Road tests

Peugeot 301

We drive the new cut-price saloon from Peugeot to find out if it deserves a wider audience

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

Peugeot's boss Maxime Picart told us that if there’s demand for the 301 in Western Europe, it’ll consider selling it here. For under £10,000, the 301 offers lots of car for the cash. Like Dacias, it lacks sophistication, but has an honest charm to it. It’s usable and comfortable, while the low price makes an unloved small saloon body style look appealing. Go on Peugeot, give it a go in the UK.

Dacia has got a lot to answer for. Renault’s budget brand has made many other car makers sit up and take notice – not least Peugeot, which has reacted with this, the 301 saloon.

First, the bad news: the 301 isn’t destined for the UK, heading instead for what Peugeot sees as developing markets – Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, Africa, South America and China.

With a price tag of less than £10,000, the 301 has plenty of appeal. It takes styling cues from the SR1 concept car and features lots of the 208’s design flourishes.

In fact, the 301 is based on a stretched and widened 208 platform, although at 4.4 metres it’s longer than a 308. There’s bags of rear legroom and a huge 640-litre boot, which can be expanded to 1,352 litres with the split-fold rear seats down. This is a true global car that’s cheap to make and hardy enough to be used in extreme weather, and over pretty awful roads, too.

The interior has a no-nonsense feel to it – there’s none of the squishy plastics that top the dash on the Peugeots which are on sale in Western Europe.

However, the interior is decent and you can add some posh kit, too – Bluetooth, iPod connection and air-con are available on some cars. Safety kit is limited to ABS and ESP, plus four airbags.

The mechanicals are tried and tested, but reasonably up-to-date. We drove a 301 with Peugeot’s 92bhp 1.6 diesel that was sprightly enough, if not scintillatingly quick. Yet it was nicely refined. You can also get the latest three-cylinder petrol engine producing 72bhp, plus a 115bhp 1.6 petrol.

The ride quality is bordering on old-school Peugeot, so it’s comfy with just a vague hint of firmness. The handling’s a bit wallowy, though, and the electric power-steering isn’t exactly full of feel.

So it’s not exactly a hoot to drive, but the 301 would work well on our dreadful roads.

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