PEUGEOT has launched a full scale attack on the family car market with the arrival of its stunning new 308 hatchback and station wagon line-up.
The latest five-door car is a huge stride forward for the company and features its new design technology giving it a strong road presence.
There is a choice of petrol, diesel or plug-in hybrid powertrains, along with the option of choosing a hatchback, priced from £24,400 or estate-like SW body style costing from £25,600.
Then there is the generously-equipped trim levels called Active Premium, Allure, Allure Premium, GT and GT Premium available in both 308 and 308 SW.
Peugeot believes the biggest-seller will be the Allure Premium model powered by a PureTech 130bhp petrol engine, so we tried that model in SW guise costing £29,220.
Added options of a heated front windscreen, boot net, Drive Assist Pack Plus and a Visio pack that introduced a 360-degree camera and semi-automatic parking assistance, resulted in a final price-tag of £30,175.
There's no denying the fact the latest 308 is a real head-turner with quite muscular lines. It features a redesigned front end with longer bonnet, a black front grille with dazzling horizontal chrome stamping which houses the new Peugeot badge.
There are iconic daytime running lights, Nero black door mirrors, a rear lower bumper with gloss black trim, gloss black centre pillars, a body coloured rear spoiler, chrome exhaust surrounds, plus a choice of alloy wheels.
The interior is clutter-free, modern and features lots of stylish, angled shapes. It has the new Peugeot i-Cockpit dashboard layout with its tiny square-like steering wheel and a digital display instrumentation panel that can be customised.
On-board tech is plentiful and includes full Mirror Screen smartphone connectivity via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth, a DAB radio, a wireless charging pad, a six-speaker sound system and lots more besides.
A 10-inch high-definition touchscreen is angled towards the driver and there are toggle keys for fast access to the most important functions such as the safety systems, phone, media, climate control, navigation and home - this makes adjusting the temperature or the likes easy on the move.
When it comes to performance this model with its 1.2-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine can complete the 0-62mph dash in a very respectable 9.9 seconds and a top speed of 130mph.
It could deliver a combined 43.5-52.1mpg and has carbon emissions of 122-147g/km.
The acceleration is smooth and responsive through the eight-speed automatic transmission with steering wheel-mounted paddles for added driver engagement.
There are drive modes called Eco, Normal and Sport that alter the responses of the vehicle and these features add to the car's driving pleasure.
The 308 SW is an absolute dream to drive with excellent passenger comfort levels and good all-round visibility.
It handles well on the twisting country lanes with bundles of grip, cruises at 70mph on motorways and is deceptively agile in busier town centres with all manner of parking aids to help you squeeze into the tiniest of spaces.
The three-pot engine gets quite raspy under heavy acceleration, but generally the cabin is refined without a sound filtering through. There is a voice activated personal assistant that springs into action when you say: "OK Peugeot" and this can help with all manner of functions.
The Peugeot 308 SW is all about practicality but without losing any of the fabulous styling in the process. The boot can swallow 608 litres of kit and by dropping the 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats that capacity increases to 1,634 litres.
The limit is slightly less on the hybrid models at 548 and 1,574 litres.
There is a ski hatch for transporting longer items plus a double boot floor which is a practical touch. And if you opt for the range-topping GT Premium model then you gain a smart electric tailgate as standard which can be opened by waving your foot beneath the rear bumper to make hands-free loading simpler.
In addition, there is a number of practical storage compartments, including a glovebox, deep central cubby, practical door bins with a bottle compartment, seat back pockets, front and rear cup holders, a phone charging pad, plus some handy trays.
A trio of passengers will fit in the back of the car and legroom is fine provided the front seats are not pushed back too far.
We also had a drive in the 308 hatchback, powered by the same engine but in high-end GT trim.
This model featured a lot more tech including powered leather seats, a panoramic sunroof, a 3D head-up display, full Matrix LED lighting, some extra safety kit as standard and plenty more besides.
Once again, this 308 costing £29,920, delivered the goods when put through its paces. The handling was sharp and the road holding ultra-grippy. It also gained lots of attention from onlookers in its striking Olivine Green shade.
Although the new Peugeot 308 is yet to be tested for its Euro NCAP safety rating, models boast a whole range of systems and driver assistance aids to protect occupants and other road users, so it is likely to gain the maximum five stars.
There really is a 308 to suit all budgets and requirements and it's easy to see why this car has already scooped international awards.
And for the business drivers out there, hybrid technology is available from Allure upwards. This will bring good tax savings thanks to Benefit in Kind ratings between seven and 11 per cent.
The new Peugeot 308 is a giant leap forward for the French car maker and, if this is a sign of things to come, it's exciting times ahead.