Peugeot 308 SW review

Our Rating: 
4
4.0/5.0
2014 model
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

The 308 SW is a well equipped family estate with an efficient range of engines and a smart interior

For: 
Superb practicality, smooth diesel engine, low CO2 emissions.
Against: 
Awkward driving position, mixed cabin quality, bumpy low speed ride.

There’s no doubt the latest 308 SW is a better proposition than the first generation car it replaced. It replaces its predecessor’s slack-jawed look with crisp, elegant styling as well as a great deal of load space for an attractive price.

There’s a strong engine line-up too, especially if you’re looking for an economical diesel, although the over-soft ride and lacklustre handling don’t meet the standards of the best in class. Equipment levels are high but the touchscreen system could do with a little more development.

With build quality much improved, and reliability getting the thumbs up from owners in our Driver Power survey, the 308 SW should appeal to drivers looking for practical family transport. We’d pick the diesel-powered 1.6 BlueHDi 120 in Allure trim for its great mix of performance and economy.

Our Choice: 
Peugeot 308 SW 1.6 BlueHDi 120 Allure

The Peugeot 308 SW is based on the 308 hatch that was introduced late in 2013, so it looks stylish, while the engine range is tuned to deliver performance and efficiency.

Best estate cars

It’s a lot longer than the hatch, with a stretched wheelbase that means there is considerably more room inside. This model also benefits from the weight-saving developments applied to the latest generation of 308 hatch. Those changes have helped contribute to improvements in both running costs and the 308 SW’s driving dynamics.

The new SW also comes with a range of new powerplants, including a 1.6-litre diesel that emits just 85g/km of CO2 and a new three-cylinder PureTech turbo that is smoother and punchier than a Ford’s 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine.

A strong diesel engine line-up is an established Peugeot trademark, and the 308 SW is no exception with various power outputs on offer from the 98bhp 1.6-litre all the way up to a 178bhp 2.0-litre GT range-topper. The 308 SW also benefits from a new generation of six-speed automatic gearbox with Quickshift technology.

There are five trims to choose from - Access, Active, Allure, GT Line and GT - and most come very well equipped.

The Access is the entry-point, and even that gets air-conditioning, one-touch electric windows, cruise control, DAB radio and Bluetooth. The Active adds 16-inch alloys, dual zone climate control, parking sensors, auto headlamps and a 9.7-inch touchscreen sat-nav. Allure brings 17-inch alloys, roof rails, fog lamps and LED headlamps, while the GT Line takes the wheels up to 18 inches and adds tinted glass, LED sequential indicators and LED fog lamps, a reversing camera and sporty interior details.

The range-topping GT is the only 308 SW to be offered with the 178bhp diesel engine, and it also features a slightly lower ride height, red stitching on the steering wheel and a driver assistance pack with dynamic cruise control and emergency brake assist.

On top of its extensive kit list, the 308 SW is priced competitively to undercut mainstream rivals like the Volkswagen Golf Estate and the Honda Civic Tourer.

Engines, performance and drive

3.7
Excellent engine efficiency, but the chassis dynamics are uninspired so the drive could be better

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’s 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. The top-spec GT model is only available with a 2.0-litre BlueHDi diesel with 178bhp, which is mated to a six-speed auto gearbox.

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 it 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.

Engines

The 308 SW’s three-cylinder turbocharged ‘PureTech’ petrol engine comes in two guises offering 109bhp and 128bhp respectively – the latter available with manual or auto transmission. 0-62mph takes 11.6 seconds for the smaller engine, and 10 seconds for the more powerful version – and specifying the Quickshift auto shaves another half a second off that time.

The full BlueHDi diesel line-up includes the 99bhp 1.6 with 5-speed manual gears only, the 118bhp 1.6 with 6-speed manual and auto options, and two versions of a 2.0-litre unit. First up is the 148bhp version which comes with the choice of manual or auto gears, while the range-topping 178bhp engine is only available as an auto. 0-62mph times range from 12.8 seconds to 8.6 seconds, depending on your choice. 

MPG, CO2 and running costs

4.2
Superb fuel economy means low running costs, but depreciation will be a sting in the tail

The new Peugeot 308 SW is lighter than most of its mainstream rivals thanks to a drastic weight saving scheme during its design, and the estate is 140kg lighter than the car it replaces.

That added lightness combined with a body that has been shaped to be more aerodynamic than before helps produce official fuel economy that is really exceptional. The 1.6 BlueHDi version has a decent 114bhp but will return a 88.3mpg on the combined cycle when fitted with the ultra-low rolling resistance tyres that are standard on cars with 16-inch wheels.

