It's not just the steering wheel that’s small in this particular Peugeot 308 SW – the engine is impressively tiny, too. It’s powered by the brand’s new 1.2-litre, three-cylinder turbo petrol engine, which develops 109bhp in all but the top-spec 308.
The Feline model enjoys a boost to 129bhp, and allied with 230Nm from 1750-3500rpm, the small engine has the feel of a much larger unit. Not that this is a particularly hefty car: the new 308’s ‘EMP2’ platform is shared with the Citroen C4 Picasso, and saves up to 140kg compared with its predecessor.
Impressively, the new 1.2 e-THP is immune to the vibration that can afflict three-cylinder engine – at idle it’s almost silent and when it’s revved it actually sounds quite good. There’s no reason to spend £395 on the optional Sport mode, which dubs fake engine noise via the stereo and mires the steering with a dollop of dead weighting.
The handling itself is safe and predictable but it’s lacking the fun and engagement you get from a Ford Focus Estate. On the plus side, practicality is excellent, with the 610-litre boot matching the Octavia Estate and outdoing the BMW 5 Series Touring.
After it was crowned European Car of the Year at the Geneva show, Peugeot has added 11cm to the wheelbase and a whopping 22cm behind the rear axle to turn the 308 into an SW. As a result this Peugeot 308 estate comes with an impressive 610-litre boot - bigger than the equivalent estate versions of the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus – although the Honda Civic Tourer and Skoda Octavia can carry more luggage.
That huge boot is nicely designed too. The lip is wide and set really low to the ground for easier loading, and with a single-pull of a handle the rear seats bases flip out and the backs fold down flat – a seriously convenient feature if you need more space in a hurry. Like all the best estates there are luggage rails and dividers and an elastic net to help tackle a variety of loads but the parcel shelf feels cheap and flimsy, which is a shame on what is supposed to be a rugged family runabout.
Room in the back has been improved, as the rear bench is mounted 29mm further back than in the hatch, and the doors are wider too. The full-length glass sunroof does impede on headroom though, and the seats are mounted quite high up, so the seating position feels a little awkward and upright for taller passengers.
The optional Driver’s Sport Pack (£395) adds a sport button to the centre console. Press it, and the steering gets a bit heavier, the throttle becomes more sensitive and the attractive dials switch from white to red.
A digital sound synthesizer also amplifies the sound of the engine and then plays it through the speakers for inject a little extra dynamism. It’s a fun new feature and if you drive it with enthusiasm the 308 SW does come alive. The uneven low-speed ride settles down, the body control improves and the steering weights up.
It still feels over-assisted though, and the 308 SW is hobbled with a loose and notchy manual gearbox that can feel very reluctant to slot into the right ratio. The clutch biting point is quite high too, and the ride fidgets over rough surfaces and cambers around town. For that reason the large alloys are best avoided as they also have a big impact on the claimed economy and CO2 emissions as well.