Peugeot 308 review
The Peugeot 308 is a top-drawer five-door family hatchback, and rivals the Ford Focus, SEAT Leon and Volkswagen Golf
The Peugeot 308 is a highly rated five-door family hatchback. The previous-generation version was capable but rather dull, so this latest car represented a real step forward for the company at launch, as the 308 went from the lower half of its class to a genuine contender overnight.
The car is relaxing to drive, inspiring confidence with its pleasant ride quality and fluid handling. Nearly every engine is excellent, too, with the latest Peugeot PureTech petrol turbos being right on the pace of the traditionally fine BlueHDi diesels. For the first time, a petrol engine may be the better choice for many private buyers.
Inside, the 308 is very well finished and has a high-quality feel; it’s good to look at and nice to the touch. There are some real highlights: the tiny steering wheel is genuinely different and takes some getting used to, as does the central infotainment touchscreen, which operates a vast array of functions, including the 308’s climate control system.
Passenger space isn’t as good as it could be in the rear, although the latest 308 does have a better boot than before. Equipment is generous as well, with every car apart from the base model featuring full-colour sat-nav and top models boasting standard kit normally associated with premium cars.
Overall, the latest Peugeot 308 is a top-notch family hatchback that should certainly be on your shortlist, alongside class favourites such as the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus. Just make sure the rear seats are practical enough for you before you sign on the dotted line.
The second-generation 308 is proving to be a real breakthrough car for Peugeot. It was the first model to benefit from the brand’s modern, high-quality ‘premium’ approach, and represented a significant step on from its dumpy predecessor at launch in 2014; it has gone on to rightly win real favour among car buyers.
Strong showroom appeal plays a major role here. The stylish, classy 308 is understated, but ditching the ‘semi-tall’ design of the previous-generation model in favour of a sleeker, more conventional look has done wonders for the car’s appeal. Inside, too, the latest 308 has a smart, premium appearance, plus it comes packed with equipment as standard.
It battles against the big players in the competitive family hatchback market: the likes of the Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf and Vauxhall Astra, plus the SEAT Leon and Renault Megane. The Peugeot was given a real USP over these rivals in 2014 when it was awarded the coveted European Car of the Year crown by a panel of independent judges.
Based on the same lightweight PSA Peugeot-Citroen platform that underpins the fine Citroen C4 Picasso people carrier, the Mk2 308 is up to 140kg lighter than the first-generation model (a car launched in 2007 to replace the 307). This ensures performance is strong but, more importantly, means the car delivers exceptional fuel economy – further helped by Peugeot’s hi-tech PureTech petrol and BlueHDi turbodiesel engines.
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There are five core trims in the 308 line-up, as well as the range-topping GTi by Peugeot Sport models. The entry-level version is called Access, and from there you can move up through Active and Allure to GT Line and GT trims. Peugeot also sells the 308 as an SW estate, although there’s no longer a coupe-convertible to replace the old 308 CC; the market for those cars has dried up.
Engines, performance and drive
The latest 308 drives very strongly indeed, with a balance of ride and handling that competes with the class leaders. As indicated by the classy looks and interior, the focus of the mainstream models is on good cruising comfort over long distances: low noise levels, a supple ride and good stability make the Peugeot a fuss-free choice in everyday use.
It’s not soft or soggy, though. The car is much sharper to drive than older 308s, with decent turn-in and fair agility in corners. Over-assisted, artificial-feeling steering does cloak some of this, but it’s still an enjoyable car that doesn’t roll or wallow over twisting roads. And as road surfaces get worse, so the suspension’s ability to isolate you improves.
GT models are firmer (their suspension is up to 10mm lower than on the equivalent GT Line version), but they remain comfortable, and the GT’s larger 18-inch alloys can give a more comfortable ride than models on smaller rims. The extra grip of this version is welcome and it’s a convincing warm hatch.
Stepping things up again is the 308 GTi, with a very focused chassis that proves Peugeot still knows what it takes to make a great hot hatch.
Peugeot offers a choice of six petrol engines and four diesels in the 308. Diesels are generally more popular with larger Peugeots, and buyers can pick from 1.6 or 2.0-litre BlueHDi versions, in two different power outputs.
The 1.6-litre BlueHDi four-cylinder comes in either 99bhp or 118bhp guise: on the core 308 Active model, the price difference between the two is around £1,000. The BlueHDi 100 feels like an entry-level engine in terms of performance, too. It claims 0-62mph in 11.3 seconds and a top speed of 116mph. Peak torque of 254Nm comes in nice and early at 1,750rpm, but it isn’t the most muscular engine. It also only has a five-speed gearbox.
