Heritage is history with a future, says Richard Webb

All right, let’s start with full disclosure. I have a bit of a history with Peugeot.

Aged 12, as an impressionable boy, I accompanied my late-father on an epic drive from Johannesburg, South Africa to Bulawayo, Zimbabwe in 1972. Our memory creating 2 000 km journey north was made in a 1968 Peugeot 404.

I recall watching the kaleidoscopic landscape as the colour of the soil changed from wine-red to ochre the further north we ventured. We shared the narrow roads with trucks overloaded with goats and people. Wild elephants, giraffe and a multitude of buck may have been great entertainment for a 12 year old to watch go by, but they’d have been a deadly thing to encounter at night.

That Peugeot never missed a beat – through the searing heat and choking dust, on unpaved roads all while cruising easily at 75mph – and thanks to its powerful fade-free drum brakes and very accurate steering, I even managed to drive it for about 60 miles. Not a bad feat for a 12 year old.

But it was the bonding I enjoyed with my father that made it truly special, of course. The memory of the Peugeot simply acted as a period prop in this screenplay of my father’s lingering memory. But what a great car, and it’s where my soft spot for Peugeots was born.

But what of Peugeots modern currency? To find out, I chatted to Peugeot UK’s Marketing Director, Mark Pickles – whose role is to continue developing the brand. He’s been able to draw upon his years in dealerships and exposure to Peugeot customers to make significant improvements to Peugeot dealer service. Naturally, I was keen to try their latest 308 myself, to see if it could rekindle some of the childhood memories of that 404.

Their Peugeot 308 is aimed at rivals Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus, and SEAT Leon and I’m happy to report that it’s absolutely brilliant.

Not only does the 308 GT Linelook better than the Golf – in my opinion – it is a real hoot to drive. I tried the frugal three-cylinder 1.2-litre e-THP petrol with a six-speed manual gearbox. It’s firm but still comfortable and I found it a real joy along twisting B-roads as well as on Motorways.

In summing up the Peugeot 308 GT Line, I’ll borrow from the 1968 Motor magazine road test review of a Peugeot 404.

"It is difficult to single out any one aspect of the Peugeot as being outstanding, for in truth the whole car is outstanding. It’s a car that we find almost impossible to criticise, from any standpoint. It is a car that ideally combines comfort, quality and economy. One can buy it with absolute confidence and drive and drive and drive, for longevity comes with quality in the case of Peugeot."

Couldn’t have said it better myself.