Lucire Lucire home page / Fashion / / Volante: travel features and news / Living / Lucire: Insider blog
News headlines / Lucire Reader Forum / Subscribe to the print editions of Lucire
Lucire Community 
Lucire feedback 
Subscribe to the Lucire Insider feed
Subscribe to Lucire

living: autocade

Peugeot 308 SW—it's in the detailsPeugeot 308 SW—it's in the details

The Peugeot 308 SW HDI is fussy and French, but it’s still the best in its class, says Jack Yan
photographed by the author


AS I WAITED for Rebecca Joyce at Peugeot to hand over the keys to the 308 SW, I checked out a 308 berline in the showroom. I had owned a 307 many years back, and always liked its exterior design, even if I felt it was a little underpowered. The 308, which is on a heavily revised version of the 307 platform, seemed overornamented, like clothing that had just that little too much accessorizing.
   The mess begins around the A-pillar, which has a huge intersection of shut lines and contours. If there’s one thing that’s distracting about the shape of cars as the decade closes, it’s some of the unnecessary fussiness that can be found. And right now, the French are being fussier than most.
   However, the SW seems to be less irritating. While the front end is shared with the berline, the rest of the car seems better balanced. Perhaps it’s the waistline that’s allowed a more natural terminal, further back on the car. The extra length seems to help the 308 SW. Down back, the rear lights look like a gentle apple peel cascading from the side to the rear. The wraparound rear window, which normally would annoy me (as it does on something like the Renault Val Satis) is more curved. And the Peugeot lettering is spaced out across the chrome on the tailgate, feeling more proud than it has been for years.
   Normally I would have made some analogy about the Peugeot’s role in society by now, or some crack about Lt Columbo’s old 203 cabriolet, but it’s the details that count for a car that is competent but not exciting. While Pugs of the 1980s were geared to the enthusiastic driver, the late 1990s and on have seen the French company aim more for comfort. There’s nothing wrong with the change in philosophy, but it means that those of us who drive for pleasure need to find it in other things, if we aren’t getting it behind the wheel.
   Think of it as dating someone who’s not too bright. If you were to enjoy her company publicly, she had better have something else apart from the mental department, never mind how she might be in the bedroom. This is the 308 SW.
   It drives well, but if you wanted get up and go, the Mégane II, its chief rival in France, would be a better choice. (The argument is moot, since the wagon version of the II was never sold in New Zealand, and it will shortly be replaced.) The two-litre diesel is willing and it’s arguably the most refined in its class that we’ve driven, but the gearing makes this a long-legged cruiser. The Peugeot 308 SW could feel more comfortable taking the role of the Kiwi family wagon than one might think. It might be Focus-sized, but the way it can soak up the longer journeys—bearing in mind it’s much too nice for the rep market—in this day and age of greedy oil companies, who needs a Commodore? Plus the 308 SW can seat seven if needed. Forget the minivans. In 2009, bulk is not cool: it’s about being big on the inside, small on the outside. This is an era where Dr Who is cool.
   The space idea extends to the interior, where there’s plenty of height, and a windscreen that extends far to the front—a great effect that I loved about the 307. In the back, the 308 SW is cavernous. And it’s details galore again when it comes to the dashboard, with the instrument binnacle poking out as though it were a segment of the Sydney Opera House. Chrome accents delight, and this time, the SW has it just right. (The old 307 felt a bit plain if you opted for the entry-level models, and even my old HDI, a mid-ranger, felt a little poor compared to the top models.)
   This is a wagon that doesn’t have ideas above its station but probably should. It’s far and above the Focuses of this world. The Corolla is too narrow, limited by Japanese taxation laws that has seen it keep the same width it had 15 years ago. So it costs more, crossing the NZ$45,000 mark in New Zealand, but Peugeot has been too quiet about what is probably the nicest car in its class.
   As a single piece of design, the 308 SW is not the prettiest. But take those items one by one, and it gives pleasure in those indescribable little ways. •


Jack Yan is publisher of Lucire.


Add to | Digg it | Add to Facebook

Top: The 308 SW interior (photograph courtesy Peugeot). Above: The Peugeot lettering, spaced out and looking prouder.



Think of it as dating someone who’s not too bright. If you were to enjoy her company publicly, she had better have something else apart from the mental department, never mind how she might be in the bedroom



Related articles
Lucire 2004 | The Global Fashion Magazine

Base points
Jack Yan samples the basic two-litre Ford Focus, and says that as long as the company can keep sourcing great cars from Europe, it might gain in street cred

Lucire 2007 | The Global Fashion Magazine The grand European tour
The Renault Mégane Estate is not only good-looking, it trounces its opposition convincingly, as Jack Yan drives from Paris to Marne and back
photographed by the author
From issue 21 of Lucire