Peugeot Plugs a Gap
In his personal opinion, Iain P W Robertson does not believe that the world’s motor industry has enough momentum built, after a bumper 2013, to fill this year’s diary with as many new product introductions, which is good for PSA.
Poor old Citroen. Poor old Peugeot. The constituent companies of the family-owned French PSA Group have both suffered untold corporate pains over the past few years. Yet, with new models having been launched and even more new derivatives due in coming weeks, the firm is hoping that timing will be its ultimate saviour, allied to copious bridge-building in China and other markets.
My joy is unbounded for the latest SW version of the otherwise delightful Peugeot 308 hatched model, which was my runner-up of choice from last year’s final reckonings, beaten only by the all-round excellence of the latest Mazda3. Thanks to tearing shreds off the previous generation 308, which cast a bloated and unreliable shadow over what had been a decent 307 forerunner, and adopting a mechanical attention to detail normally the preserve of the German carmakers, Peugeot is weighting its imminent, lighter products with some much-needed ‘surprises’.
Naturally, the first of these is by adopting the Colin Chapman (sometime founder and boss of Lotus Cars) practice of ‘adding lightness’. In these days of automotive folded tin and too much extra baggage, Peugeot has assumed a most positive stance, as can be witnessed in the latest 308. However, the former 308, which I shall henceforth ignore (because it was so abysmally bad) never managed to carry over the repute of the 307SW, which I loved lots.
While the new 308SW will not have the seven-seat carrying capacity of its forebear, it will hardly be shy on space, boasting one of the longest load decks in the compact estate car sector. Its class pretensions have not been overlooked either and it will pursue the same high-end quality angle that several of Peugeot’s latest models have managed most fruitfully. ‘One-touch’ access to a completely flat boot floor is going to become Peugeot’s party trick, when it unveils this newcomer at this March’s Geneva Motor Show.
Yet, I am not in favour of the silly interior changes that have introduced compromise to the model overall. I worry about the touch-screen interface for most of the car’s driving controls. The French are not exactly notorious for producing faultless electronics packages. Clueless (like the illustrious ‘Inspector Clouseau’) might be a better description. Yet, worst of all (especially for two metres of me) is the high-set instrument panel and low-set steering column. This change for change’s sake style of re-engineering makes me bilious.
However, as long as Peugeot lives up to its claims and promises, the new 308SW should be in the vanguard of dynamic competence and satisfying all-round capabilities to place it pretty close to, if not actually atop the pile. Sadly, I would not hold my breath in anticipation…although it is sure to be significantly better than ever. Prices should be competitive and you can expect a premium of around £1,000 for the extra body parts, making the list prices run from around £16,000 to £25,000.
Conclusion: With both Citroen and Peugeot busting a gut to fanfare their massive improvements made, perhaps they might like to consider where the brands’ respective places are in the industry overall. It is my belief that Peugeot should be a Gallic Audi, while Citroen could adopt a more sporting Seat image, both without losing their important French flair.