Australians love a Peugeot and the new 308 on paper may be a rival for the VW Golf writes Chris Nixon.

There’s a new choice in showrooms if you’re shopping for a small European car.

Peugeot has introduced an all-new 308 and on paper it’s a rival for the Volkswagen Golf that attracts the most attention in this part of the car market. Peugeot is a small-car specialist with a long and loyal Australian following, so the 308, current European Car of the Year, is guaranteed attention. The crowned title was awarded by a jury of senior motoring journalists from 22 European countries.

The 308 comes in three hatchback versions and one wagon and with either a 110kW diesel or, more interestingly, a 96kW petrol motor with only three cylinders and 1.2 litres capacity. Potential buyers lured by a $21,990 starting price will find there’s only one 308 model around this competitive price point, a basespecification, 3-cylinder Access with manual transmission.

It’s a significant jump to the next-level, auto-only Active at $27,340. Allure-grade petrol and diesel hatchbacks and Allure diesel wagon are dearer. Peugeot says the 308 is built on a new chassis platform that helps reduce overall weight by 140kg to a light 1090kg.

Combined with the small but spritely engine, this results in average fuel use of 4.6 litres per 100km and low carbondioxide emissions of 107 grams per km. Greater passenger and boot space is claimed thanks to the new chassis’s ability to position the wheels at the extreme corners of the bodywork.

Cabin finish is classy, but some drivers may find it hard to see the high-set instruments over the steering wheel, rather than through it.