Peugeot 308 SW

Seven-seat estate rivals some MPVs with its practicality.

Take a look at the 308 SW’s measurements, and you will quickly realise why it’s our space-per-pound winner in the compact family car class.

While many manufacturers make estate versions of their family hatches by simply welding on a boxy rear end, Peugeot has gone the extra mile – the SW’s wheelbase is 100mm longer than the hatch’s, and a taller body means it’s 57mm higher. Larger rear doors complete the unique body, and mean the overhang at the back is 124mm bigger, too.

As a result, the 308 looks bulbous from behind. Bosses claim the large curved screen is the world’s largest one-piece opening rear window, though – so the trade-off for the ugly tailgate is that the boot can be loaded in tight spaces without opening the hatch.

The load area is big – with 600 litres of space beneath the luggage cover, it’s 118 litres larger than a Ford Focus Estate. On top of that, the middle row of seats slides forward to increase volume by 74 litres, while you can specify a pair of third row chairs, too.

Peugeot calls them ‘occasional seats’, and space is so tight, they are only suitable for children. Fortunately, as with the three middle row chairs, they can be independently folded, tumbled or removed altogether.

While the seats are heavy to lift out, it’s worth the effort, as the SW has a maximum capacity of 2,149 litres in two-seat form. Only the van-based Doblo can better that in this test! The load lip is the same height as the big Fiat’s, too, at 540mm, and this low bumper takes the strain out of heaving in weighty items.

Up front, the 308’s cabin is smart and relatively upmarket. While there are too many small buttons on the dash, the simple three-spoke steering wheel and large dials mean the driving environment is hassle free. Although the suspension has been carried over from the 308 hatchback, the set-up has been optimised for the SW’s increased weight and higher centre of gravity. Yet despite the tweaks, you can still sense that it’s a bigger and less agile car.

The steering is sharp but slightly artificial, while the ride is smooth if not class-leading. Compare it to some compact MPVs, though, and the Peugeot is reasonably engaging. Plus, only the worst of bumps upset the suspension enough to send shocks into the cabin.

With a line-up of two petrol engines and three diesels, plus three trim levels, the SW comes in a guise to suit everybody. No other compact family estate will work as hard for your money.

Details

Price: £14,395-£20,845Model tested: Peugeot 308 SW

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