Peugeot 308 review
The Peugeot 308 is a family hatch back designed to rival top sellers like the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus
Previous Peugeot 308 models have struggled to match class-leading family hatchbacks such as the Volkswagen Golf, but this all-new version looks like a more impressive package. It gets a special lightweight chassis that saves up to 140kg compared to the old car (depending on which engine you choose) and also boosts efficiency. A hi-tech interior and spacious 435-litre boot add to the appeal. Peugeot offers four trim levels on the latest 308, ranging from the basic, entry-level Access to the top-of-the-range Feline. The best sellers are likely to be the mid-spec Active and Allure, however. Buyers enjoy a wide choice of engines - all very efficient - including two 'BlueHDi' diesels and two three-cylinder turbocharged petrols. The 308 range is also set to grow in 2014 with the addition of an estate and a five-door GTi hot hatch to rival the Golf GTi.
Our choice: Peugeot 308 1.6-litre e-HDi 115bhp Allure
Our choice: Peugeot 308 1.6-litre e-HDi 115bhp Allure
The new 308 has undergone a radical overhaul both inside and out to help it remain competitive against the current class leaders, the Ford Focus and VW Golf. It's shorter, wider and lower than the previous car, which gives it a smarter, modern, more attractive stance. Alloy wheels are standard on all cars except the Access, while the Allure and Feline have full LED headlights as standard. Owners are bound to love the comfortable driving position and 'i-Cockpit' interior design, which incorporates a large touchscreen display and easy-to-use controls. As with the smaller Peugeot 208 supermini, the 308's steering wheel is quite small and can still obstruct the dials depending on your driving position. There are a few cheaper looking plastics lower down on the centre console, which are made more noticeable by the lack of buttons. The iPad-like screen is the same used in the 208 but is much more responsive to your inputs, making adjustments to the heater or radio a doddle. The fresh interior is certainly executed better than in rivals such as the Vauxhall Astra or Ford Focus.
Initially the Peugeot 308 is being offered with three petrol and two diesel engines, but this range will expand with the addition of small-capacity turbocharged petrols and ultra-efficient diesels in 2014. The 1.6-litre e-HDI 308 is the model to go for - it's clearly set up for comfort and refinement rather than outright pace. However, the diesel engine is hushed at higher speeds and returns well over 70mpg. Peugeot's manual gearbox is less impressive, however, feeling a bit loose and imprecise at times. Also, artificially quick steering that's too keen to self-centre makes the car feel a bit twitchy at high speeds. As already mentioned, the 308 rides very comfortable and even on larger 18-inch alloy wheels the ride remained rather supple. Grip is adequate, but there's noticeably more body roll in corners than you'll experience at the wheel of some rivals, so this isn't really a car for keen drivers. They'd be better off waiting for the 308 GTI, which is set to arrive in 2014 and will be powered by the 270bhp 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine from the Peugeot RCZ-R.
French manufacturers, and Peugeot in particular, have traditionally struggled in this area, but the latest 308 does feel a lot better built than the old model. Questions remain over its long-term durability, however, and it's too new to have featured in our annual Driver Power owner satisfaction survey. Owners of the smaller Peugeot 208 have reported problems with the dashboard touchscreen, so this is something to watch out for on the 308. On the plus side, it uses plenty of tried-and-tested components and you get the industry-standard three-year warranty.
This is one of the highlights of the new 308. There isn’t a huge amount of space in the rear for passengers but it’s still comfortable. Sacrifices in the rear means boot capacity swells to an impressive 470 litres with the rear seats in place (including 35 litres in two under-floor storage bins). That’s a whole 90 litres more than the VW Golf. The top-spec 308s come with a panoramic sunroof that cuts into rear headroom – this should be avoided if you regularly carry adults in the back but it does make for a light and airy cabin. Storage elsewhere is good, with a large glovebox and plenty of clever cubbies to keep your odds and ends in. Buyers seeking greater practicality should hold out for the 308 SW estate, which is scheduled to debut at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show and should go on sale in the spring.
A lighter body than most rivals – plus improved aerodynamics – help the new 308 to be one of the most efficient cars in its class. The 1.6-litre e-HDI model we suggest hits the magic 100g/km of CO2, meaning it’s exempt from road tax. The forthcoming BlueHDi will claims even better economy figures, returning a claimed 91mpg. Petrols are less impressive, with an average CO2 figure of 130g/km and a hike in running costs. Prices are likely to be comparable to main rivals the SEAT Leon and VW Golf, but the Peugeot will retain less of its value after three years of ownership. There's better news when it comes to standard equipment: even mid-spec cars boast sat-nav and a 9.7-inch touchscreen.