It might not be the silver lining the struggling French automaker has been desperately seeking, but Peugeot officials were clearly pleased to learn they landed the much-coveted European Car of the Year title for their little 308 model.
The compact hatchback triumphed over some tough competition that included a pair of well-reviewed new battery cars, as well as the most sophisticated full-sized luxury sedan ever offered by Mercedes-Benz.
It’s been a tough few years for the largest of the French automakers, PSA Peugeot Citroen only last month forced to sell a major chunk of its stock to Chinese partner Dongfeng, an equal share to the French government – effectively ending more than a century of control by the Peugeot family. That move was forced by the company’s continuing losses and the rising fear of collapse.
Whether European Car of the Year jurors offered a little bit of sympathy with their vote is uncertain but the compact Peugeot 308 had already been winning some of the best reviews of any model the maker had launched in recent year.
The Peugeot was the top choice of 22 of the ECoTY’s 58 jurors, receiving a total of 307 points, which put it well ahead of its closest competitors. The balloting was a lot closer for second and third place, the BMW i3 taking 223 points, the Tesla Model s garnering 216.
Among the rest of the seven nominees, the Citroen C4 Picasso took 182 points, the Mazda3 – a runner-up for North American Car of the Year – landed in fifth with 180. Rounding out the pack, the Skoda Octavia grabbed 172 points and the all-new Mercedes-Benz S-Class scored 170.
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Officials with the ECoTY program noted that jurors responded to a Peugeot model that is “Stylish and with new ambitions in quality and elegance.” While the 2014 model is shorter than the outgoing 308, it offers bigger interior space.
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It also generated enthusiasm among the jurors because of its use of lightweight and composite materials, which helped Peugeot shave almost 300 pounds off the latest version of the 308. That, in turn, resulted in a noticeable improvement in fuel economy.
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The Peugeot 308 is offered with a variety of powertrain options including a new family of e-cylinder gas engines and a range of high-efficiency diesels.
Peugeot is hoping that the victory will help it finally begin to reverse years of sales and market share losses. If anything, new CEO Carlos Tavares said he is cautiously optimistic for the entire European auto industry in 2014, though he also warned, during an appearance at the Geneva Motor Show that there are a variety of issues that could short circuit the market, including “difficulties in Russia and instability in Latin America.”