Peugeot 308 review
The new Peugeot 308 is an award-winning family hatch with a focus on comfort and quality
The Peugeot 308, launched at the end of 2013 and crowned as 2014 European Car of the Year, represents Peugeot's best ever attack on the family hatchback class leaders such as the Volkswagen Golf, SEAT Leon and Ford Focus.
Previous generation Peugeots have always struggled to match their rivals, but this latest 308 is a huge step forward. With improved looks and a more expensive-feeling interior, the Peugeot 308 now offers a more attractive ownership package with excellent economy and fast-improving dealer service.
Using the same underpinnings as the latest Citroen C4 Picasso, the 308 features a special lightweight chassis and engines that promise improved efficiency over previous generations. This is partly thanks to a weight saving of up to 140kg depending on which engine you opt for.
The Peugeot 308 trim level range consists of Access, Active, Allure, GT-Line and a range-topping GT warm hatch which gets exclusive petrol and diesel engines. This new model is more GT than GTI and comes impressively well-equipped, however the mid-range Active and Allure trims are likely to offer enough equipment for most buyers as the 308 comes with a healthy level of standard kit.
Buyers are well catered for when it comes to the Peugeot 308's engines. There is a wide range of efficient engines, with 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre BlueHDi diesels, and three, three-cylinder petrols including the frugal 1.2-litre e-THP. The 308 is available with a five or six-speed manual gearbox or six-speed automatic.
The 308 range currently consists of the five-door hatch and practical SW estate. A 308 hot hatch is on the cards, too, showing Peugeot's intent to seriously take on the Volkswagen Golf GTI. There has been no word on whether or not Peugeot will be adding a 308 CC convertible to the latest line-up, though.
Our choice: Peugeot 308 1.6-litre e-HDi 115bhp Allure
The influence of Peugeot's latest design language is clear to see on the 308. Taking cues from the 208 supermini and 2008 crossover, the new car replaces the uninspiring design of the old car with a more upright stance - similar to that of the Volkswagen Golf - displaying plenty of neat details dotted around the exterior.
The Peugeot 308 is arguably one of the best-looking cars in its class, with slim lights and a narrow grille featuring across the range. On higher-spec models, distinctive LED headlamps add a touch of class. The bulging wheelarches, slim rear screen and small rear light clusters add an air of aggression to the 308's stance. The GT model comes with a full panoramic roof, keyless go, 18-inch alloy wheels, lowered suspension and part-Alcantara sports seats plus subtle body changes that are available with all other engines in GT-Line trim.
The 308's interior is in keeping with Peugeot's current run of classy design and impressive quality - similar to that of class leading SEAT Leon. The dashboard layout is clutter-free, with most systems being controlled via a central touchscreen angled towards the driver. However, conducting simple actions such as altering the cabin temperature can be time-consuming due to the complex nature of the sub-menus.
Another issue that affects the 308, is that like in the 208, Peugeot has placed the dials 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 can obscure the odometer – some people find this a real problem, but Peugeot has received no complaints from customers about it.
There are few complaints about the quality, either. There are plenty of soft-touch materials throughout the cabin, while soft leather is used for the steering wheel and gear knob. Plenty of kit is offered, too, including dual-zone climate control, sat-nav and rear parking sensors.
Very few extras are offered in the 308 range, thanks in part to a generous standard kit list that also includes a digital radio. Options that can be ticked consist of metallic paint and a Cielo glass roof.
If, however, you want heated leather seats, you'll have to choose the pricier Allure or GT 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 executed better than in rivals such as the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra.
An all-new platform underpins the 308, which has been designed to provide a blend of cruising comfort and sharp handling.
On the whole, Peugeot has delivered on its promise of sharper dynamics, as 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.
The GT model gets a clever Sport button, which sharpens the throttle response, adds weight to the steering, turns the dials red and uses the stereo speakers to deliver a racier engine note. It adds a bit of verve and generally the GT is a fun, if not thrilling, car to drive.
In addition to the 202bhp turbo in the GT, the Peugeot 308 can be powered by one of three, three-cylinder turbocharged engines for petrol fans: the 1.2 VTi, 1.2 e-HTP and 1.6 THP offering 82bhp, 110bhp and 125bhp respectively.
On the diesel side, buyers can opt for 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, which is also available in GT models.
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.
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 308’s smooth and refined three-cylinder petrol unit is a gutsy performer, pulling strongly from around 2,000rpm, but the six-speed box is clunky - a problem that affects all 308 models. The new six-speed auto does solve this, however. It costs a further £1,000 to spec over the manual, but provides much cleaner and smoother gear changes.
The Peugeot delivers superb refinement, too. The GT gets its own set-up that’s firm yet still comfortable – in fact, it’s more comfortable than other models if you spec bigger wheels. It handles tidly, too, erring on comfort rather than thrills.
There’s slightly more body roll than in the SEAT Leon in other 308s, while the steering lacks the feel of the Mazda 3's set-up.
Peugeot, and French cars in general, have not enjoyed the best reputation for reliability in the past, but Peugeot's more recent offerings show a vast improvement. The 208, RCZ and new 308 all bagged a top 25 finish in the 2014 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey. Peugeot dealers are showing signs of improvement too and in our latest Driver Power survey were the biggest movers up the chart.
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 GT 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 current 308 platform is already used on Citroen's C4 Picasso, so extensive testing should mean it doesn't suffer the reliability issues of its predecessors.
The practicality of the Peugeot 308 is something of a mixed bag. While access to the rear seats is better than that of the SEAT Leon and Mazda 3 thanks to wider door access, the legroom in the rear is merely average.
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.
Unfortunately, the 308’s credentials as a family car are undermined by a lack of storage space in the cabin, including a small glovebox and a cramped armrest cubbyhole with the latter sliding back and forth. However, the narrow rear window and thick C-pillars hamper visibility.
Should you need more practicality, the Peugeot 308 SW estate may be worth your while - boasting an 810-litre boot capacity. The SW is also available as a GT, but only with the diesel engine.
The Peugeot 308 is one of the most economical and efficient cars in its class due to its lighter platform and improved aerodynamics.
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 higher-output 2.0-litre BlueHDi diesel has 150bhp and emits 105g/km CO2 in Allure trim, but economy suffers slightly as a result. This still returns an impressive fuel consumption figure of 70.6mpg on a combined cycle. The headline figures go to the 1.6-litre BlueHDi diesel, though - returning 88.3mpg and emitting just 87g/km of CO2. The 2.0-litre unit is smoother, though and its stop-start system is fluid.
The 1.2-three-cylinder petrol engine also offers decent running costs. Paired with the auto it will return 54.3mpg and 119g/km of CO2 in comparison to the manual’s 58.9mpg and 110g/km – so a year’s road tax costs £30, rather than £20.
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 - with the comparable SEAT Leon retaining around £1,000 more over this period.