Peugeot 308 vs rivals

22 May, 2014 2:50pm

The new Peugeot 308 hatch takes on the SEAT Leon and Mazda 3

Downsizing in the name of efficiency is all the rage, but it’s taken Peugeot until now to launch a small-capacity turbo engine for its recently launched 308. The new e-THP unit is available with 108bhp or 128bhp, as tested here. Both versions emit less than 110g/km of CO2 and promise to return more than 60mpg.

Mazda, meanwhile, has added a new 1.5-litre SkyActiv engine to its superb 3 hatch. It’s not as powerful as its turbocharged rivals, but it promises strong throttle response, driveability and low running costs.

Setting the benchmark for our two newcomers is our reigning car of the year: the SEAT Leon. Fitted with a 1.2-litre TSI unit, it delivers performance, economy, sharp driving dynamics and value for money.

Click the links below for the full verdict on each car...

Peugeot 308 review

Mazda 3 review

SEAT Leon review

Now read our head-to-head group test results below...


Under the bonnet

Peugeot’s 1.2-litre three-cylinder engine is given a boost courtesy of a turbo and stop-start. As a result, it’s 15 per cent more powerful and 25 per cent more efficient than the 1.6-litre unit it replaces.

The SEAT has a more traditional four-cylinder with less power, but the Leon’s lower kerbweight means strong performance. However, the Mazda avoids turbocharging with its “right-sized” 1.5-litre, which is smooth but lacks punch.

Light fantastic

Both Peugeot and SEAT have adopted the latest LED headlamp tech. Yet while this is available on Leon SE models and above, you’ll have to fork out for the 308 Allure if you want the brighter lights.

Mazda uses traditional halogens in the entry-level SE, but SE-L and Sport get standard-fit xenons.

Business costs

Our trio will be on most company car lists, but the SEAT rates well here. It’s CO2 emissions are higher than the 308’s, yet a lower price means there’s little to separate the two on BIK. The Leon’s 46.4 per cent residuals are strongest.


1st place: SEAT Leon

The SEAT Leon’s reign at the top of the family car class continues. In 1.2-litre TSI guise, it offers a compelling blend of performance, quality and refinement. Factor in sharp handling, plenty of kit and strong residuals, and it’s a package that’s hard to beat.

2nd place: Peugeot 308

The runner-up spot goes to the Peugeot 308. It’s not as fun to drive as its rivals, but it’s hard to ignore the French model’s punchy engine, low CO2 emissions and long kit list. It’s attractively styled, inside and out, and better built than previous Peugeots.

3rd place: Mazda 3

Third place will be a bitter pill for Mazda to swallow. While the 3 is neatly styled, well built and enormous fun to drive, it’s undermined by sluggish performance and higher running costs. Space and practicality are also a letdown. 

