The faults in our star

308 might be stellar, but some black holes do exist

BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

IN THE 18 years I’ve been writing about cars professionally, not many have impressed as consistently as the 308 1.2-litre three-pot turbo auto. Four months and 5000km in, the Peugeot’s punchy yet supple driveability, fluid dynamics, restrained class and unbelievably excellent build quality continue to shine brightly.

That makes the faults in this small-car superstar all the more glaring.

Probably top of the list is the touchscreen’s overloaded functionality. Like an old Merc’s indicator/wiper stalk, it has too many jobs to do, and scrolling between each can be tiresome. For instance, changing the temperature requires a different display ‘window’ followed by hit-and-miss prods of the display. A simple thermostat dial – or even a big old knob just like the one for altering the fine audio system’s volume – would suffice.

That leads to whinge number two, the lack of night-time steering wheel illumination for the remote audio controls, requiring the sort of fumbling in the dark that would bring back embarrassing teenage-years memories for many frustrated drivers.

Once you’ve arrived at your destination, be prepared for an unintended shower if it’s been raining, thanks to the most ineffective roof gutters we’ve experienced in a long time.

Thankfully the door pockets are large enough to take an umbrella for just such occasions – unlike the latest Mazda 3’s… Speaking of dampness, the Active’s Goodyear Efficiency Grip tyres might help damp out road irregularities while eking out maximum fuel economy, but their wetsurface grip can be tenuous. In willing hands, the sliding rubber can be fun, and the chassis’ innate control and adjustability means even novice drivers stand a very strong chance of regaining their intended trajectory, but we’d prefer stickier items. Efficiency Grip? More like ‘Efficiency Slip’.

And finally there is the infernal back-tofront tachometer needle action. This is a bit of a love/hate thing, actually, because it’s obviously done for symmetry’s sake, or just to be different and French, and that ought to be celebrated in this age of uniformity.

But, really, how can anybody get used to a reverse-swinging rev counter?

Still, as I approach the end-game in the Pug, I also know that once CWY-07A goes, I’ll miss the bad along with the good because the T9-series 308 is that rarest of beasts – a car with character. It’s what’s been missing in most rivals.

As for the faults, all are minor. What a major achievement.

PEUGEOT 308 ACTIVE

Date acquired: March 2015 Price as tested: $28,340 This month: 1054km @ 6.8L/100km Overall: 4932 @ 6.6L/100km

Boot on quality

PEUGEOT is understandably forever banging on about this 308’s huge quality strides. But rather than take it at face value, punters ought to explore the car’s posterior instead. Or, more accurately, the generous luggage compartment. Right there is evidence of thorough craftsmanship, from the solid operation of the tailgate (which opens up high to clear taller scalps) to excellent fit and finish. There’s nothing shoddy there at all. You might even call it Teutonic in its presentation.

LION AT NIGHT

Remote key’s ‘lights on’ button is brilliant for finding the car at night, but I’ll never get used to that reverse tacho