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Motoring: The 308 is Peugeot's new lean machine

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GET SMART: The Peugeot 308 looks smart and drives very sharply. Photo: Jean-Brice Lemal

GET SMART: The Peugeot 308 looks smart and drives very sharply. Photo: Jean-Brice Lemal

GET SMART: The Peugeot 308 looks smart and drives very sharply. Photo: Jean-Brice Lemal

IT PROBABLY wasn't the fairest test for a new slimmed down car, but that's the way it had to be. There was a rugby international with Wales going on in town and a few lads had to be picked up from, and delivered back to, the airport.

Lose weight and you improve efficiency. The formula works well for mankind and it also works well for car manufacturers. Put in a big boot which is usually full of just air and it goes even better.

Peugeot's new 308 has shed an impressive 140kg which helps diesel emissions come in at under 100g/km of C02 and cuts fuel bills, giving lower prices overall. A fresh face with a lower and shorter body gives a purposeful look and the longer wheelbase allows for more luggage space, up to a hefty 470 litres with the rear seats occupied. Yet I would argue that a compromise should have been struck to share some of the space with better rear legroom.

My Welsh friends don't complain much, even when they were most comprehensively stuffed at the Aviva, but I could see they had little wriggle-room when I picked them up – and they were not props by any means. Yet the 308 is meant to be a compact family car and the times it will be full of people singing Bread of Heaven is fairly limited.

One of the most popular engines will be the 1.6 HDI 115bhp which engineers claim will return 3.8iL/100km (73 mpg) with emissions of 98gm/ km, which means you pay the lowest non-electric car road tax of €180. Another less powerful 1.6 litre diesel produces 92bhp with 95g/km C02, and there is a BlueHDI turbo diesel on the way which will cut emissions to a new low for this type of vehicle, 82g/km with even lower fuel consumption figures.

Standard equipment for the entry-level Access includes air conditioning, cruise control, six airbags and Bluetooth.

The Active trim adds dual-zone air conditioning, Hill Assist, rear parking sensors 16in alloy wheels and a 9.7in touchscreen. This is an impressive package at just under €23,000 if the 92bhp turbo diesel is under the bonnet, although 115bhp offers greater driving pleasure.

If you want to go for broke, the more powerful diesel in the top Allure trim, which adds front parking sensors, heated wing mirrors and a colour instrument panel, costs just under €26,000. For the more cost-conscious driver, there is a good range of petrol engine models starting at just under €19,000.

Top marks for the simple clutter-free dash which gives a proper heads-up display so you don't have to take your eyes off the road. The touch screen takes pride of place and controls the air conditioning, sat-nav, Bluetooth phone, music and all multi-media functions. It has Peugeot's five-year peace-of-mind warranty. The Peugeot 308 is in the final shake-up for the European Car of the Year and World Car of the Year awards. It looks smart and drives very sharply, a great improvement on the previous model in both aspects. The reconfiguring of the chassis gives a exceptionally smooth and quiet ride. It definitely is a move upmarket and aims for much the same premium feel that has made Hyundai such a massive hit over recent years.

Peugeot has often promised a lot but sometimes failed to deliver, but now order books are ahead of targets across Europe. More than 21,000 of the 307 and 308 models have been sold here since 2001 and you can expect to see just short of 1,000 new 308s on our roads this year. It would be better if they are not full of rugby players, unless they are playing for the under-13s.

Sunday Independent