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 hatch was crowned European Car of the Year in March, and the company has just introduced the SW estate version to the range.
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 308 SW is around 33cm longer than the hatchback, but unlike some estates the extra length is not just plonked on the back behind the rear axle.
The wheelbase has also been extended to improve rear passenger space and this helps to balance the sleek design. It still looks quite conservative though – and even with the big alloys and LED headlights of the top-spec models this is still a car that handsomely blends in rather than standing out.
Inside, the interior has some lovely design touches, with an aluminium gear knob, hardly any buttons on the dash and a big 9.7-inch touchscreen to control all the major functions. There are some cheap plastics in evidence still – but for the most part it feels classy and modern inside, and it’s a massive step forward compared to the old 308 in terms of quality.
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. It revs smoothly and quietly, is really flexible in-gear and fun to drive on the right road. 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 manual gearboxes do feel a little loose and not as precise as rivals like the VW Golf though, and the artificially quick steering has a tendency to self-centre that can make it feel a little twitchy at higher speeds too. The low speed ride is comfortable and controlled, but cars fitted with the larger alloy wheels are noticeably firmer around town, and any bumps in the surface are a lot more pronounced.
Grip is ok depending which tyres you choose, but there is some body roll in the corners, still driven at a more steady pace the 308 SW is every inch the comfortable family cruiser.
Peugeot still has some work to do to improve its reputation in this area, and although the new 308 SW seems much better built than the outgoing car some questions linger as to its overall durability.
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 new three-cylinder engine and gearboxes are untried, so it might take a few months to find out if there are any early production kinks that need ironing out.
Like the hatchback, the 308 was awarded a full five star safety rating by crash testers Euro NCAP, and it has several active safety systems that help to lower your insurance premiums, although these are only available as options on the top two trims – so not everyone gets the full benefit.
Any family estate is measured on how much stuff it can hold and the new Peugeot 308 SW performs extremely well in this area.
The standard boot can hold 610-litres of luggage, with a 70-litre cubbyhole below the boot floor (as long as you don’t opt for a spare wheel). The rear seats fold down totally flat with a single pull of a handle in the boot, and the loading lip is very low and wide, which makings putting heavy or awkward items in the boot a breeze.
With the seats folded down the SW can carry an even more impressive 1,610 litres of stuff, so only the Honda Civic Tourer and Skoda Octavia estate are even more cavernous. The rear seats have been mounted 29mm further back than in the hatch, so rear passengers get a touch more legroom than before, but the bench is quite high and firm, so it can take a while to get comfortable.
All round visibility is good though, and although it takes a while to find a comfortable driving position thanks to the tiny steering wheel and high clutch pedal, there is enough adjustment to make eventually finding the right spot possible with work.
The optional panoramic sunroof floods the cabin with light, but does also eat into the rear headroom, so it’s worth avoiding if you plan to regularly have passengers sat in the back.
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.