A MASTERPIECE OF MODERN ART: THE PEUGEOT 308
words and photos by Luke Yates
According to the dictionary, ‘art’ is defined as: “The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination; producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.” I can think of no better introduction for the new Peugeot 308. It is quite simply a masterpiece; therefore, it doesn’t surprise me in the least that it has been voted European Car of the Year 2014.
A lifelong Peugeot driver, it has been amazing to watch the range of cars evolve from the days of rather clunky boxy little voitures, such as the 105 my girlfriend used to let me drive, to the extremely powerful and exciting 405 my dad allowed me to drive just after I passed my test (eek!) – right up to the beautiful behemoth of a 4007 I currently own, which takes us on our family holidays in luxury and comfort every August.
Every Peugeot I have owned has been fun to drive, a pleasure to ride in, and has provided years of happy motoring, with very few problems along the way.
Over the years, whilst car technology and fashion may have updated and moved on, the spirit and attitude of Peugeot as a car manufacturer hasn’t changed much at all. It’s at the forefront of the business when it comes to creating well-engineered, sensibly priced, and good looking cars that are a joy to drive, whilst being useful and practical as well.
The brand has had various memorable straplines over the years, including ‘The ride of your life’ and ‘Capture the thrill’ – all of which I can concur are appropriate and accurate. In fact, they’ve made rather an art form of doing so.
So when I heard I would be reviewing a 308, I was understandably rather pleased.
Framed against the hard contrasting lines of Margate’s Turner Contemporary, with a dramatic cloudy May sky that I’m pretty sure the man himself would have loved to have painted, the metallic red 308’s sleek curves looked utterly stunning.
The model we reviewed is the Feline, and it’s not hard to envisage an elegant catlike form to it, as it stands poised on the road, ready to pounce. The Feline sits on some great looking 18” alloys, and with its panoramic Cielo glass roof and tinted rear side windows, it has a classy appearance.
Inside the car is much the same story – functional, yet elegant. Nothing is without purpose, but at the same time, it all looks great. Half alcantara trim support seats provide extra comfort and no backache, thanks to lumbar support; a touch screen provides your in-car information and entertainment; and the sound system delivers some very satisfying musical noises.
This is a car you will be very happy to ride in, as well as drive. Fire up the 308 (using the keyless ignition system), and you are treated to a masterclass in engineering. The 1.6 e-HDi 115bhp engine sounds lovely, providing just the right amount of driver feedback (I like a bit of engine noise personally), without drowning out your conversations. Plus, with stop-start technology, as well as Blue HDi, this is a very efficient engine, allowing a very decent 74.3mpg and producing CO2 emissions of just 100g/km.
The engine has plenty of real world torque, allowing you to nip in and out of traffic around town, ride the windy country lanes, or cruise the motorway with equal ability. And while dishing out 0-62mph in under 12 seconds, and a pretty impressive top speed of 118mph, with great power, comes great efficiency.
The 308 has a racing car-esque smaller steering wheel, and its clutch and gearbox are well-balanced, so it’s an easy and rather relaxing car to drive. Even on 18″ wheels, the ride is beautifully smooth – especially over the cobbled wharf surrounding the Turner Contemporary. Peugeot’s suspension has always been, and continues to be, one of the most brilliant things they do.
And that’s where the art creeps in again, because even if it’s technically well put together, even if there’s a lot of cleverness behind its creation, art simply isn’t a functional thing.
You define art as art because it makes you FEEL something. And that’s what the 308 does. It makes you feel just a bit more alive as you drive it. It makes you actually happy that you have to go to work, and even happier if the drive takes a bit longer than it should. Sitting in the cockpit of the 308 is a nice place to be, and a hard place to leave.
It was quite appropriate shooting the 308 outside the modern Turner Contemporary. I found myself wondering how a car like this would be received if it was put on display in one of the exhibition halls; I must confess that some of the art in the gallery is rather confusing to a rapidly ageing gent such as myself. You end up walking around it and shaking your head in bewilderment trying to work out what it is, and what it is about.
However, there are no such issues with the 308. Thoroughly modern and eye-catching it may be, but it is also a car that knows what it is, and exudes classic style from one of the great masters of motor engineering. I don’t know about modern art, but I know I like the 308!
01843 227933 / www.dealer.peugeot.co.uk
Price as tested: £22,265 (including optional Rioja Red finish)
Top Speed: 118 MPH
0-62 MPH: 12 seconds
Economy: Combined 74.3 MPG
Performance: 115 BHP
Combined CO2: 100 G/KM