range Feline specification too, so there are swathes of leather and Alcantara, keyless entry, the ‘Cielo’ glass roof, 18-inch ‘Saphir’ alloy wheels and full-LED headlamps. There’s also adaptive cruise control, a technology I’m broadly a fan of, but as the 308’s system doesn’t engage the brakes to slow the car down it’s less, well, adaptive than rivals’ systems.

Diesels make up the bulk of car sales in this class, so having a petrol motor is a refreshing change. Mention the 1.2-litre triple under the bonnet though and many guffaw, expecting a lethargic performance. Not so, as the e-THP 130 – Peugeot-speak for a 128bhp engine with stop/start function – has ample torque and power to not only get the 308 up to speed but keep it there too. Sure, at lower revs there’s that familiar three-pot thrum, but it’s neither unpleasant nor overwhelms the cabin.

Fuel consumption is something I’m going to be paying close attention to, particularly with my much-mentioned 74-mile commute making petrol a brave (foolish?) choice. On paper the 308 returns a claimed average of 58.9mpg, but so far it’s hovering on 38.3mpg. Fingers crossed that as the miles rack up, the engine will loosen up, reducing its penchant for unleaded in the process. High 50s looks woefully optimistic though.

Not only is it proving pricier than expected to run, being a range-topper it’s not cheap to buy either, especially when the 308 range starts at £13,895. Feline specification and the £525 paint option (yes, you pay more to indulge in brown) adds up to £21,920.

Frequent wallet opening at my choice of filling station aside, I’m enjoying what the 308 has to offer. Ride, handling, comfort and quality might not set class benchmarks individually but as an all-rounder it’s an impressive and relaxing car to drive.

And I’m sure you’ll learn to love the brownness of it, too.

Total mileage: 1,812 miles (started at 1,256) Average mpg: 38.3 mpg