One of the amazing and more memorable sights in South African motoring must be the iconic Toyota HiAce taxi. Everyone who has ever driven on our roads will undoubtedly have their own story regarding a run in with one of these infamous vehicles.
So remarkable is the HiAce that a number of years back when the head honchos from Toyota Japan came out to visit the South African franchise, they were gobsmacked by the way in which the ‘taxi’ is used. The remarkable durability was one of the more surprising aspects, however I have no doubt in my mind that Toyota’s bosses were most surprised by the sheer volume of people that can be crammed into a HiAce. Something I doubt they ever intended when designing the vehicle, yet possible non-the-less.
When I first had a look at the Peugeot 308SW I thought, “Well this is just another station wagon.” (note: Peugeot’s official definition of SW is actually Sports Wagon…yeah right!) Since such vehicles are of no real interest to me, I didn’t actually know anything about the Peugeot. So as any guy would do, I got straight to playing with all the gadgets – of which there are many.
This is when I felt somewhat like those Toyota bosses on their first sighting of the HiAce. There is a row of extra seats in the back of this thing! I know, surprising right…I mean the 308SW looks sleek and compact – yet fully loaded it’ll hold seven people, and most importantly is actually designed to do so. (Well five people and two little ones)
Not only this, but the number of seating variations is something like the list of corruption charges against Jacob Zuma, endless. The interior is designed for maximum flexibility, as the three middle-row seats can tilt forward, fold flat, slide forward and back for extra legroom and can be removed altogether. The front passenger seat can also fold forward, which allows the SW to swallow objects of up to a kilometre in length – no lies.
Talking about the interior, features include automatic lights, rain sensitive wipers, dual-zone climate control with vents in the back, cruise control, trip computer, flip-down trays for the middle row of seats (aeroplane style), storage compartments under the front seats and a refrigerated cubby hole. Then there’s the big one – a MASSIVE panoramic tinted glass roof which measures 1.7m². The sheer amount of light this lets into the cabin makes it feel incredibly spacious and gives quite an amazing view – especially during thunder storms – for those not tasked with the job of driving.
On the matter of driving, the SW is not typical of big French vehicles, in other words it doesn’t flop around like a boat. I mean its no sports car, but I found it surprisingly responsive in the bends and wonderfully comfortable on the highway. The SW really is an amazing cruiser, probably the best I’ve ever experienced, which makes it perfect for long distance family travelling.
In South Africa only one engine is available, namely the same 1.6 Vti found in the 308 hatch range which produces 88kW and 106Nm, most of which is available from low revs making the SW easy to drive whether it be in town or on the open road. Fuel consumption, as given by Peugeot is 7.1l/100km. Not realistic in comparison to the figure of 8.3 I achieved on test.
From the outside the SW isn’t the worst looking station wagon ever made. The front is identical to it’s hatch sister, with “feline” headlights that flow gracefully into the lines of the bonnet and that unmistakable gaping front grille. The back might be where things start to go a little pear-shaped however as the rear tailgate looks too bulbous and they haven’t managed to blend the tail lights into the rear door with the same gracefulness as at the front.
Peugeot obviously had a good deal on glass when they designed the SW, given that the roof isn’t the only fancy piece of glassware available. The rear-window has a pronounced curve allowing it to wrap around three-quarters of the rear, and can be opened independently of the tailgate itself –making it is the largest such glass in the car world today. (Not expensive to replace I’m sure)
On a safety front it’s business as usual from Peugeot. Five stars in the Euro NCAP testing along with the usual array of features, including anti-lock brakes and numerous airbags. All of the above comes in a no-additional-options package priced at R229 500 – not exactly cheap, but what is these days?