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Peugeot 308 is a compact family car that is big on value for money.

308 sits on a new modular platform (EMP2) and is now lighter (by over 100kg) and greener than the 308 it replaces. The car is more curvy and friendlier to the eye, plus there is a greater level of sophistication to its new 'Pyramid Design' styling.

Peugeot's design team were conscious that the 308 should not feature any harsh or aggressive lines, which once could be seen in versions of the 307. Overly aggressive styling is proven to put some buyers, especially women, off. The five-seat 308 is a classy, elegant alternative to the big-selling Golf and Focus. The car looks more planted than the 307. It also looks wider on the road, particularly when viewed from behind.

Inside, the cabin has a higher quality feel than the 307. The build seems very good, too. Clutter is done away with: secondary controls and the like are now housed and operated via the centre console's touch-screen display. Peugeot calls this new technology its i-Cockpit. On all bar the entry version, a 9.7-inch display gives an elegant hi-tech look to the layered dashboard. A whole host of electronic toys and driving aids are available, too - as you'd expect. An electronic parking brake also frees up interior cubby space between the front two seats.

The most noticeable thing from the driver's seat is the positioning of the main dials. Like the 208 and 2008, the dials sit above the small steering wheel, so you no longer have to look through the steering wheel to see them. This is a great improvement and a significant safety feature. It now only takes a glance to read the speedo and this helps drivers keep their eyes on the road.

Up front, there is plenty of room, but in the back, rear seat passengers won't be overly impressed. There is space, but it's not class-leading. The boot is average, with a space-saver spare wheel as standard and 420 litres of cargo space.

Subtle exterior differences mark out each of the three specification levels - Access, Active and Allure - with the positioning of the daytime running lights the biggest clue as to how highly 'specced' the car is. Initially, the engine range consists of two diesels, 92hp 1.6 HDi and 115hp 1.6 e-HDi, and three petrol units: 1.2-litre with 82hp, 1.6-litre THP 125hp and 1.6-litre THP 155hp.

On the road, 308 handles and rides well. While it does not feel as dynamic as a Focus, it ticks all the boxes for fuel economy and ease of use. An estate version is on the way and will make the 308 a more tempting proposition for a one-car family.

€18,990 is the very competitive starting price. As you rise up the range in value-for-money increments, the pricing remains extremely good for what you get, when compared to 308's rivals.

Peugeot Ireland has set a sales target of 900 units this year and despite the new car market being in recovery mode, the 308 should easily do it.

Michael Sheridan