Peugeot 308 review
The Peugeot 308 is a family hatch back designed to rival top sellers like the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus
The all-new Peugeot 308 is intended to take Peugeot back to the top of the compact hatchback class. It’s bigger and more efficient than before, and aims to inject a bit of French flair into the mix, with a high-quality, stylish interior.
Previous Peugeot 308 models have struggled to match class-leading family hatchbacks such as the Volkswagen Golf, but this all-new version looks like a more impressive package. It gets a special lightweight chassis that saves up to 140kg compared to the old car (depending on which engine you choose) and also boosts efficiency.
A hi-tech interior and spacious 435-litre boot add to the appeal. Peugeot offers four trim levels on the latest 308, ranging from the basic, entry-level Access to the top-of-the-range Feline. The best sellers are likely to be the mid-spec Active and Allure, however.
Buyers enjoy a wide choice of engines - all very efficient - including two 'BlueHDi' diesels and two three-cylinder turbocharged petrols. The 308 range is also set to grow in 2014 with the addition of an estate and a five-door GTi hot hatch to rival the Golf GTi.
Our choice: Peugeot 308 1.6-litre e-HDi 115bhp Allure
The 308 has clearly taken inspiration from the elegant 208, although this isn’t just an enlarged supermini. The rear end is more upright and there are plenty of neat details. Top-spec Allure and Feline models get LED headlamps, but either way the slim lights and narrow grille are distinctive. Bulging rear wheelarches add an aggressive touch, while the small light clusters and slim rear screen are also smart.
Inside, the 308 maintains Peugeot’s current run of stylish design. The dashboard layout has a hexagonal theme and there aren’t many buttons – most systems are controlled via the touchscreen. This looks great, but you have to work your way through time-consuming sub-menus just to alter the cabin temperature.
Sadly, as in the 208, Peugeot has placed the dials high on the dash, and the steering wheel doesn’t adjust up enough for some people to see them through it. It’ll work okay for some, but you might need to lower the wheel – and then the rim obscures the odometer.
In terms of interior style, there’s little to separate the SEAT Leon and 308, but the Peugeot’s layout isn’t as easy to get along with. While
it feels generally well put together, some of the lower-level plastics seem a bit cheap. The fresh interior is certainly executed better than in rivals such as the Vauxhall Astra or Ford Focus.
There’s an all-new platform under the 308, and it’s been designed for a mix of cruising comfort and sharp handling. On the whole, it delivers. There’s decent turn-in and the chassis feels agile in corners. As with some of its rivals, you can’t turn off the stability control completely, but the system does allow the rear end to move around before it engages. There’s more body roll than in our Car of the Year, the SEAT Leon, and the 308 is unsettled by mid-corner bumps that don’t trouble the SEAT.
The Peugeot has the upper hand for cruising ability, though. While the 18-inch alloys on the Feline-spec models firm up the ride and add road noise at motorway speeds, the suspension generally soaks up imperfections well. Big bumps send a harsh thud through the cabin, but overall the 308’s softer set-up is more relaxing than the Leon’s on most surfaces.
Initially the Peugeot 308 is being offered with three petrol and two diesel engines, but this range will expand with the addition of small-capacity turbocharged petrols and ultra-efficient diesels in 2014. The 1.6-litre e-HDI 308 is the model to go for - it's clearly set up for comfort and refinement rather than outright pace. However, the diesel engine is hushed at higher speeds and returns well over 70mpg.
Peugeot's manual gearbox is less impressive, however, feeling a bit loose and imprecise at times. Keen drivers, however, will be better off waiting for the 308 GTI, which is set to arrive in 2014 and will be powered by the 270bhp 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine from the Peugeot RCZ-R.
French cars haven’t had the best reputation for reliability in the past, and even current Peugeots have been known to suffer from some annoying electrical issues. Owners of the smaller Peugeot 208 have reported problems with the dashboard touchscreen, so this is something to watch out for on the 308. On the plus side, it uses plenty of tried-and-tested components and you get the industry-standard three-year warranty.
The all-new 308 has obviously yet to prove itself, but Peugeot is set to use this platform for a number of future models, so extensive testing should mean it doesn’t suffer the reliability problems of its predecessors.
Peugeot dealers need to improve, though: in our Driver Power 2013 satisfaction survey, owners voted them 26th out of 31. The 308 has a five-star Euro NCAP rating, but only Allure and Feline models get the latest hi-tech safety systems.
This is one of the highlights of the new 308. Wide doors mean good access to the back seats, but 308s with the Cielo panoramic roof have very little headroom in the rear. Even average-height passengers will brush the roof with their heads.
Cabin storage isn’t great, either, with a small glovebox and armrest cubbyhole. The latter slides back and forth, but its locking catch nipped one of our testers’ fingers. Also, the narrow rear window and thick C-pillars hamper rearward visibility.
Sacrifices in the rear means boot capacity swells to an impressive 470 litres with the rear seats in place (including 35 litres in two under-floor storage bins). That’s a whole 90 litres more than the VW Golf.
Buyers seeking greater practicality should hold out for the 308 SW estate, which is scheduled to debut at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show and should go on sale in the spring.
A lighter body than most rivals – plus improved aerodynamics – help the new 308 to be one of the most efficient cars in its class. The 1.6-litre e-HDI model we suggest hits the magic 100g/km of CO2, meaning it’s exempt from road tax. The forthcoming BlueHDi will claims even better economy figures, returning a claimed 91mpg. Petrols are less impressive, with an average CO2 figure of 130g/km and a hike in running costs.
Sat-nav is standard, as are rear parking sensors and a digital radio. Peugeot doesn’t offer many extras on the 308, apart from metallic paint and the Cielo glass roof. If you want heated leather massage seats, you need pricier Allure or Feline spec, and even then they’re an option. A word of warning, though – the massage function isn’t particularly effective.
The 308 has never held on to its value very well, and our experts predict that it’ll lose around £1,000 more of its value than the Leon over three years of ownership.