Ride and Handling
First thing you notice is the very small, low-set steering wheel with the instruments viewed above, rather than through, it. This is the idea seen first in the Peugeot 208, but it works better here with the dials properly visible from a conventionally comfortable driving position. Then you take in what is a nicely finished cabin with a stark, smooth, minimalist dashboard, sumptuous seats (a massage function is optional, unusual on a car this small) and that striking, aluminium-look-edged central display panel. There's an electric parking brake too, though that’s par for the course on mainstream cars nowadays. Intriguingly, the rev-counter needle rotates anti-clockwise, like an Aston Martin's.
The 148bhp, 2.0-litre turbo diesel makes a strong case for itself, with terrific low-end punch and a deliciously easy squirt ability but the GT models 1.6 is far more appealing. As well as making the GT relatively fast, it's fitted with a slick gearbox that's extremely satisfying to use. The GT is a great car and provides an excellent compromise between performance and comfort, however the full-on, Peugeot Sport fettled, GTI is our favourite of the range.
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Best of all, though, is that despite the seemingly simple front strut/rear torsion beam suspension, the 308 is brilliant in the bends on this first impression. Its steering is quick, accurate and credibly weighted, and despite the tiny steering wheel it has none of the nervous, over-light feel that troubles some 208s. Yet better, the front end bites tenaciously, understeer is resisted, the tail can be teased out with a throttle lift, and bends are strung together with a lightness of touch and a nonchalance of poise not found in a mid-size Peugeot hatch since the 306.
As in the better past Peugeots, there's a mix here of suppleness over bumps and crispness in bends that's very beguiling and which we didn't quite expect. The ride is also very good indeed, as is road noise isolation