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Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Peugeot - the driverless drive of your life


KEEN students of all things ironic – and I don’t mean Alanis Morrisette’s terrible 1995 hit – will look back at this week as a pivotal point in motoring history.

It’s the moment Peugeot’s chosen to reveal the full details of its first family-sized hot hatch since the turn of the century. Sure, the 207 and 208 both wore the GTi badge with varying degrees of success but the French automotive giant’s shied away from slapping it on the rump of its rival to the Golf and Focus. The old 306 GTi-6 was the of the most entertaining things ever to grace a supermarket car park – and I think deep down Peugeot knew it, which is why it was never directly replaced. Until now.

The catchy-sounding ‘308 GTi By Peugeot Sport’ has more power than the Golf GTI – 250bhp in base level trim, or turn up the wick slightly for 270bhp – and it’s more than a grand cheaper too. It’s also able to sprint to 60mph in six seconds before going on to an electronically-limited top speed of 155mph, but none of this will matter if Peugeot forgets to make it utterly addictive to drive.

That’s why the manufacturer is promising it will be ‘the best all round hot hatch’ – because anyone familiar with the old 205 GTi will know outright speed is missing the point. Driver involvement is everything, which is why Peugeot says its new GTi’s ‘ been designed with the sophisticated and enthusiastic driver in mind’ is available with something called a Driver Sport Pack, which it says ‘allows owners to ramp up the high-octane feel’.

Peugeot is clearly taking this driver involvement thing very seriously. Or rather, it would be had it not just scored a coup by becoming the first manufacturer to make a car travel between Bordeaux and Paris autonomously. The heroes of driving involvement have taken a major step forward – for driverless cars!

Don’t get me wrong – as someone who regularly does seven-hour round trips on boring stretches of motorway I’d love to be able to stretch out in the back seat and read my copy of The Champion on those long journeys home, and it’s great Peugeot are pioneering the tech because then there’s more chance it’ll eventually arrive on cars we can all afford.

But that world of drive-by-wires and clever radar sensors is completely inverse to Peugeot’s traditions of getting stuck in and enjoying a 205 or a 309 on a deserted road somewhere in deepest Yorkshire.

I can’t wait to see how Peugeot proposes putting the two in the same car.

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