A third of all cars sold in the Europe these days are in the so-called "C segment" – a massive market for compact cars at which Peugeot’s new 308 hatchback is firmly aimed.
It’s a formidable contender, facing up squarely to very formidable competition. To win over new buyers, Peugeot say they have focused on four key themes – efficiency, smart design, a pleasing driving experience and high build quality.
A week behind the wheel showed just how well those priorities have been achieved by a company that in the past did not always get it right but now has its eyes firmly set on the ball.
Though it looks and feels more solid than its predecessors, the new 308 has shed weight while retaining a modern, spacious and well appointed interior and a particularly large boot.
There’s a generous 470 litres of luggage compartment space, with 35 litres of it divided into very useful compartments that are concealed under the floor mat.
Using optimised design, innovative assembly practices and such materials as composites and aluminium, 140 kg of extraneous weight has been left behind on the factory floor, making the 308 the lightest car in its segment.
It’s now the most compact hatchback in the sector but placing the wheels right out at the four extremities has created a truly space efficient vehicle – and given it a very tight and useful turning circle, making it ideal for all those big town errands.
Class-leading aerodynamics have also played their part in reducing the vehicle’s environmental footprint.
The £21,746 308 Feline e-HDI 115 that I drove is good for 118 mph, though the 0-62 mph figure of 11.9 seconds is rather pedestrian. Fuel economy is remarkable with an 80 mpg figure attainable in the extra-urban environment while 65 mpg was achieved around town.
The range-topping Feline comes with 18 inch alloys, a panoramic glass sunroof, half Alcantara clad sports’ seats, passenger and driver lumbar support, keyless entry, cruise control and a collision alert emergency collision braking system.
My only complaint – and something that might be deemed trivial by many – is that common Peugeot fault of there being no foot-rest for the left foot, leaving it having to hover over the clutch pedal, which is tiresome on long runs.