I could spot the tiniest oddity at a glance, before anyone else did. I could even differentiate between identical twins where others couldn’t.
However, had I not read the brochure, I would end up telling you today that the new Peugeot 308 VTi is exactly the same as the old one.
But changes there are.
Externally, new 16-inch “Santiaguito” alloys, now seven-spoked instead of 10, sit at each corner.
The wing mirrors now fold electrically when the car is locked.
The side strips are now painted to match the body, and vertical slats join the existing horizontal ones to make a caged front grille, which, by the way, still retains its enormous Joker-like grin, beaming for all its worth.
Assembled in Gurun, Kedah, the 308 VTi’s design language remains fresh today, despite the car being three years old, and although we see an increasing number on our roads, it never fails to catch my eye, and yours too, I’m sure.
Style and elegance aplenty on a sea of svelte curves. Every panel seems to work together to make the car look more expensive than it really is.
I love the way the waistline, flowing from the front wheel arches to the tail lights, forms an athletic crease that punctuates its beautiful bulging derrière. Oh dear Miss Lopez, you’ve got competition.
The famed semi-tall architecture, carried over from the 307, translates into generous headroom. And thanks to the high window sills, the 308 doesn’t look at all ungainly.
The good looks continue inside. Dressed in shades of grey, silver and black, the cabin is a special and very comfortable place to be in. The dashboard has a gradual slope and build quality is impressive, as befits a car in this price range.
There’s much chrome and it’s been tastefully applied. Of particular interest is the chromed gear knob and gate console, which exude luxury.
Similarly detailed are the triple circular air conditioning vents in the centre of the dashboard.
The cabin now benefits from a new seat fabric design, automatic dual-zone air conditioning and a new multi-function display with trip computer. You can set a number of things with the latter; among them the duration for the guide-me-home lights and the operation of daytime running lights, in an ergonomic, user-friendly interface.
Joining cruise control now on its column stalk are speed limiter controls. The steering wheel gains leather wrapping and remains spartan by today’s standards in its button-bereft bareness.
The last of the changes is a new instrument panel with chromed white-on-black dials which, sporty though they may be, proved difficult to read because of the overly-thin font, even when backlit at night.
Other foibles include the seat reclining lever, which has to be pushed back instead of the common pull-up, and is a strain on the wrist to operate.
The bonnet release lever is also on the passenger side.
As a security feature, the guide-me-home lights stay on after you’ve cut the engine, to illuminate nearby surroundings at night, especially the path leading to your door.
But with the little Pug’s cheeky grin watching you from behind, it can get eerie if you’ve just come home from Stephen King’s It at the cinemas.
As a family car, it’s hard to beat. The 308 is rather wide, resulting in lots of elbow room and although legroom could be improved, I’d take wide over long and narrow any day.
Seats are adequately comfortable; the rear splits 60:40 as on any good hatchback, and the 430-litre boot space is way more than enough for your average family.
The naturally-aspirated 1.6-litre Prince four-cylinder unit is the same engine you’d find in the MINI Cooper.
Acceleration time from nought to 100kph is quoted at a fairly leisurely 12.5 seconds and you find yourself burying the throttle more often than usual to make any swift progress.
It’s acceptable for a family car, but those in search of more get-up-and-go might consider the Turbo variant.
The conventional rack-and-pinion steering, despite its precision and good feel, does little to disguise the 308’s bulk.
This is most apparent when you’re guiding the car through tight spaces around town. You are aware of its size and tend to turn more cautiously.
But you realise it cannot be compared to smaller and nippier superminis. It’s a class above them.
And that shows in its road manners at highway speeds. It is stable, composed, and with wind noise barely there, very refined.
Dial in a wonderfully pliant ride and you have a relaxed but wholly capable long-distance cruiser.
Best of all, just about anyone, boy or girl, man or woman, would look good driving it.
In the language of urban sophistication and style, few other cars are as articulate.
Really, you can spend the RM99,888 on the 308 VTi for its looks alone.
The modern car is one of the most sophisticated machines ever created. Dozens of control systems and computer processors work together to ensure it works seamlessly and effectively day in and day out.
But machines do break down occasionally. The technical team of The Otomotif College (TOC) is here to offer advice and help troubleshoot car problems
The team of seven trainers, led by Allan Cabiles (pic), has collectively 30 years of experience in a wide range of car makes. The TOC Team prides itself on keeping pace with the ever-evolving automotive industry. Its trainers undergo training sessions with a network of 800 industry partners across the country.
With such an extensive body of knowledge, think of the TOC Team as your go-to automotive experts.
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