Peugeot 308 review
The 308 is the car Peugeot hopes will take the fight to the class leading Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus
Launched at the end of 2013 for the 2014 model year, the all-new Peugeot 308 is a signal of intent from the French firm. Peugeot aims to take the fight to the family hatchback class leaders, the Volkswagen Golf and the Ford Focus. What's more, it was also crowned 2014 European Car of the Year.
The previous Peugeot 308 was launched in 2007 as a replacement to the 307, and like its predecessor, it struggled to match the class leaders. Thankfully, the all new 308 is a more impressive package, due to a special lightweight chassis that also underpins the latest Citroen C4 Picasso. Depending on which engine you choose kerb weight is reduced by up to 140kg compared to the old car, and also has much improved efficiency over its predecessor.
Peugeot offers the 308 in four trim levels, which start at the basic, entry level Access model and extend up to the flagship Feline. However, the best sellers are likely to be the mid-spec Allure and Active trims.
The 308's buyers can also enjoy a wide range of very efficient engines, which include the 1.6 and 2.0-litre BlueHDi diesels, and two three-cylinder petrols. Furthermore, the Peugeot 308 comes as a six speed automatic, or five or six speed manual.
More recently Peugeot has extended the 308 range with the addition of a more practical SW estate. A 308 GTi hot hatch is also set to arrive, underlining the fact that Peugeot intends to take the fight to the Volkswagen Golf GTi in the hot hatch segment.
There has been no comment as to whether Peugeot will be adding a 308 CC convertible to the line-up.
Our choice: Peugeot 308 1.6-litre e-HDi 115bhp Allure
Peugeot has clearly used the design of its elegant 208 supermini and 2008 crossover to influence the 308. The forgettable design of the old car has been replaced by a more upright stance and there are plenty of neat details dotted around the exterior.
The top spec 308 Allure and the Feline models get LED headlamps but the slim lights and narrow grille common to all models make the 308 one of the best looking cars in its class. The bulging rear wheelarches add an aggressive air to the 308's profile, and the small light clusters and slim rear screen are also smart touches. The Feline trim Peugeot 308 also comes with a full panoramic roof, keyless go, 18-inch alloy wheels and part-Alcantara sports seats.
The interior of the 308 maintains Peugeot's current run of classy design and is comparable in quality to that found in the impressive SEAT Leon. The dashboard layout has a clutter free, hexagonal theme with most systems being controlled via the central touchscreen. Small tasks such as altering the cabin temperature can be time consuming due to the complex system of sub-menus, though.
Another interior design flaw that affects the 308, is that like in the 208, Peugeot has placed the dials too high on the dash, and the small steering wheel doesn't adjust up enough for some drivers to see them through it. If you need to lower the wheel a little and do so, then the wheel obscures the odometer.
However, there are few complaints about the quality. You’ll find plenty of soft-touch materials, while soft leather is used for the steering-wheel rim and gearknob. You also get plenty of kit, including dual-zone climate control, sat-nav and rear parking sensors.
Peugeot hasn't skimped on standard kit, and throws in sat-nav, rear parking sensors and a digital radio. Very few extras are offered on the 308, apart from metallic paint and the Cielo glass roof.
If, however, you want heated leather seats, you'll have to choose the pricer Allure of Feline spec cars, but even then they're an option. A word of warning, though – the massage function isn’t particularly effective.
Overall, then, the 308's cabin is largely well screwed together, but isn't always easy to get on with. Similarly, some of the lower-level plastics feel a bit cheap but generally, the interior is certainly executed better than in rivals such as the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra.
An all new platform underpins the 308, and it has been designed for a mix of cruising comfort and sharp handling.
On the whole, Peugeot has delivered on its remit for sharper dynamics and the 308 has decent turn-in and feels agile in corners. As with some of its rivals, Peugeot won't allow the stability control to be 100 per cent disengaged, but the system now allows the rear end to move around before it kicks in.
Our car was fitted with the optional £395 Sport mode, which sharpens the throttle response, adds weight to the steering, turns the dials red and uses the stereo speakers to deliver a racier note. But it fails to transform the 308 into a car you’d drive for fun.
