PULLING up behind a Volkswagen Golf I couldn't help but smile.
Here I was in our long-term test Peugeot 308 Active five-door hatchback, and there in front was its nemesis: the Euro class leader, the benchmark.
Why doesn't everyone just buy a VW Golf when shopping for a small car? They're unquestionably brilliant in just about every facet, good to look at and decent value.
Well, some of us just enjoy being different, and really, there's so much talent in the small hatchback class that it's hard to go wrong.
I'll admit to having a soft spot for Peugeots - I've even owned a couple across the years - and the current 308 is one of the most elegantly attractive in the segment in my eyes. Design is subjective, but on looks alone I'd pick one over a Ford Focus, Mazda3, Toyota Corolla, VW Golf or Honda Civic.
The Frenchie isn't cheap though; our Active model costs a chunky $27,990 before on-road charges, but specification is reasonable and this one comes with a six-speed auto gearbox as the market demands.
First impressions after a few weeks of driving (nearly 1000km) and the 308 is proving very east to live with.
Its LED rear lights and front daytime running lights give it a sharp style, there are plenty of soft-touch plastics inside the cabin and the cloth seats are proving pleasingly supportive on long highway cruises.
The two kids have ample rear space - a couple of adults are well accommodated here too - while its 435-litres of boot space puts it near the top of its segment.
A real win is the drive. The 308 uses a 1.2-litre turbocharged three-cylinder, which has decent torque at 230Nm, and makes a lovely, eager note to give a bit more driving joy than many four-cylinders.
Peugeot has long been an expert at getting its hatchbacks very well balanced, and it's no different here. Ask the 308 to let its hair down and it's a hoot on the back roads. A communicative chassis, nice feedback through the steering wheel and decent grip.
Throttle response isn't the best sadly, and a manual gearbox would up the involvement.
The dash design is certainly different, with high mounted dials as part of the brand's "i-cockpit" to keep your vitals in your field of vision. This is combined with a small, skinny and oddly-shaped steering wheel, but once used to it I've become a real fan.
Not so good is the touchscreen. It feels a generation behind some of its rivals, it lacks Apple CarPlay smartphone connectivity and frustratingly your heater controls are only accessed through the screen.
With the screen being slow to start up (or unusable when in reverse and your rear vision camera takes over the vision), it means you can't crank up the air conditioning quickly. Something integral during a hot Queensland summer.
Peugeot quotes a fuel economy figure of 5.1-litres/100km and I'm returning a respectable 6-litres/100km so far. It does drink more expensive 95 unleaded however; commonplace on many Euro cars.
We have another month with the 308, so I look forward to reporting more on life with this attractive family-friendly Peugeot.
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