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Sub-$23K 308 takes it to Golf

French fancy: Peugeot's top-selling 308 small car has been given a facelift, with cosmetic tweaks, price adjustments and additional equipment among the changes.

New base 1.4 should light a match under Peugeot’s stumbling 308 hatch

Peugeot logo19 Jul 2011

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

PEUGEOT’S volume-selling 308 small car arrives in Australia next month with a prettier nose, upgraded interior, more standard equipment, fixed-price servicing and a broader spread of models under a new naming regime designed to take on the wildly successful Volkswagen Golf and Mazda3.

But the big news is the upgraded French small car’s lower base price of $22,990 for the new entry-level Access variant.

Giving Peugeot a consistent global naming policy that translates in French as well as English, ‘Access’ replaces XR or XS as the base specification ‘Active’ steps in for the mid-range XSE and ‘Allure’ bumps out the XTE flagship in the outgoing 308 model range.

Unlike the XS 1.6 it usurps, the Access 1.4 is powered by a Euro 5 emissions-compliant 1.4-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol engine co-developed with BMW. Driving the front wheels via a five-speed manual gearbox, it produces 72kW of power and about 140Nm of torque.

As we’ve reported, the 308 Series II line-up is distinguished by a neater front-end with a ‘floating’ grille, redesigned headlights and boomerang-shaped LED daytime running lights combining to present a sportier, more masculine look.

Inside, there are higher-quality soft-touch materials and a new dashboard that is now available with leather trim, while all 308 Series II models gain increased standard equipment levels including dual-zone climate-control with active charcoal filter, an upgraded audio system with Bluetooth and USB connectivity and the availability of satellite-navigation.

23 center imageAll 308s continue to come with six airbags, electronic stability control, ABS brakes, remote central locking, power windows and foglights, but Peugeot’s top-seller now also comes with the brand’s new fixed-price ($330-per-annum) Assured Service plan, which is designed to give the 308 a bigger foothold in the growing user-chooser fleet segment.

The 308 Access was always an option for Peugeot Automobiles Australia, said director Ken Thomas, but the time was not right for its arrival until now, thanks to arch-rival Volkswagen.

“The 1.4-litre base car was always available,” Mr Thomas said. “But there was an era where the idea of such a small-capacity engine in a small car for Australia was seen as risky… “But things have changed since smaller engines now have higher outputs and lower emissions while still servicing the need for economy.

“The car that has recently proved that point is the new Golf 1.2-litre turbo… so it was natural for us to re-evaluate the 1.4-litre for Australia.” Adjusted for price, the specification boost puts the Peugeot in a strong position against the $21,990 Golf 77TSI with its 77kW/175Nm 1.2-litre direct-injection turbo-petrol engine.

However, the 1.4-litre French car does not currently offer an automatic alternative to the popular Golf 77TSI DSG dual-clutch auto – for that buyers must stump up another $4000 ($500 more than the old XS) for the Access 1.6, which produces 88kW/160Nm and costs $26,990.

Apart from a 115kW/240Nm turbo-petrol engine, the 308 Active 1.6 THP ($29,490) adds niceties like LED lighting, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror and power-folding door mirrors to the old XSE’s specification, but is $200 cheaper.

Meantime, the Allure 1.6 THP six-speed auto brings half-leather seats and aluminium-faced pedals and side sills to the old XTE’s armoury – although it will also cost $500 extra at $34,490. The same applies to the $37,990 2.0-litre HDi diesel six-speed auto equivalent.

The seven-seat 308 Touring wagon reappears in new Active 1.6 THP guise at an unchanged price of $34,490, and losing the third row of seats and glass sunroof sees the 80kW/240Nm 1.6 e-HDi turbo-diesel (with EGC automated manual gearbox and fuel-saving idle-stop and regenerative braking technologies) now cost $1000 less.

Finally, the Series II 308 CC due in October now jumps a whopping $3500 but adds leather upholstery, the Airwave hot-air ‘scarf’, memory seats and mirrors, and Bluetooth/USB.

Two new 16 and 17-inch alloy wheel designs and 10 exterior paint colours – two of which are new - complete the 308 Series II makeover.

Sales of the existing 308 have fallen off a cliff this year, with hatch/wagon and CC variants registering 43.3 and 55 per cent year-on-year tumbles respectively.

In contrast the sub-$40,000 small car segment is down just 4.5 per cent, while the Golf is up by 11 per cent.

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