The only way is up

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BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

After seven months, our lovely 308 is heading north SEVEN months and 10,737km in, it’s au revoir Melbourne and bonjour Sydney for our French friend, summoned northwards for road-test editor Ponchard to see out its final few weeks with us in the Emerald City.

Actually, make that 16,000km and nine months later because Peugeot Australia delivered the wrong car initially, meaning we’ve in fact run two 308s consecutively.

Such extended exposure has naturally revealed blemishes: The touchscreen layout with separate menus for the audio and climate systems isn’t as intuitive as having actual switches; the cruise control struggles to maintain the set speed on inclines; not every button on the steering wheel is illuminated; the finish in the driver’s footwell area isn’t ship-shape; and are the so-called rain gutters porous?

Speeding fines and wet hair aside, these are minor foibles. Even the lack of a reversing camera – instead there are effective rear sensors with an object proximity pictogram display – didn’t dampen our enthusiasm.

But what about reliability? It’s an issue that has plagued previous Peugeots for years, but incredibly, considering this is a clean-sheet redesign on an all-new platform, nothing has failed, rattled, broken off or busted.

With more than four million kilometres of development over 4.5 years, Peugeot reckons it has redoubled quality efforts to ensure that the 308 “looks new after three years/60,000km”. Our experience suggests this might be more than fanciful PR fluff.

Even transporting four adults and a bootful of heavy gear, the 96kW/230Nm 1.2-litre turbo triple is another high point, providing unexpectedly stirring yet refined performance, backed up by excellent fuel consumption. We averaged 6.9L/100km on 98-octane, or 7.4L/100km on 95, proving that the richer brew is actually cheaper in the long run. And we’ve never driven a better French auto (the six-speed is actually Japanese, so no worrisome dual-clutch tech here).

More ownership-enriching engineering is evident in the 140kg-lighter (yet significantly stronger) 308’s fluent dynamics, serving up sweet steering and engaging handling as well as a quiet and soothing ride.

Finally, the Pug scores for packaging – plenty of comfort for two up front, fine for four adults overall (though rear legroom isn’t up to Golf standards) and a sizeable cargo area beneath that world-first composite tailgate.

So CWY-07A has nailed it (so far), cementing what we suspected back when the 308 almost stole last year’s COTY crown – that Peugeot is back at last.

What an enjoyable 16,000km. Please try before buying a Golf, Mazda 3 or Focus.

Ponch is in for a treat.

There’s flair in there

Along with the fluid handling and punchy turbo triple, the distinctive dash design is probably the 308’s strongest draw for us after living with it for 11,000km, fusing non-homogenous design, eye-catching detailing and quality materials. And then there’s the ergonomics, thanks to an effective (if controversial) low-wheel/high-instrumentation driving position. So what might be initially confusing works brilliantly with familiarity, making all rival cabins this side of an Audi A3 seem staid by comparison.

TEE AND SYMMETRY

Designer Giles Vidal said he wanted to out- Golf the Golf, with a return to the elegance of the revered 306 of the 1990s

PEUGEOT 308 ACTIVE

Date acquired: March 2015 Price as tested: $26,890 This month: 1969km @ 6.5L/100km Overall: 10,737km @ 6.6L/100km DP T O