The 1.6 BlueHDi 120 has a six-speed gearbox and the enhanced performance to back it up: 0-62mph takes 9.7 seconds and top speed is 122mph. It’s also more torquey, delivering 300Nm at 1,750rpm, plus its peak power comes in 250rpm earlier than on the BlueHDi 100, at an accessible 3,500rpm. This makes it the better, more well rounded engine, although both 1.6-litre diesels are smooth, fuss-free and impressively refined.
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Peugeot also offers the 1.6 BlueHDi 120 with its six-speed Efficient Automatic Transmission, or EAT6. This is a generally smooth and slick-shifting automatic gearbox (it’s much smoother and less frustratingly jerky than Peugeot’s earlier automated manual gearboxes), with steering wheel shift paddles in support. It adds around £1,000 to the price, which is a bit easier to swallow than the usual £1,500 extra for a ‘full’ auto. Surprisingly, it makes the diesel marginally faster from 0-62mph than the manual, cutting its time to 9.5 seconds.
The 2.0-litre engine, offered in 148bhp BlueHDi 150 and 178bhp BlueHDi 180 guise, is a little gruffer, but its stronger performance makes this easy to forgive. The 148bhp version claims 0-62mph in 8.9 seconds and a 132mph top speed. It also produces a much meatier 370Nm of torque at 2,000rpm, making this version a good choice if you regularly travel with passengers or want to drive long distances with a lack of fuss.
The BlueHDi 150 is offered with the EAT6 automatic gearbox alongside the regular six-speed manual. The auto works well with the torquey diesel engine and, again, helps to cut its 0-62mph time, to 8.6 seconds.
The BlueHDi 180 is only available with the EAT6 box. This engine produces its 178bhp a little earlier, at 3,750rpm, although it only has 30Nm more torque. For this reason, acceleration isn’t significantly better – 0-62mph takes 8.4 seconds – but the extra top-end power shows through in the higher 137mph top speed; the BlueHDi 150 tops out at 132mph.
The six petrol engine choices are focused around two core units, the 1.2-litre PureTech and 1.6-litre PureTech. The 1.2-litre engine is a three-cylinder unit, available in non-turbo 81bhp guise or, with a turbo, as 108bhp PureTech 110 and 128bhp PureTech 130 motors.
Avoid the PureTech 82 unless you’re purely focused on list price. It’s slow, taking 13.3 seconds to cover 0-62mph, and 118Nm of pulling power won’t cope well with laden family trips. The 108bhp PureTech 110 turbo is far superior: 0-62mph takes 11.1 seconds, it has a 10mph higher top speed of 117mph and offers almost twice the torque, at 205Nm, delivered at just 1,500rpm.
The PureTech 130 lifts things further, with 0-62mph taking 9.6 seconds, a top speed of 129mph and torque swelling to 230Nm. It also has a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, or the optional EAT6. All PureTech engines have a pleasant throbbing engine note and the torque of the turbo makes them easy to drive and impressively refined. They’re very grown-up, appealing engines.
The sporty-feeling 1.6-litre PureTech comes with either 202bhp, 248bhp or 267bhp, all delivered at an identical (and revvy) 6,000rpm. Even the PureTech 205 does 0-62mph in 7.5 seconds – a significant performance step up over any other 308 engine. The GTi PureTech 250 does it in 6.2 seconds and the GTi PureTech 270 in just 6.0 seconds, with both hitting a 155mph top speed. A healthy torque output of between 285Nm and 330Nm from less than 2,000rpm proves that this motor is as flexible as it is powerful – again, it’s ultra-smooth and appealing to use, too.
Curiously, the 1.6-litre PureTech is the only engine in the 308 not to be offered with the EAT6 automatic option: all versions are hooked up to the six-speed manual only. We think the auto box would suit it well.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
Excellent fuel economy makes the Peugeot 308 one of the stars of the family hatchback market. Again, the diesel versions stand out most, particularly the BlueHDi 120 – in its most fuel efficient guise, it claims an amazing official figure of 91.1mpg. Even the Allure model, with its larger 16-inch alloys, averages 88.3mpg according to Peugeot, pushing CO2 emissions up from 82g/km to just 84g/km.
Indeed, the manual version of the BlueHDi 120 is more fuel efficient than the EAT6 automatic alternative, which claims 80.7mpg, and the lower-power BlueHDi 100, with its 78.5mpg official returns. Both are still competitive, though, and again emit less than 100g/km of CO2, for free road tax. Impressively, 1.6-litre BlueHDi 308s with larger 17-inch and 18-inch alloys also get under the magic 100g/km CO2 emissions mark.
