This is the first official image of Peugeot’s new 308, a car which will be crucial not only in the hotly-contested family hatchback market but for the future of Peugeot as a whole.
Badly stung by falling sales in its key European markets and lacking the sort of global presence that is helping to keep rivals’ heads above water, Peugeot badly needs a big hit and the slick styling of the new 308 has been calculated to bring mass appeal to the car. That’s an appeal which was sorely lacking from the previous generation model, which had challenging styling to say the least and which Peugeot’s own designers now admit looked almost like it was trying to be a saloon, thanks to a pronounced ‘bustle’ effect on the boot.
The new 308 is also the second car to be shown using PSA Peugeot Citroen’s new EMP2 platform. We’ve already seen the Citroen C4 Picasso launch on this chassis and it will form a crucial cornerstone of PSA’s potential revival. Like the rival Volkswagen MQB system, it’s not a chassis in traditional terms but a highly flexible components set, which will allow multiple models, including replacements for the Citroen C4, Peugeot 508, Citroen C5 and others, to be built from the same basic box of bits. On top of which, it makes for a significantly lighter car than before, and the new 308 is reported to be around 140kg lighter, model for model, than today’s car.
The cabin gets a similar layout to that of the 208 hatchback and 2008 crossover – the steering wheel is small and mounted low, beneath the instrument pod, while those instruments incorporate a rev-counter that moves in the opposite direction to the speedometer, creating an effect similar to that of an expensive retrograde stopwatch. A big 9.7″ touchscreen soaks up many of the controls and functions making for a very clean layout.
“When inside the car, one discovers a world of refined style, completely original in the world of hatchback cars, with a cockpit that is intense, innovative and intuitive; it is the Peugeot i-cockpit,” says Vincent Devos, New 308 Product Manager, Peugeot.
The 308 will debut with the existing 1.6-litre and 1.4-litre eHDI diesel engines with emissions as low as 85g/km and it’s unlikely that Gowan Distributors, the Irish Peugeot importer, will bother offering a petrol version in a market that has swung so sharply to diesel. Nonetheless, Peugeot will be offering new low-pressure turbo and naturally aspirated petrol models in other markets, and there is the chance that, if the new sporty, smaller 208 GTI is a success, that Peugeot will seek to reclaim its old hot-hatch crown from the VW Golf GTI and offer a 200bhp+ 208 GTI at some point.
We will have to wait a while for it, though. The 308 will make a full public debut at the Frankfurt motor show in September, with mainland European sales rolling out through October. We’ll have to wait till January 2014 to get our hands on it in Ireland, though.