SEAT Leon 1.2 TSI SE Peugeot 308 1.2 e-THP Active Mazda 3 1.5 SE Nav
On the road price/total as tested £16,970/£17,410 £17,945/£17,945 £17,295/£17,835
Residual value (after 3yrs/36,000) £7,849/46.4% £6,945/38.7% £7,401/42.8%
Depreciation £9,066 £11,000 £9,894
Annual tax liability std/higher rate £507/£1,015 £501/£1,002 £552/£1,103
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles) £1,732/£2,886 £1,844/£3,074 £2,120/£3,533
Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost 13/£330/C/£30 14/£341/B/£20 13/£339/C/£30
Cost of 1st/2nd/3rd service £169/£199/£169 £16.99pm (3yrs/30k) £109/£219/£249
Length/wheelbase 4,263/2,636mm 4,253/2,620mm 4,465/2,700mm
Height/width 1,459/1,816mm 1,457/1,804mm 1,465/1,795mm
Engine 4cyl in-line/1,197cc 3cyl in-line/1,199cc 4cyl in-line/1,496cc
Peak power/revs  104/4,500bhp/rpm 128/5,500bhp/rpm 99/6,000bhp/rpm
Peak torque/revs  175/1,400Nm/rpm 230/1,750Nm/rpm 150/4,000Nm/rpm
Transmission  6-spd man/fwd 6-spd man/fwd 6-spd man/fwd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel 50 litres/foam 53 litres/space-saver 51 litres/space saver 
Boot capacity (seats up/down) 380/1,210 litres 470/1,309 litres 364/1,263 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight 1,198/502/1,300kg 1,370/380/1,300kg 1,276/524/950kg
Turning circle 10.2metres 10.4metres 10.6metres
Basic warranty/recovery 3yrs (60k)/1yr 3yrs (unltd)/3yrs 3yrs (60k)/3yrs
Service intervals/UK dealers Variable/128 12.5k (1yr)/300 12.5k miles (1yr)/170
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer position 24th/31st* 14th/26th* 8th/17th*
Euro NCAP: Adult/child/ped./assist/stars 94/92/70/71/5 92/79/64/81/5 91/86/65/81/5
0-60/30-70mph 9.4/9.6 secs 9.0/9.0 secs 10.4/10.2 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th 2.9/6.0 secs 4.2/6.2 secs 6.3/8.3 secs
50-70mph in 5th/6th 9.1/11.8 secs 8.6/11.4 secs 11.9/18.5 secs
Top speed/rpm at 70mph  119mph/2,400rpm 127mph/2,300rpm 113mph/2,500rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph  50.3/35.0/9.0m 47.9/35.2/8.7m 51.9/36.8/9.4m
Noise outside/idle/30/70mph 61/39/59/69dB 63/43/65/70dB 58/42/63/72dB
Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range 41.0/9.0/451 miles 38.5/8.5/449 miles 33.5/7.3/376 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined  47.9/65.7/57.6mpg 48.7/72.4/61.4mpg 43.5/65.7/55.4mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined  10.5/14.5/12.7mpl 10.7/15.9/13.5mpl 9.6/14.5/12.2mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket 159/114g/km/15% 170/107g/km/14% 195/119g/km/16%
Airbags/Isofix/parking sensors/camera Seven/yes/£265/no Six/yes/yes/no Six/yes/£158/no
Auto/stability/cruise control £1,250/yes/yes £1,000/yes/yes No/yes/no
Climate control/leather/heated seats £350/£1,370/£350^ Yes/no/no No/no/no
Metallic paint/xenon lights/keyless go £495/£995**/no £525/no/no £540/no/no
Sat-nav/USB/DAB/Bluetooth £745/yes/£175/yes Yes/yes/yes/yes Yes/yes/yes/yes

Disqus - noscript

Too kind to the Pug IMHO. For comparison, here are some verdicts from AE's competitor:

"The Seat Leon is an impressive family car that's practical, stylish and good to drive."

"The Peugeot 308 falls some way short of the sky-high standards set by the best rivals".

"The Mazda 3 isn’t far adrift from the best in class. It’s stylish, good to drive, well equipped and relatively cheap to buy and run."

Should be Mazda, Seat, Peugeot IMHO.

Ahhh yes, no surprise here. 'Same old' from Auto Express..a VAG product in first place.

Should be peugeot, Mazda, seat. Just for the interiors ...pug way more special place to spend time in than the other 2, a fact conveniently ignored in this test.

The least informative review I have read.

I think the pug's dashboard looks awful and the tiny steering wheel obstructs the dials. Might indeed be a special place, but special in a bad way.

Should be Seat, Mazda, Peugeot!

Yes, that's probably why the 308 has been elected car of the year... By the way, I don't know what's going on with UK car tests. The 308 has been described as a great car in almost all EU countries (Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Belgium and Spain, and France of course), and UK drivers have been the only ones complaining about the handling why others say it is way better than its competitors... Really, if you can read another language, please read some reviews from outside UK, you would be surprised.

No It doesn't obstruct the dials, it was a bit of a problem on the 208, not on the 308 from what I saw, and from what I read.





Being elected car of the year means very little when you look at the list of previous winners. The rubbish 307 won in 2002 but the brilliant 306 didn't even get a look in! I can't find the foreign reviews you mention. If they described the 308 as great did they also say it was better than the Focus and Golf?

I have no problem seeing the dials, even when altering my driving position.

