Family cars and eco specials go hand-in-hand – Ford has the Focus ECOnetic, Volkswagen the Golf BlueMotion and now here’s the Peugeot 308 Oxygo.
The car has been introduced as part of the 308’s facelift and offers the same sub-100g/km CO2 as rivals: the Oxygo emits 98g/km and claims average fuel economy of 74.3mpg.
But there is one caveat: those ultra-low CO2 figures only come on models fitted with the EGC automatic box. Our six-speed manual car emits 109g/km and is only capable of 67.3mpg.
The star of the 308 show is Peugeot’s e-HDi micro-hybrid system. This comprises a five-volt battery booster pack and a reversible alternator, and means the stop-start system is one of the best on the market. Even in temperatures of minus two degrees Celsius on our test, it worked instantly and provided one of the smoothest restarts we’ve ever come across.
Other eco-boosting tweaks unique to the Oxygo include low-rolling-resistance tyres, a lowered ride height and aerodynamic alloys, plus covers for the underbody and grille to help the car slip through the air more easily.
The engine is a 1.6-litre diesel producing 112bhp and 270Nm of torque. That’s good enough for 0-62mph in 12.5 seconds, but the 308 feels much quicker than this, especially in town.
Refinement on the move isn’t quite up to the standard set by the likes of the Golf and Focus, but the smooth-revving diesel engine makes it a close-run thing.
Through corners the Oxygo fares better than a standard 308. The lowered ride height helps eliminate some of the body roll that blights other models in the line-up, making the car more agile at everyday speeds.
Up the pace, though, and the less grippy eco tyres allow a fair bit of understeer – reminding you that you’re driving a hatch designed for economy, not speed.
The pay-off for the better body control is that the 308’s ride has suffered. It’s not uncomfortable, but you can feel lumps, bumps and potholes more than in most rivals. And it doesn’t help that the front seats are so firm.
Still, the 308 does everything you would expect from a car this size, with the boot offering a348-litre capacity – about average for the class – and the rear seats providing enough space to carry adults in comfort.
The newcomer is based on the 308 SR, so it comes with air-conditioning and sat-nav, as well as those alloy wheels. Oxygo trim adds cruise control and a leather steering wheel to the SR’s spec.
But while the equipment list is generous, the Peugeot is still £305 more expensive than a Golf BlueMotion, at £19,165. And if you want the automatic model, which emits less CO2 than the eco-tuned Volkswagen, the price difference increases to £855.
The 308 Oxygo is the closest Peugeot has come to a serious contender in the eco family hatch class, but you need the automatic gearbox for it to break under that all-important 100g/km threshold. And we’ve often criticised the slow and jerky EGC set-up elsewhere in Peugeot’s line-up. It will be no different in the 308.
Still, if you’re willing to look beyond the quirks of this 308, and aren’t put off by the expensive price, you’ll be rewarded with an accomplished alternative to the class norm.