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There’s a sub-100g/km 2.0-litre BlueHDi 150 model, too: with the manual gearbox, it claims a superb 78.5mpg, plus it promises 0-62mph in 8.9 seconds. Coincidentally, Peugeot says both EAT6 automatic 2.0-litre BlueHDi versions average 70.6mpg, which means not a single diesel 308 claims economy of less than 70mpg.
Petrol engines are equally impressive. The non-turbo 1.2-litre PureTech 82 is perhaps the exception – this has official economy of only 56.5mpg – but adding a turbo sees the PureTech 110 rocket up to 70.6mpg. This petrol engine has low CO2 emissions as well; its 95g/km output means exemption from road tax. The swifter PureTech 130 claims 62.8mpg.
Even high-performance 1.6-litre PureTech versions of the 308 deliver strong efficiency. The 202bhp model averages 50.4mpg and emits a fleet-friendly 130g/km of CO2, while the 267bhp engine in the GTi claims a highly impressive 47.1mpg and 139g/km emissions.
There’s a broad line-up of 308 models, and a wide range of insurance groups as a result. They start at just 9E for the low-performance 1.2-litre PureTech 82; specifying a turbo only adds three insurance groups, with the Active coming in at 12E and the Allure (featuring larger alloys and more equipment) in group 13. PureTech 130 versions start at insurance group 14E.
For petrol engines, there’s then a big jump to the 1.6-litre PureTech, reflecting its much stronger performance. The PureTech 205 is in group 26E and the GTi models both sit in group 34E.
Diesel versions will have steeper premiums than their petrol equivalents, perhaps because insurers feel their higher-mileage drivers pose a greater risk. The BlueHDi 100 is in group 16E, and this rises to group 19E for the BlueHDi 120. Here, Allure and GT Line trim jump two groups, to 21E, which is worth bearing in mind when you’re in the showroom.
The 2.0-litre BlueHDi 150 starts at group 25E, with the fancy BlueHDi 180 EAT6 GT weighing in at group 29E – high for a 178bhp diesel.
Unlike some older Peugeots, the 308 is predicted to hold on to its value pretty well. On average, it retains around 39 per cent of its new list price after three years, and there’s not much difference between petrol and diesel variants, which reflects the enhanced appeal of the PureTech engines over earlier, older versions.
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The stars of the range are the GTi versions, whose new-to-market, high-performance appeal is reflected by a retained value of over 45 per cent. But even the 1.6-litre BlueHDi 120 Active is predicted to hold on to over 40 per cent of its showroom price; moving up the range sees the retained value drop, so don’t get carried away if you want to maximise your return come resale time.
As if to demonstrate this, experts predict that the 1.2-litre PureTech 82 will hold on to over 43 per cent of its list price. So while this affordable entry-level model isn’t a particularly strong performer on the road, it delivers as an ownership proposition.
Interior, design and technology
Peugeot has given the 308 a high-quality interior that’s modern and stylish in design. It’s more modern and contemporary than the slightly traditional layout of a Volkswagen Golf, while the premium materials and fit and finish seem right up there with the class-leading hatchback, too. It’s a very impressive achievement by Peugeot.
The dashboard has a couple of real highlights. The instruments are novel, with the rev counter operating in a ‘reverse’ direction to the speedo. This is odd at first, as it’s unlike any other car on the road, but it’s a cool touch once you’re familiar with it. As with the 208, the steering wheel is also ultra-small so you view the dials above it rather than through it. Again, you have to get used to this.
In the centre of the soft-touch dash are some beautiful details, such as the sleek centre console surround and fancy air vents – but very few buttons. Everything, including the heater dials and stereo buttons, has been centralised in the high-resolution touchscreen in the middle. Once again, it’s something you have to ‘learn’: pressing two or three buttons just to change the heater temperature is fiddly at first. The system does work smoothly, though, and is nicely presented. It gives the 308 a hi-tech feel.
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All versions are well equipped. The base Access gets DAB, USB and Bluetooth connectivity, air-con, cruise control and LED daytime running lights. Active ups the equipment further, with climate control, rear parking sensors, automatic headlights and wipers, plus 16-inch alloy wheels. Allure adds full LED headlights, front parking sensors, power-fold door mirrors, a space-saving electric parking brake and 17-inch alloys.
The sporty-looking GT Line includes visual extras, such as 18-inch alloys, dark-tint windows, twin exhaust trim and aluminium detailing inside. The GT goes further: it’s lowered, and the front foglights are replaced by cooling air intakes. Plus, inside there’s a Driver Sport Pack – press its sport button and the steering gets heavier, the throttle sharper and the dials turn from white to red. It also has a Driver Assistance Pack with autonomous emergency braking and radar cruise control. As for GTi models, they include all the high-performance extras you’d expect of a luxury modern hot hatch.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
A key selling point of the 308 is the fact that sat-nav is standard early on in the range – it features on the key Active model, which is one up from base Access trim. Peugeot even includes five years’ mapping updates with the 9.7-inch colour touchscreen system.
