Tuesday, 16 December 2008
Driven: Peugeot 308GT
I used to dread the thought of piloting a manual car ever since I sold off my Proton Wira 1.3GL and my Honda Accord (SM4) 2.0i manual from my houseman and medical officer years. Of course, I'd still bear that occasional Langkawi rental car e.g. Iswara LMST in manual guise, for its bargain-basement day charges.
Strangely, after having sampled the new Saga 1.3M, Toyota Vios J, Fiat Bravo 1.4 T-Jet, Civic Type-R, Renault Megane R26 F1, Clio RS and of course, the Peugeot 308GT, I have discovered how much we have drifted away from it all - the joys of a manual 'box. Things like having better control (engine braking) going into corners and livelier overtaking, all while harnessing an engine's torque band more instantaneously. In short, being on top of things when your drive gets more spirited and/or competitive.
Certainly, there is that twin-clutch automated gearbox of late. I have no qualms about such technological advancements since a gearbox having twin drive shafts in tandem with dual clutches - for uninterrupted torque transmission - is simply better than singular (AMT or the regular fully manual clutch). Afterall, such robotic gearbox is the way to go for the future. However, for junkies who simply love their heel-and-toe antics and that stick shifter, the manual tranny is as 'connected' as one can be. Undiluted, good 'ol driving pleasure. Blame it on our horrendous city or urban traffic congestion for such paradigm shift since late 1980s. I could still vividly remember the good times when my dad bought a Datsun 160J SSS, Datsun 120Y, Mazda 323 and Toyota Corolla 1.3 LE (my brothers' memorable Ford Laser TX3 1.6i, Ford Telstar TX5 and Mazda Familia too). Back then, people used to scoff and swear at auto trannies! Can't believe I am now advocating and rediscovering lost love for the manual 'box since it was just early this year that I had quite an animated debate on the virtues of VW's DSG versus a 6-speed manual with a silly fiend (no typo here) of mine.
Click on all images to enlarge
Which brings us to this 6-speed manual Peugeot 308GT with one of the finest gearknob around town. I thought I had carressed the best in the business in the FD2R Civic Type-R but this French 'cap' is real solid and exudes a quality, premium feel. Shift quality is accurate - though not exactly a short shifter - only to be let down by the rather highly set clutch pedal.
The Swiss really know their watches but here I'd say the French know their instrument gauges. Look at the speeedometer layout, contrasts, fonts and that fine needle with a red backdrop-surround glow. I am sure you'd too likened it to a fine chronometer. Ditto the tachometer and the temp/fuel gauges. Clean, neat, easy-to-read and classy. These hopeless romantics also dig shapely wing mirrors. Never mind its rather small field of vision or droopy appearance, like a semi-subluxated fractured wrist, they just looked sexy from both inside and out. Note where the turn signal repeaters are placed, at the base of the wing mirror stalk, and you reckon the French are non-conformist.
On the flipside, they are pretty conforming when it comes to the shared turbocharged Prince powerplant of BMW-Peugeot collaboration. Yes, this is the same 175bhp direct-injected lump found in the new New Mini Cooper S, good for 240Nm of torque from a displacement of just 1.6L.
The new 308GT is simply a looker. It may sport a 3-door sports hatch body but it is indeed spacious on the inside. This Pug rides pliantly well, even on 18-inchers and grippy around corners with standard Pirelli P-Zero Rossos. Those typical French seats are adequately sized, well padded and supportive all around for long journeys. With soft leathers looking upmarket in black, they're pleasantly cosseting and comfortable. In fact, the interior is a nice place to be indeed, as it oozes with plenty of soft touch surfaces and a classy ambience.
At less than RM160k for a fully-imported, continental turbocharged hot hatch, here is one that is loaded with goodies like the JBL hi-fidelity audio system, auto wiper, auto HID headlamps, a multitude of airbags and that airy panoramic roof. Added to this impressive check-list is the heart of the Lion: the New Mini Cooper S' engine with BMW DNA, so you better hurry up to the nearest Nasim showroom if you are serious about getting one for the new year(s) festivities. Last I heard, the equipment specifications and trim may be downgraded with the next CBU batch to keep the new 308GT THP 175's pricing competitive. This is as close as you can get to a new New Mini Cooper S on a 'shoestring' budget.
New Peugeot 308GT in Malaysia now
Peugeot 308VTi and 308Turbo coming soon to Malaysia
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