Suspended belief

Supple ride smooths Byronís path to true love

BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

THE Peugeot is ruining other cars for me.

It has nothing to do with the steeringís unfettered connection with my palms, and everything to do with what I feel from the seat of my pants.

Three months in and the mid-range five-door hatch from France continues to surprise and delight with an incredibly silken ride quality. Itís as if a fresh hot coat of bitumen precedes my every move because the supple and silent suspension absorption has bettered every other 2015 model Iíve driven this year, with the exception of the Ford Mondeo.

Weíre talking here about patchy innerurban streets with pimply surfaces, potholes, crumbling edges, pyramid speed bumps and tyre-shredding tram tracks. And the 308 glides over them, in most cases with utter insouciance. The same applies out on the open road.

Owners of post-war/pre-millennium Pugs may ponder what all the fuss is about, since classics like the 504 (which I own), 306 and 406 were renowned for their lush ride. From about 2001 the French tried (but failed) to emulate BMW dynamics with sub-standard suspension set-ups that traded Teflon smoothness for tetchiness, as many 407 drivers learned the hard way.

Wheels veteran John Carey once said that, while even keen drivers might only demand Lotus-style dynamics 10 percent of the time, everybody can delight in a comfortable ride 100 percent of the time.

Yet hereís the crux of the Pugís brilliance, because CWY-07A continues to deliver beautifully fluent steering, wonderfully playful handling and superb body control as well. These, along with a terrific turbo triple that continues to loosen up with mounting mileage, completes this T9-generation 308ís holy-cow dynamic trinity. Peugeotís engineering magic is back.

You can even argue that itís never been better, because the (Japanese-sourced) Aisin six-speed self-shifter works so well with the engineís torque characteristics. Itís the first truly great ĎFrenchí auto.

Furthermore, fuel consumption (on premium unleaded only) is still in the mid-6s, thereís been not a single rattle or broken piece of trim, the low-wheel/ high-instrumentation driving position feels intuitive, and the front seats remain supportive over long distances (and weíve been on a couple of extensive but completely non-eventful rural jaunts this month).

Rear seat access isnít up to Golf let alone Skoda Octavia standards, and the roof gutters actually slosh water onto the 308ís alighting occupants in heavy rain, but otherwise my French honeymoon continues.

useful reversing aid CAMERA SHY

No reversing camera, but rear sound sensors are accompanied by a pictogram that provides a useful reversing aid

All quiet on the western front

PEUGEOT told Wheels in France last year that the 308ís all-new EMP2 platform was engineered to be significantly stiffer and more rigid than the previous one in order to absorb 80 percent of crash forces compared to 50 percent. This, along with the torsion-beam rear axleís mounting dampers, unique triangular Ďspacerí brackets and specific sound-isolating rubber bushes, helps eliminate NVH pathways into the cabin, for a far quieter ride. Additionally, the sound-deadening material was designed-in from the start, rather than added later.

PEUGEOT 308 ACTIVE

Date acquired: March 2015 Price as tested: $28,340 This month: 1289km @ 6.7L/100km Overall: 3878km @ 6.6L/100km