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Sleek and sporty, the 308 1.6 diesel is simply the best C-segment car Peugot have ever built

IT could be the longer stretch in the evenings or the fact that as you read this I'll be sunning my rump in Lanzarote, but I've really warmed to the 308, which has just been named as European Car of the Year.

Strange when you consider I wasn't that blown away by it at the international launch in Peugeot's home town of Sochaux late last year.

I put that down to one bogey (please excuse the pun) the Golf.

You see, the mighty German hatchback, now in it's seventh generation had already bagged World Car of the Year, European Car of the Year and was about to take home the Japanese Car of the Year gong (first time a non Japanese car has triumphed). Any serious challenger to those three titles was going to be nothing short of exceptional.

It wasn't.

Maybe it's down to the fact that my initial 308 experience came courtesy of the runt of the litter – the 1.2 litre, 82bhp petrol unit which left us a little cold.

So it's humble pie all round after a week in the company of the top of the range Allure – powered by the much meatier 1.6 litre, 115bhp diesel with hybrid-like emissions of just 98g/km.

The difference is like night and day. And I've even become fond of the small steering wheel. Now, there's no denying that French designers wanted the the 308 to have a more sober look – opting for crisp, angular lines running front the tip of the head light to the sculpted rear cluster raising the waistline.

Couple that with the matching crease on the bottom of the doors and you have a very Golf-like silhouette. Thankfully, from the front it's a true Pug – sharing the same DNA as the 508 and more recently the 208.

The new 308 gets the same distinctive chrome grille which is perfectly complemented by wide, cat-like headlights with full LED headlamps (on Allure models).

The bog standard model gets a strip of LEDs in the front bumper whilst the lion-claw rear lamps outlined by LEDs on all versions – also a first in the segment.

Inside, the designers have taken minimalistic to a whole new level, stripping out everything from air con/heating controls to radio and satnav buttons and compacting it into the car's very own iPad sitting right in the centre of the dash. Simply called the i-Cockpit, the 9.7in touch screen is home to everything you need, and is controlled by seven icons found on either side of the screen. Press the symbol like the fan and the controls for the air con/heating appear and simply poke the screen to adjust.

Other icons include car, satnav, music, settings, phone and apps which you can download from Peugeot for a fee and yearly subscription.

Brilliantly simple and easy to use. Build quality in the cabin is top notch too with soft touch materials and leather. The small steering wheel (which grew on me over the week) gives the 308 a sporty feel, and the instrument panel has been raised, so faffing around is kept to a minimum as are the blind spots.

So it might not be a Golf, but it is the best C-segment car Peugeot have ever built. Prices for the 308 start at €18,990.