In the beginning – and in the end – there are three S factors that make up an essential family car – Safety, Space and Storage. In an ideal world, everything else would be just frills. However, times are such that value is often perceived in how much is packed into a given space, with no necessary correlation to needs per se. Which is why, it is impressive how Peugeot 301 still makes an impact, while not making an effort to offer a mid-sized sedan squeezed into an entry level sub-compact.
UPSIDE: Simple elegance, No hurtling feel that marks small sedans, Responsive steering Comfortably seats three in the rear, Varied trim levels available
FLIPSIDE: Tame drive so keep power expectations low, Some rivals offer more features
THE PRICE: Access/Active: AED 52,900 Allure: AED 59,300
Driving down Sheikh Zayed Road, sticking to the fast lane, a few things were obvious. The Peugeot 301 drives well without the hurtling down feeling that haunts many of the sub compact drives. There is a negligible understeer on quick ramps, but the car handles well with its steady steering feel that allows for more feedback than you normally expect of undersized sedans.
The unassuming 115bhp engine driven by the automatic 4-pot keeps you smoothly gliding once settled down but getting there is often a bit of a drag. The pulling power peaks at 5,050 rpms and the 150 Newton metres of torque is maxed out at 4000 rpms. The climb is bound to be noisy – though not noisy enough to disturb the ride comfort. On the contrary, the 301 is one sub-compact cabin that really doesn’t suffer from an obtrusive engine or road noise once the four pot settles down.
Yes, the car is European styled (made in Spain by the way) but it’s a design that nods to old school elegance rather than the the more contemorary jazz of the new Peugeot 208 or even the 3008, which could vie for the title of the most stylish compact crossover or the most spacious hatch, depending on how you see things. The Peugeot 301 makes a celebration of calm styling with clean lines rather than a deadpan flat exterior. From the scalloped lines on the bonnet that cosset the lion crest, to the apple-shaped lateral grille and the character arc pinched along the window line do give the car an identity while the nicely vaulted roof serves with impressive headroom.
Cabin and Controls
For a car that celebrates the basic, it was appropriate that I was driving the mide-range variant or “301 Activ” as Peugeot calls it. Frills inside are not many, if any. The side view mirror adjustments are still done with a hand-whirled stalk while the hard plastic bares itself everywhere – but then, it is as presentable as hard plastic ever got.
Even as the 301 doesn’t attempt an overkill by trying to carve out a larger sedan within a smaller frame, which perhaps only the Nissan Sentra has impressively done, the space inside the Peugeot cabin makes it a point to leave no room for you to complain.
Thanks to an absence of overwhelming power, the 301 shares the generic loudness of the segment that remains till the car achieves ‘threshold velocity’. In every other respect, the cabin will make you comfortable even on long drives.
The Peugeot 301 follows the time-tested formula of creating a small family sedan and does a good job of it. What if there are no armrests, or rear lamps or even rear vents? Well, I admit that these things push the 301 into another era of cars but the thoughtfulness still remains contemporary. Both the driver and the passenger get airbags except in the entry-level trim. The boot space is tall and good. The storage and space inside the cabin also make the thoughtfulness obvious. Underneath the dash, the glove box has been pushed further inside, almost into the engine compartment, creating a deep pocket which adds to the leg room of the front passenger.
Good news for the family is in the rear where a usable mid seat – a diminishing priority these days – makes it possible to take in three people without leaving them squashed.
The Essential Peugeot 301
Coming to think of it, the Peugeot 301 is roughly the same size as midsize family sedans used to be in the seventies or eighties. Frills to please fancy isn’t a trademark of the 301. Right from the 1.6L engine to the radio mp3 CD system, everything is as basic as it gets. But the Peugeot 301 does a good job of what it is intended to do and it is no surprise that it has won its bid for awards amidst seemingly stronger rivals. Sensibly priced, the Peugeot 301 Allure is worth its sixty grand price tag, as the version I drove is rather stripped down though it saves you AED 6500. The 301 makes a case for an ideal first car, with driving power than won’t embarrass you and a cabin that feels just as right in the 21st century just as it did forty years ago.
Drive Courtesy: Swaidan Trading
Pictures: Sudeep Koshy