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The trouble is, some owners are put off by the set-up’s complexity. This was reflected in the Auto Express Driver Power 2015 satisfaction survey, where the 308 ranked only 47th for in-car technology – perhaps a bit disappointing for Peugeot given the car’s reliance on the touchscreen system for so many of its major functions.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
The latest 308 is more practical than earlier models. The new platform gives a better driving position and more flexibility, although the back seats could still be roomier. Peugeot seems to have traded rear passenger space for boot capacity: if you want a better all-rounder for passengers and luggage, try the Peugeot 308 SW with its longer wheelbase.
Owners were a bit lukewarm on the 308’s seat comfort when responding to the Auto Express Driver Power 2015 satisfaction survey. They told us it’s merely adequate. Still, the seats themselves are nicely finished, while low engine noise ensures impressive refinement on the move, adding to the classy, premium feel inside the car.
It doesn’t look it, but the Peugeot 308 is a little bit shorter and narrower than the class norm. It’s 105mm shorter and 19mm narrower than a Ford Focus, and is a touch lower as well. This perhaps explains why interior space isn’t quite as good as it could be, particularly in the rear. Compared to the 4,465mm long Mazda 3, the 308 looks a bit short, at 4,253mm. It’s significant that the 308 SW estate has around 110mm added to the length of its wheelbase…
The 308 is a light car, though, with the 1.6 BlueHDi 120 Active model weighing in at just 1,205kg. A few years ago, this is the kind of figure we would have associated with a supermini, and shows the lightweight efficiencies of the new PSA Peugeot-Citroen EMP2 platform on which the 308 is based.
The styling does make it hard to take full advantage of the car’s slightly more compact size, though: the back window is narrow and the C-pillars thick, and both compromise rear visibility.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
The Peugeot is rather disappointing for passengers in the rear, as a result of its length and focus on maximising boot space. The rear doors are big enough, but there could be more space between the front and rear seats; climbing aboard can be a bit tricky. Foot space isn’t great, either, and the low-set rear bench only adds to the tight feel inside.
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Getting out can be a struggle, too, particularly if you have bigger feet, and this is one of the few family cars in which adults in the rear may be asking those in the front to slide their seats forward. At least headroom isn’t bad – unless you choose the panoramic roof, that is. Take note if you’re looking at Active models and above, where it’s a temptingly priced £500 option.
On paper, the 308 has a very spacious boot, offering 470 litres with the seats up and 1,185 litres once they’re folded. But this is a little misleading, as the shape of the boot doesn’t quite allow owners to make full use of the space. This isn’t the estate-rivalling luggage bay the figures suggest.
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The 308 does offer extra hidden space below the load area, which is handy, but it’s a pity this versatility hasn’t been extended to the interior. The glovebox is tiny and the armrest cubbyhole, normally a useful stowage space, is also cramped.
Reliability and Safety
Our Driver Power satisfaction survey suggests that the latest 308 is a pretty reliable car. In 2015, it ranked 17th overall, and placed 30th in the reliability category – a strong result for a Peugeot. A build quality score of 24th was even better.
Even though the car was crash tested in 2013, when Euro NCAP’s assessments were tougher than in previous years, it was still awarded a full five-star safety score. Adult protection was rated an excellent 92 per cent, and child protection at 79 per cent. Pedestrian protection was a middling 64 per cent, but testers rated the safety assist systems more highly, and awarded a score of 81 per cent.
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The 308 has a speed assistance system as standard; more recent options include blind spot warning and the Driver Assistance Pack. Peugeot’s full LED headlights, standard on high-spec models, deserve praise for their superb night-time visibility, too.
A conventional three-year warranty comes as standard with all 308 models. This consists of a two-year/unlimited-mileage Peugeot package, and an additional year’s cover provided by Peugeot’s UK dealer network. Why is this? Because the third year is administered by an insurer, rather than Peugeot itself: terms and conditions vary a little, but the warranties are generally identical – albeit limited to 60,000 miles in the third year.
Peugeot offers long service intervals for the 308, but they are dependent on the engine you choose, so take note. The 1.2-litre petrol and 1.6-litre diesel models need maintenance every year or 16,000 miles, while it’s every 20,000 miles for the 1.6-litre petrol and 2.0-litre diesel. A general rule of thumb is that the bigger the engine in the diesel and petrol range, the longer the intervals – and this has been done at least in part with high-mileage company car drivers in mind.