In a South African road test of the Peugeot 308 wagon, a 150-year enigma of the brand's lion fetish is cracked.

The people at Peugeot have lions on the brain. This is perfectly understandable in that their use of the animal as a company mascot dates back to the time of the American Civil War, back when the company was making crinoline dresses instead of motorcars. It’s just that they have taken their feline fetish just a bit too far these past few years.

The front ends of modern Peugeots—which you cannot see in the US as the company withdrew from the North American market in 1991—are all shaped like various cats. This sounds like a recipe for a line of exciting cars, right? Unfortunately, most of them are incredibly bland. Save for the 908 Le Mans racer, which is awesome. And the Pininfarina-designed 406 coupé. As for the rest? You’re not missing out on much.


And they all have their tongues sticking out! If you look at a Peugeot, the front bumper is a tongue extending from the black mouth formed by the grille. As you can see on this picture taken at the launch of the Peugeot 207 supermini back in 2006:

I have spent years trying to get inside the head of Peugeot Design Chief Gérard Welter’s head to no avail. Until I read South African motoring journalist Peta Lee’s review of the Peugeot 308 wagon: Peugeots look like lions to make passage among tough African game safe if they threaten your progress!


Witness Lee’s description of an encounter on a dirt road at the KwaZulu Natal Game reserve, close to the coastal city of Durban:

The rhino mom and her calf gave us curious looks as we passed within a metre of them. We'd had to swerve because they were slap bang in the middle of the road and didn’t seem at all inclined to move, even though we’d sat motionless for about 10 minutes.

I was hoping the distinctive red of the Peugeot 308 SW wouldn’t evoke the same reaction from them as a red rag or a matador's cloak…

Fortunately, they were more interested in browsing the succulent grass than in charging us as we (cautiously) made our way to the exit of Karkloof Spa, passing, uneventfully, a herd of wildebeest, a dozen zebra and a family of warthogs en-routeThe rhino were were more interested in browsing the succulent grass.

See? And as for why the rhinos didn’t scatter in mortal fear: the extended lion tongue is toned way back on the 308. Peta Lee would have sent them charging all the way to the Congo in a 207.