Peugeot 308 SW review
The 308 SW is a well equipped family estate with an efficient range of engines and a smart interior
The Peugeot 308 SW is based on the 308 hatch that was introduced late last year, so it looks stylish, while the engine range is tuned to deliver performance and efficiency.
It’s a lot longer than the hatch, with a longer wheelbase that should mean there is more room inside. The new SW also comes with a range of new engines, including a 1.6-litre diesel that emits just 85g/km of CO2 and a new three-cylinder turbo that is smoother and punchier than a Ford’s 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine.
There are four trims levels to choose from, and most come very well equipped, while the 308 SW is priced to undercut mainstream rivals like the Volkswagen Golf Estate and recently introduced Honda Civic Tourer.
The SW benefits from the same elegant styling as its 308 hatchback brother. Gone are the gaping grille and awkward lines of the 307 SW, replaced by a smart nose, sharp lines and an elegant rear.As well as the extra bodywork behind the rear wheelarches, a wheelbase that’s 110mm longer creates more room inside.
That also helps with its proportions. The SW is 332mm longer than the hatch, and the addition of the extra back windows, silver roof rails and large wraparound tail-lights means the estate arguably looks even more stylish. However, full LED headlights and 18-inch alloys are exclusive to Feline models – Active spec makes do with 16-inch wheels and halogen lights, although you can upgrade to 17-inch alloys.
Feline models come with a panoramic glass roof as standard, but it’s also a £500 option on Active cars. This really brightens the cabin, while the electric sunshade also diffuses the light to keep things feeling airy. It’s well built, too, with high-quality plastics and subtle metal trim, while the minimal centre console has only a handful of buttons, as all of the major functions are on the 9.7-inch touchscreen.
At launch the 308 SW introduced four new engines into the range, taking the overall total to eight – with an even split between petrol and diesel.
The pick of the bunch in terms of petrol engines is the new 1.2-litre e-THP 130 – it’s a three-cylinder turbo that produces an impressive 128bhp and it a real advert for the advantages of downsizing technology.
Fire it up, and it’s reasonably hushed at idle, although the stop-start system does cut in and out with quite a bit of a vibration. It’s paired with a six-speed manual gearbox, but this suffers from a vague, spongy shift that makes changing gears feel like a bit of a chore.
The 308 is at its best with a diesel engine under the bonnet though, as the soft suspension setup and comfort oriented ride mean the hushed and punchy new 1.6-litre BlueHDi unit suits the character of the car extremely well.
In corners, the 308’s soft suspension means there’s little fun to be had, because the car suffers from plenty of roll, while mid-corner bumps cause the car to pitch uncomfortably. What’s more, the small steering wheel feels toy-like in your hands, and an awkward driving position discourages you from attacking bends.
The soft suspension should mean the 308 is comfortable when cruising, but in reality it’s quite unsettled over bumps. The low speed ride is comfortable and controlled, but cars fitted with the larger alloy wheels are noticeably firmer around town.
The 308 uses a new platform that will underpin a variety of Peugeot and Citroen models, and so far, things are looking good for the new architecture. Owners placed the new 308 hatch 25th in our Driver Power 2014 satisfaction survey, with reliability, running costs and performance all impressing.
The five-door earned five stars in its Euro NCAP crash test, although its percentage scores are lower than the Leon’s. Six airbags are standard, but collision alert and city braking are only optional on higher-spec cars.
The cabin mainly uses soft-touch plastics but some areas are hard and scratchy which spoils the overall effect. Similarly, the touchscreen can be quite fiddly and the sat-nav is not the most intuitive or accurate system we have tried.
The connected apps take quite a long time to load too, and this system could soon feel a bit outdated when compared to (admittedly more expensive) systems in rival cars.
Even so, the major mechanical parts are all tried and tested in other Peugeot products and while the 308 does not come with anything more than a three-year warranty it should be relatively trouble free.
The tailgate is heavy to open, but it reveals a 660-litre boot that’s the biggest in the class. Useful touches include load rails in the floor and seat-folding levers in the boot sides, but the load cover is fiddly to hook into place, and you remove it by twisting it out of position, a process that doesn’t feel well engineered.
Once removed, there’s a slot under the boot floor to store it in, and you can hold the floor up using the built-in hook that attaches to the top lip of the tailgate, although again this solution seems a little cheap when compared to the SEAT’s floor system. Fold the seats, and the bases drop at the same time to create a completely flat floor. Total capacity of 1,775 litres is excellent for this type of car - even more than the cavernous Honda Civic Tourer.
However, although the 308 SW has lots of room, it has few practical touches. There’s no under-floor storage, and if you want to use the load rails, you have to add a £150 cargo net. What’s more, the 12V socket is mounted above the load cover, which looks unsightly if you’ve something plugged in and the cover closed.
Passenger space is similar to that found in the SEAT Leon ST estate, although back-seat passengers do sit quite high on the flat bench, so it feels like there’s less headroom. And the driving position takes a little getting used to, as you need to drop the small steering wheel down to see the dials.
It’s also irritating you can only adjust the climate control with the touchscreen. Rather than turn a dial, you need to navigate sub- menus and wait for the system to scroll through, which can be a distraction, especially as the display screen isn’t as responsive as rivals’.
The new Peugeot 308 SW is lighter than most of its mainstream rivals thanks to a drastic weight saving scheme during its design in fact the estate is 140kgs lighter than the car it replaces.
Combined with a body that has been shaped to be more aerodynamic than before and the claimed fuel economy is really exceptional. The BlueHDi version has a decent 118bhp but will return a claimed 88.3mpg when fitted with the ultra-low rolling resistance tyres standard on cars with 16-inch wheels.
The new petrol model is also quite frugal though, and because of this the brand expects it to lead the charge when it comes to private retail buyers. The 1.2-litre triple returns a claimed 60.1mpg and emits just 109g/km.
The 308 SW is on a par with cars like the SEAT Leon ST but comes better equipped as standard, and it undercuts rivals like the Volkswagen Golf and Honda Civic with prices starting at just under £17,000 for the most basic versions, although the residuals are likely to be weaker than either of these competitors.
Standard equipment is impressive though, with even mid-spec cars getting sat-nav and the 9.7-inch touchscreen fitted as standard, ‘Allure’ models get a colour reversing camera, and goodies like 17-inch alloy wheels and full LED lights.