Currently reading: New 2021 Peugeot 308 shows off dramatic design overhaul
Largely unwrapped hatchback prototype adopts Peugeot's new styling language and retro logo

New spy shots show the next-generation Peugeot 308 hatchback unwrapped ahead of its official unveiling in the coming weeks. 

With its camouflage partly removed, the Peugeot 308 reveals a bold new front end design that brings it into line with its Peugeot 208, Peugeot 2008 and Peugeot 508 siblings, featuring the fang-style daytime running lights and narrow LED headlights. As promised, it is also wearing the brand's retro-inspired new emblem, revealed two weeks ago ahead of its first production appearance on the Ford Focus rival. 

The 308 also swaps its protruding lower bumper for a rounded front end that incorporates Peugeot's new frameless grille. The roofline also appears to curve more steeply towards the rear than on the current car, which makes the hatchback appear longer and lower, while details including new wing mirrors, a subtle rear spoiler and a sharkfin-style aerial will round off the transformation. 

Recently departed Peugeot boss Jean-Philippe Imparato previously hinted that the 308 will build on the bold look of all other recent Peugeots: “We put the design first,” he said when describing why the brand's comeback has been so successful. “On top of all the investment choices, I protected the design. Then the brand image recovers.”

Peugeot 308 12

When it was launched in 2014, the current 308 kick-started the transformation of the entire Peugeot range with a more confident design approach. The successful, more daringly styled Peugeot 3008 followed, along with the 5008, 208 and 2008.

The next 308 is set to play that role again by laying the groundwork for a new era of Peugeots when it goes on sale in 2022, most likely after a public debut towards the end of 2021. It will be built on an updated version of the EMP2 platform that underpins more than a dozen PSA Group models and was originally introduced on today’s 308. 

PSA’s strategy so far has been for EMP2 models to be offered with plug-in hybrid technology and for smaller CMP models to come with dedicated electric versions, both offered alongside existing petrol and diesel variants.

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The 308 is set to get a plug-in hybrid drivetrain, mixing a 1.6-litre petrol engine with an electric motor to drive the front wheels in a mainstream variant. However, it’s a proposed second plug-in hybrid model that will interest enthusiasts.

This model, developed by the brand’s new PSE performance arm that has developed the Peugeot 508 PSE, would gain an additional electric motor on the rear axle – a set-up already used on the 3008 PHEV – to give the 308 four-wheel drive and create a new 300bhp-plus hot hatch version that would also receive a host of sporty chassis and styling upgrades to challenge the likes of the Volkswagen Golf R.

3 Peugeot 308 pse render 2020 static side

The PSE badge is set to appear first on a range-topping performance version of the 508. Should the 508 PSE be a success, Imparato told Autocar the PSE formula could be applied “on the 3008 and other cars”, a comment that alludes to the desire to extend it to the 308.

Success won't be judged on sales, either, but instead on the reputation and acclaim the PSE models receive. To that end, the PSE project is as much about “transforming electric cars” and the perception of them, because Imparato sees “a big opportunity for a line-up of sporty cars” in this mould.

The GTi badge won't be used on the 308 or any other Peugeots apart from the 208. Even then, it might be limited to the UK only and be based on the electric version as part of the company’s plans to switch PSE's involvement in its models to electrified powertrains only.

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The next 308 range will again include five-door hatchback and estate versions, with still no return for the likes of the 308 CC coupé-convertible seen in previous generations, due to the lack of profitability with such cars. “I love these cars but today there are three other topics first,” said Imparato, naming 5G connectivity and autonomous vehicle development alongside electrified models.

However, a crossover version of the 308 is a strong possibility for Peugeot. It has noted the success of the Mercedes-Benz GLA, effectively a raised version of the Mercedes-A-Class hatchback. In addition, fellow PSA brand DS is planning both hatchback and crossover versions of its new DS 4 A-Class/GLA rival, which is due later this year with a shared body-in-white. There’s enough of a gap between the 308 and larger 3008 SUV to make such a car a reality.

Peugeot 308 14

Updated petrol and diesel engines will continue to be offered alongside the plug-in hybrids. Peugeot is still committed to diesel and is even offering it in its new 208 and 2008 models at a time when many rivals are abandoning the fuel at this end of the market.

An electric version of the 308 may be on the cards too, as Imparato hinted late last year in an interview with Automotive News Europe: “It [the 308] will be a plug-in hybrid first but could perhaps later have a full-electric drivetrain. Our compact and mid-size cars will have plug-in hybrid drivetrains, because it’s a smoother way to switch from internal combustion to electric.”

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Inside, the style-led formula will continue with an updated version of Peugeot’s i-Cockpit design, adapted from that of the newer 3008 and 508.

Peugeot will be hoping for much greater sales success for the 308 in the UK, though, where it has struggled. “This car was Car of the Year in 2014 and has been a huge sales success in Europe,” said Imparato. “It’s not as strong in the UK, where it deserves more than a 2.5% market share.”


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Mark Tisshaw

Title: Editor

Mark is a journalist with more than a decade of top-level experience in the automotive industry. He first joined Autocar in 2009, having previously worked in local newspapers. He has held several roles at Autocar, including news editor, deputy editor, digital editor and his current position of editor, one he has held since 2017.

From this position he oversees all of Autocar’s content across the print magazine, website, social media, video, and podcast channels, as well as our recent launch, Autocar Business. Mark regularly interviews the very top global executives in the automotive industry, telling their stories and holding them to account, meeting them at shows and events around the world.

Mark is a Car of the Year juror, a prestigious annual award that Autocar is one of the main sponsors of. He has made media appearances on the likes of the BBC, and contributed to titles including What Car?Move Electric and Pistonheads, and has written a column for The Sun.

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124spider 9 March 2021

Something weird going on with the front wing.  It's not very photogenic.  Hope it's part of the disguise as it looks like it's been damaged.  Apart from that I'm liking the design of most of the recent pugs they are getting back on track.  Now the premium has become mundane people may look beyond the badge and see that other manufacturers have something to offer.  

Pietro Cavolonero 8 March 2021

Why are cars getting so fugly? If this was a Chinese design ten years ago how we would have laughed

Pawel72 9 March 2021

It some shots  seems that optical zoom distorts the perspective.., let's wait official and high quality photos ..!

In any case all new Peugeots looks handsome..! :)

Pawel72 9 March 2021

In some shots  seems that optical zoom distorts the perspective.., let's wait and see official and high quality photos ..!

In any case all new Peugeots looks handsome..! :)

Tycoon 8 March 2021

The frogs really do struggle with designing nice cars don't they

Andrew1 8 March 2021
At least they have what to design, unlike the Brits who just comment.
Pietro Cavolonero 8 March 2021

Que? The world is full of British car designers, let's hope it wasn't one of them responsible for the current trend of fugliness. 

Andrew1 9 March 2021
That might be true, I don't know, but it's not the UK GDP they contribute at :)
Pietro Cavolonero 8 March 2021

Borderline racist but true, but then the Krauts aren't that far behind in fugliness (I'm thinking of you, BMW)