The entry-level 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.

Insurance groups

Insurance cover should be reasonable for most versions of the 308 SW as its group ratings start at 13 for the PureTech petrol Access trim level. The 2.0 GT is predictably more expensive to cover in group 29.

Depreciation

In spite of some notable sporty models in its fairly recent history, Peugeot as a brand has generally failed to set pulses racing. This is reflected in its relatively poor performance on the used market, although the 308 SW shouldn’t fare much differently to a similarly spec’d Ford Focus. It won’t look after your money like a VW Golf will though.

Interior, design and technology

4.1
The 308 SW's elegant exterior lines are a marked improvement on its predecessor

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 on this estate, 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. Full LED headlights are standard on Allure models and above, while the top-spec GT model adds lowered suspension and a racy bodykit to mark it out from the rest of the range.

Inside, the Peugeot has an attractive dash design. The high-set dials are only just visible over the small steering wheel, while the large touchscreen groups the multimedia and climate controls together to leave the centre console uncluttered. An electric parking brake is fitted as standard on higher-spec models, freeing space for storage. 

Some models are available with the £500 optional panoramic glass roof, which does a great job of brightening up the cabin, while the electric sunshade also diffuses the light to keep things feeling airy when it’s not in use. As well as looking good, the 308’s interior feels well built, with high-quality plastics present throughout and some subtle metal trim adding a classy touch. 

Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment

All 308 SWs have DAB digital radio and Bluetooth, but only the entry-level Access has a standard CD player (integrated). Move up to the Active and beyond and you get a 9.7 inch touchscreen based system that includes satnav with 5 years of map updates, but a CD player becomes a cost option. Peugeot Connect Apps is an optional feature on all models that allows you to access Trip Advisor info on points of interest, as well as Michelin traffic info.

Practicality, comfort and boot space

4.2
There's plenty of room for the big stuff, but the 308 SW could use a few more thoughtful touches

The 308 SW may have one of the biggest boots in its class, but there’s not been quite enough thought given to life inside the car. The glovebox is tiny, and Peugeot hasn’t been lavish with other storage compartments or cubbies.

Also the driving position takes a little getting used to, as you need to drop the small steering wheel down towards your knees to see the dials. At least visibility outside the car is good.

It’s also irritating that you can only adjust the climate control with the touchscreen. So 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’.

Size

The 308 SW’s 4,585mm length means it’s marginally bigger than the 4,562mm VW Golf Estate but a few mm shorter than the Honda Civic Tourer.

Leg room, head room & passenger space

Passenger space in the 308 SW is similar to that found in the rival SEAT Leon ST estate. That means there’s just about enough space for grown-ups, although back-seat passengers sit quite high on the flat bench so it feels like there’s less headroom. The headroom problem is worsened by the optional glass roof, so make sure you try sitting in the back before you buy.

Boot

The 308 SW’s 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.

Peugeot 308 SW long termer boot

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. Again, though, this solution seems a little cheap when compared to some rival systems.

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.

If you want to pull a caravan or trailer, the 308 SW’s towing capacities range from 1,100kgs to 1,500kgs depending on engine size.

Reliability and Safety

4
Latest Peugeot tech is ticking reliability boxes for owners, and the 308 scores five stars for safety

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 architecture. Owners placed the new 308 hatch on which the SW is based 17th overall out of 200 cars in our Driver Power 2015 satisfaction survey. The car’s reliability was ranked 30th, build quality ranked 24th and running costs and performance seem to have impressed owners too.

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 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 five-door 308 earned five stars in its Euro NCAP crash test, although its percentage scores are lower than the SEAT Leon’s. The 308 hatch scored 92 per cent for adult occupant safety, 79 per cent for child occupant safety, and 64 per cent for pedestrian safety. The Leon hatchback’s scores were 94 per cent, 92 per cent and 70 per cent respectively, and although the cars crash-tested were hatchbacks, the results ought to be a fair indication of the estate variants’ likely performance.

Six airbags are standard on the Peugeot, but collision alert and city braking are only optional on higher-spec cars.

Warranty

The Peugeot comes with the brand’s standard three year/60,000-mile warranty which looks pretty lame compared to the warranty commitment from Kia of seven-years/100,000 miles. To be fair though, the Peugeot warranty offer will serve the purposes of most owners.

Servicing

You can set-up an all-inclusive service plan on the 308 SW from just £19.99 per month, and other options include fixed price maintenance for items like brake pads and tyres. However you approach it, the 308 should be pretty cheap to run.

Last updated: 4 Feb, 2016
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