2008 Peugeot 308 2.0 HDi – I’m Getting Old, Buy Me a Diesel

By Alex Ricciuti
03.16.2008
I remember once seeing the actor Brian Dennehy being interviewed on a late-night talk show about 10 years ago. The host happened to mention the name of the latest, hip rock band that was raging against the world at the time and asked Dennehy (then about 60 years old) if he had even heard of them. Dennehy just brushed him off with a wave of the hand and said dismissively, ”I’m old. I don’t have to know.”

Such is the advantage of getting older. You get to not care. And don’t underestimate the luxury of that in our technology-driven, changes-by-the-minute, hipness obsessed culture. There is also the lesson here of life coming in cycles. Remember how you would make fun of your teachers in school for wearing clothes that were out of date? Well, one day, that will be you. It might be you already. This world is cruel and it will inevitably make you uncool. Your only response can be to not give a crap. Because, in truth, not giving a crap is one of life’s most liberating pleasures.

Which brings us to the modern diesel engine. When I test a car I have to push it to certain limits to get a feel for its engineering. Meaning, I floor the pedal and shift gears at the rpm of maximum horsepower; which for diesels is usually somewhere around 4000 and for gasoline engines in the region of 6000. But while driving the new Peugeot 308 HDi (2.o liter with 140 hp and 320 Nm) I just didn’t bother.

I happen to like this engine which Peugeot developed together with Ford and is found in the Ford S-Max and other models I’ve tested before. This diesel is so easy that no matter which gear you’re in you can call upon a massive reserve of pulling power with a stomp of the accelerator. I found this comfortable. I found it comforting. I liked just being able to enjoy the drive and not having to bother to shift all the time or worry whether I’m in the right gear or not. You could drive this car in 4th gear all day long and it wouldn’t matter. So, I did. Don’t feel like changing gears? Don’t. Not a problem. We are not in a rush. We are not looking to look cool anymore. We’ve got other worries to occupy our time. As I drove, whilst at the same time driving myself insane with those mundane pre-occupations of daily life, like getting the laundry out, cooking the baby’s food, handing in that story on time, doing my banking, calling my mother, picking up that thing for my sister, etc. etc., I really didn’t need to give a hoot what gear I was in. I’m Dennehying.

The 308 feels a little lumpier and more languid than its predecessor which itself was not as nimble as the 306. But this growth is a contagion affecting much of the cars in this segment including the segment-leading VW Golf. The 308 drives like a sedan – which isn’t to say it’s necessarily a bad thing. Remember, none of us are getting any younger and to have a car that’s large and comfortable while still pretending to be a sporty(-like) hatch…well, that’s the definition of the compromises we make while aging.

But I have no idea how Peugeot ever hope to make a GTi version of this car. They probably won’t, since the 307 GTi never came to be. Peugeot sources tell me they are very reticent to be seen doing anything that smacks of me-too-ism with regard to VW. Hence they don’t offer 4 wheel drive or a GTi version. Smart move. Maybe next they can eliminate air conditioning. But hey, they have a glass roof where you can drive under the sky all day without having to brave the elements.

Market-wise, I think the 308 is a very competitive model, particularly with this diesel engine. It still offers better looks than the Golf, although it’s really just a pumped up 207 with a design that better suits the smaller dimensions of that model. In this most competitive segment, which is also the largest in the European market, you have to change your standards of judgment as the cars become larger and aiming for comfort and space over performance. These really are no longer the ‘hot-hatches’ of the past. Not this 308 and not all the others like the Astra, Focus, Megane, etc. That label belongs solely to the segments below now – the Polo, the 207, Clio, and all. For what the 308 promises – comfort, room, the sedate stylishness in the delicate lines of its sloping design, lots of soft power under the hood with some precise steering (electric) and some remaining echoes of Peugeot’s previous magnetic handling – it delivers in a very typical, modern, corporate-competent manner. It’s a car even Brian Dennehy would like a ride in.

Alex Ricciuti is a freelance writer and automotive journalist based in Zurich, Switzerland. He writes frequently for Automotive News Europe and others. He also writes on all things automotive on his own blog at eurocarguy.blogspot.com.

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Author: Brendan Moore

Brendan Moore is a Principal Consultant with Cedar Point Consulting , a management consulting practice based in the Washington, DC area. He also manages Autosavant Consulting, a separate practice within Cedar Point Consulting. where he advises businesses connected to the auto industry. Cedar Point Consulting can be found at http://www.cedarpointconsulting.com.

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3 Comments

  1. It’s funny, innit it? Americans still think of hatches as litle cars that squirt in and out of traffic but the reality is much different, as you describe. I live in the States now going on three years, and the Yanks I know are very much opposed to driving anything like a hatchback.

  2. This is ugly, and I don’t want any little French car. Keep them in Europe with the rest of the euro-weenie cars.

  3. I know exactly what you mean as I love my diesel saloon in the same way. You just put your foot into it and off you go. Oodles of torque in the lower end of the rpm range, and it’s all there without any drama.

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