The weight and acceleration statistics you have posted must surely be wrong. The 308 is lighter than 1370 kgs. I very much doubt that the Leon, with its 105 bhp, can make 30-50 mph in 2,9 seconds, when a Volvo S60 with 180bhp makes 3,2 seconds and a Porsche Panamera diesel manages 2,6 seconds for the same interval.

It makes your journalism appear lazy, the stats table redundant as it isn't reliable, and your test results arbitrary at best. You need to fix this, AE! Maybe other stats are wrong too; haven't bothered to check.

Reading this review, I' m wondering if this was written by a teenager. Cause sharp handling and acceleration are not what family hatchback buyers look for in the first place. Sharp handling offen compromised with comfort and the running cost for a three cylinder are better. Practicality, styling, life on board, no comparison were made. If readers consult the real figure, you will notice huge anomalies. And I am sure that in this trio, only one car will that be up UK top 5 sales.

You do tend to see a trend that if a car isn't good to drive, it drops considerable amount of points, despite it missing the factors that are more important. Look at the C4, pretty much perfect (boot space, efficiency, refinement, looks etc...) but because it lacks dynamic finesse, it's rated poorly.

Check the "Top speed at/rpm at 70mph" category; 119mph/2400rpm for the Leon, 127mph/2300rpm for the 308, 113mph for the 3/2500. Doesn't make sense at all!

The ridiculous thing is that practically all modern cars drive and handle perfectly well if you are doing normal road driving, or even pushing on a bit. At these speeds, ride quality becomes the most important chassis feature.

The dynamic and handling differences only really show up if you take the thing on a track and push it close to its limit and nobody really buys one of these cars to do that.

Criticising one of these cars for its near-limit handling is like complaining that a Big heavy V12 that costs £100,000+ uses a lot of fuel. It really doesn't matter.

Weirdly the focus is not mentioned in most tests. They compare it to the Golf mainly, and they say the 308 handling is better, the look is better (but this is just a question of tastes), but the interior quality is comparable except for a few pieces of plastic for the 308 that are not exactly as good as the golf. The Golf is also slightly more expensive, but can give more options (DSG, etc.). I tried to send you some links, but it is not accepted here apparently.


You should be careful, that's a libelous statement.

'Did you vote for the BMW?' That was the refrain that seemed to be running before the big announcement - the third annual Eurovision-style countdown at Geneva's Palexpo exhibition hall.
But Peugeot did it easily with its 308, simply beating everyone else on sheer all-roundedness of their effort. It represents good progress for the company, and was well supported by jurors on mainland Europe,

Well the new Peugeot 308 has been described as number one in Italy,France ,Spain ,Austria, Belgium etc. for it's Handling , dynamics and quality .., and what about UK ..???

3 - SEAT


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I actually bought one - I took delivery of my 308 Active 1.2 e-THP 130 just over a couple of weeks ago. 500 miles later my (high) expectations have been more than met. After many months of researching specs of just about every model in the class, as well as having test drives in a Focus Qashqai, Golf and finally the 308, I had no hesitation in choosing the 308. I was strongly advised to wait for the new PureTech engine - excellent advice. The engine is simply brilliant - with the Ford Ecoboost I was surprised an engine that small seemed so "normal" - this one goes way beyond that, providing diesel-like thrust at low rpm (just look at the torque figures), but then just keeps going up to 6,000 rpm - no narrow power band here! It is also excellent at holding its speed on uphill sections of motorway, another diesel characteristic that has been well replicated. Ride and handling: simply the best in real-life / day-to-day driving. The first time I drove one (on test) I didn't even notice the steering wheel - it felt totally natural - never obstructing the instruments as claimed by some.
Finally - look at the list of equipment in the Active (one up from entry-level) spec - to have this on any of its competitors opens up a yawning chasm of a price difference. Oh and those reliability issues so often quoted by the UK motoring press about Peugeot - they appear to have gone through a rough patch with the 07 series - but if you look at went before and came after, they are and always have been tough as old boots. I know, my second car was a 404. Driver Power manufacturer position: SEAT 24th Peugeot 14th