Peugeot's improved 308 remains a very competitive family hatch. Jonathan Crouch looks at the revised version.
The Peugeot 308 continues to deliver a well executed family hatchback formula that offers a focus on refinement, interior quality and efficiency. That's enough to keep it reasonably competitive against the Ford and Volkswagen class leaders, helped by the fact that the French brand has kept its engine technology well up to date. There's a level of self-confidence and, yes, desirability here that just works.
This second generation 'T9'-series Peugeot 308 has been on sale since 2013, but the brand has continually improved it, most recently with the minor range of updates we look at here. So where does that leave this car? Well it depends what you look for in an Astra-sized family hatchback. If it's driving excitement, you'll find it in a Ford Focus. If it's sheer value, then you're more likely to be drawn towards cars like Hyundai's i30 or Kia's Ceed. But what if your priorities are a bit more relaxed? You want an expensive feel. An absorbent ride. A laid back demeanour. And a car that makes you feel you're in something much nicer. Perhaps, just perhaps, you want a 308.
As before, the car runs on the PSA Group's hi-tech EMP2 ('Efficient Modular Platform 2'), underpinnings that support a smart, still classy-looking body. Should family hatch buyers still take this car seriously? Let's check it out.
Peugeot has refined the mainstream 308 engine line-up down into the two units that actually sell, namely the 1.2-litre three cylinder PureTech petrol unit (offered in 110 and 130hp guises). And the 1.5-litre four cylinder BlueHDi diesel (offered in 100hp and 130hp forms). The higher-powered units in each case are offered with and optional EAT8 auto gearbox. The full-fat Gti hot hatch still continues too, with its older petrol 1.6-litre THP unit in 263bhp guise, with 340Nm of torque.
Dynamically, the 308 has never really been a car for the hard charger. Instead, it's a family hatchback that's more about refinement and a relaxed gait. The suspension carries no great surprises, with a standard front strut and rear torsion beam arrangement. Peugeot has fitted rear trailing arms that allow greater longitudinal arc in the wheel travel. It sounds esoteric but it makes for a smoother ride when the rear wheels hit ridges or bumps. The electrically-assisted power steering is geared towards ease of use rather than detailed feedback but perhaps that's just as well. It makes the 308 very comfortable around town in the sort of usage it will mostly see.
There are no visual changes to this revised 308, but there are revised wheel designs and you can make the car look quite a lot different with a new 'Black pack' option, which enables you to change the majority of the exterior chrome trim to black. Otherwise, the five-door hatch and SW estate body styles are much as before, featuring a sleek bonnet that flows into a vertical grille that has a central Lion badge and the 'Peugeot' name sculpted into the upper trim. The elliptical headlights come with integrated daytime running light LEDs to produce a distinctive front light signature. This car has a mature, confident look. It's not trying too hard. We like that.
The interior retains the 'i-Cockpit' design that sees the driver looking the instruments over the top of the steering wheel. What's different though, is the installation of a 10-inch instrument binnacle screen. And as usual, there's also a 9.7-inch centre dash colour monitor incorporating 'Mirror Screen' technology which allows you to connect in your smartphone using the 'Android Auto'/'MirrorLink' or 'Apple CarPlay' systems. There's also a fast-acting navigation system with voice control that connects into the TomTom real time traffic monitoring service.
Other features are as before. The over-sized manual gear knob feels a bit awward but space all round is more than adequate and the 470-litre boot is excellent. If you need more space, there's a 308 SW estate variant with a 660-litre boot extendable to 1,660-litres with the rear bench folded.
There are two body styles - five-door hatch and SW estate. And prices range in the £22,000 to £32,000 bracket and there's a choice between three main trim levels, each of which can be completed by an intermediate 'Premium' trim option. Even the most basic models include a 9.7-inch centre-dash capacitive touchscreen with 3D navigation, Bluetooth connectivity and voice recognition. Plus there's air conditioning, remote central door locking, cruise control with speed limiter, a DAB digital radio, LED daylight running lights and rear parking sensors.
The driving assistance portfolio is worthy of a car from a larger segment, including Adaptive cruise control with Stop & Go function. And Peugeot's 'Visiopark with 180-degree' rear view camera and Park Assist function, which measures the parking space available and automatically steers the car in and out. Camera safety kit includes a latest-generation automatic emergency braking and collision risk warning system. And Active lane departure warning (or roadside warning) with lane correction from 40mph onwards. There's also Driver Attention Alert, Automatic Smart Beam Assist, Speed sign recognition and recommendation and an Active blind spot monitoring system
The 308 has always been among the more efficient family hatches you could choose - and nothing's changed on that front. Let's get to the WLTP figures - which we'll quote for the hatch. The base petrol 1.2-litre PureTech versions manage around 51mpg on the combined cycle and up to 126g/km of CO2. High-precision injection control on the PureTech Stop&Start unit enhances combustion efficiency: exhaust gases go through a catalytic converter then a passive-regeneration gasoline particle filter.
And diesel? Well Peugeot's 1.5-litre BlueHDi four-cylinder unit implements at-source and at-exhaust emission control. Combustion efficiency is improved by a patented combustion chamber design, the efficacy of which was amply proven under competition conditions in the 24-hour Le Mans event. Further efficiency gains are afforded by the SCR (Selective Catalytic Reduction) pollution control system, fitted as close as possible to the engine for the fastest possible post-treatment action. As a result of all this, the 1.5-litre BlueHDi 100 diesel manages up to 64.6mpg and the 130hp version 62.7mpg, both variants managing up to 119g/km of CO2.
The Peugeot 308 has developed in an interesting manner. In many respects, it has quietly morphed into something very slick, something quintessentially French, despite being benchmarked against a Golf. If you enjoy flinging your car along the twistiest road you can find, a Focus will doubtless deliver a bigger hit. Having said that, the 308's laid-back demeanour and long-legged loping gait, attributes that hark back to classic Peugeots of the distant past, are actually qualities more in tune with the way we use cars today.
Prices are a little higher than we'd like but aside from that, there aren't too many caveats. The diesel engines are hugely economical and the three-cylinder petrol units characterful and fun. Peugeot's biggest challenge will come in delivering three-year residual values that will make this 308 as affordable to run as a Golf. That's not the work of a moment, but if this 308 is anything to go by, the French company is certainly moving in the right direction.
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