Peugeot 308: Small screen blockbuster

  • How intuitive is the 308’s dash-dominating touchscreen?
  • Is a lack of buttons a retrograde step in a car?
  • Some functions proving inaccessible

Let me start with an apology. Yes, that is a loom band bracelet adorning my wrist, but you try saying ‘no’ to your eight year old daughter when she’s spent hours making it.

Anyway, moving on, I’ve now covered over 4,500 miles in the 308 so I’ve had ample opportunity to sample its minimalist dashboard, dominated by the 9.7-inch colour touchscreen.

The Peugeot 308's Touchscreen.

It’s not a button-free cabin – there are still 32 of the push-on-push-off, roll-and-click or toggling rogues about this Feline specification cabin – but they’re positioned in such a way as to reduce their visual impact. By and large it’s successful in this regard and the way it becomes the dash’s focal point is not lost on passengers in their first experience of the Peugeot.

There’s still much debate on whether touchscreens are eminently suitable for use on car dashboards. Sure, you can soon learn the position of your virtual iPhone buttons as you hold a conversation with someone, seemingly giving them your unwavering attention (so, I’m told), but can you do that while sat on the A1 at a steady 70mph?

Yes. Although admittedly it’s not something you pick up after 10 minutes at the wheel, but as you live with the car it feels more intuitive.

The Peugeot 308's Touchscreen.

There are seven zones (for climate control, car settings, audio, sat-nav, system settings, internet access and telephone) around the screen itself, acting as shortcuts. When on the map view additional on-screen satellite buttons appear to save you having to come out of one function and onto another, self-cancelling after they’ve been operated.

Whether you consider lowering the climate control temperature via two screen taps is progress will depend entirely on personal choice – after all, not everyone’s embraced buttonless mobile phones and still like the physical reassurance of depressing something physical.

Peugeot’s screen attempts to offer audible guidance through a range of electronic beeps varying in pitch and tone as you prod it. It’s useful for keeping your eyes on the road but is unlikely to satisfy les buttonistes.

The Peugeot 308's Reversing Camera.

Each page of menus and sub-menus is logical, with easy to understand graphics that can be displayed in two themes (‘Square’ is my choice, with a greyscale ‘Reflex’ the alternative). My only real grip is that on occasion the screen action isn’t as responsive as it would be on your smartphone or tablet.

On one of those devices various algorithms calculate what it thinks you meant to type with impressive accuracy despite wildly inaccurate thumb dabbing. The Peugeot’s doesn’t – you have to hit each virtual button square on.

So far I’ve also failed to access the internet services with it, primarily because it does so through hooking up via Bluetooth. As an iPhone user, the connectivity is deliberately set-up to prevent such tethering and instead limits me to telephone and audio streaming functions.

The marketing materials also suggest that the screen will double as a digital photo frame but despite probing both USB ports and trialling a raft of image file extensions, all I see is a failure message. If you know how to do this drop me a tweet (@keithwrjones) and I’ll ensure you’re thanked profusely in the next update.

Touchscreens in cars are definitely here to stay – the next wave need to be more tablet-like in their functionality, something demonstrated on the admittedly much more expensive Tesla Model S. It won’t be too long before we see similar systems in mainstream hatchbacks.

Total mileage: 4,573 miles (started at 1,256)
Average mpg
: 40.3mpg