The Peugeot 308 can be powered by one of three, three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engines: the 1.2 VTi, 1.2 e-HTP and 1.6 THP, or one of four diesels: the 1.6 HDi, 1.6 e-HDi, 1.6 BlueHDi, or the most powerful engine in the range, the 150bhp 2.0-litre BlueHDi. Our choice of 308 is the 1.6-litre e-HDi. It's clearly set up for comfort rather than outright pace, but its diesel engine is hushed, and returns a very credible combined cycle of 74.3mpg.
The 308’s smooth and refined three-cylinder unit is a gutsy performer, pulling strongly from around 2,000rpm, but the six-speed box is clunky.
If impressive performance with strong efficiency is what you’re looking for, then the Peugeot 2.0-litre BlueHDi is worth considering. It’s smooth and hushed around town and, for an extra £900 over the 1.6-litre engine, it’s reasonable value, too. However, the more efficient diesel will be the smarter choice for most.
The Peugeot delivers superb refinement, too. The 18-inch alloys on the Feline-spec car firm up the ride, but on standard 16-inch rims the suspension soaks up imperfections. The trade-off for this comfort is slightly softer responses in the corners. There’s more body roll than in the Leon, while the steering lacks the feel of Mazda’s set-up
While the range of engines in the 308 are impressive, Peugeot's manual gearbox is sloppy - feeling loose and at times, imprecise.
In the past, French cars have not had the best reputation for reliability, but Peugeot's latest models are vastly more reliable than past offerings, with the 208, RCZ and new 308 all bagging a top 25 finish in our 2014 Driver Power satisfaction survey.
However, the brand’s dealers need to improve – owners voted them 26th out of 31 in our 2013 poll.
The 308 has a five-star Euro NCAP rating, and all versions get six airbags, stability control and hill-start assist. However, you’ll have to upgrade to Allure or Feline specification if you want hi-tech options such as blind-spot monitoring and forward collision alert.
In the smaller Peugeot 208, owners have reported problems with the touchscreen and this is something to watch out for on the 308. On the plus side, however, it uses plenty of tried-and-tested components, and Peugeot throws in the industry-standard three-year warranty.
The 308 also has a five-star Euro NCAP rating, but only the Allure and Feline models get the latest technology safety systems.
The current 308 platform is already used on Citroen's C4 Picasso, so extensive testing should mean it doesn't suffer the reliability of its predecessors. The same platform is also likely to underpin the next generation Citroen C4.
However, Peugeot's dealers need to improve: in our 2013 Driver Power satisfaction survey, owners voted them 26th out of 31.
Practicality for the Peugeot 308 is a mixed bag. Legroom in the rear of the 308 is average, but the wider doors mean better access to the back seats than in a SEAT Leon or a Mazda3. Headroom is also decent.
Unfortunately, the 308’s family credentials are undermined by a lack of storage space, including a small glovebox and a cramped armrest cubbyhole, and the latter slides back and forth. However,the narrow rear window and thick C-pillars hamper visibility.
The cramped rear does mean that the boot capacity swells to an impressive 470 litres with the rear seats in place, and two under-floor storage bins expand this by a further 35 litres. Overall, Peugeot has given the 308 90 more litres than the Volkswagen Golf.
Should you need more practicality, the Peugeot 308 SW estate may be worth your while.
With a lighter platform and improved aerodynamics, the Peugeot 308 is one of the most economical cars in its class.
Our choice of 308, the 1.6-litre e-HDI diesel, has a combined cycle of 78.5mpg, and emits 95g/CO2. Petrol engines, however, are less impressive with an average CO2 figure of 130g/km.
The 2.0-litre BlueHDi has 30bhp and 370Nm of torque more than its 1.6-litre counterpart, but fuel economy suffers as a consequence. It returns impressive figures at 70.6mpg on a combined cycle, and emits 105g/km of CO2. However, these still fall way short of the 1.6-litre BlueHDi which does 88.3mpg with CO2 emissions of 87g/km, but the 2.0-litre variant's diesel engine is smoother and its stop-start system is fluid.
The 308 has never held its value well, and our experts predict that over a three year period, it will lose around £1,000 more of its value than the SEAT Leon.
Peugeot also offers a monthly payment scheme for servicing, which works out at around £600 for three years’ maintenance.
There are financial pitfalls, however. The 308 suffers from weak residuals, with our experts predicting the Peugeot will retain just 38.7 per cent of its value after three years.