From £21,2758

France’s aspirational volume brand rekindles ’90s feel for Golf-fighting hatchback

It’s been a long time since Peugeot used TV, radio and magazine advertising to crow about the strength of its lion-like models, but those of us who can remember when it did might well see a parallel between its relative commercial tidings of the late 1980s and early 1990s and today.

This company is incrementally shifting itself closer towards pseudo-premium brand territory by launching ever more chiselled-looking cars with inviting, materially appealing interiors, powered by modern engines that keep them relevant.

The 308 is the first model to feature Peugeot’s new lion badge, a reinterpretation of the firm’s 1960s iconography as blooded by the 404. The badge is also big enough to cover the car’s safety transceivers.

In the UK and elsewhere, it has reclaimed much of the market share that it lost to the German brands through the mid-2000s. However, in using compact SUVs and electric offerings to fuel so much of its rise, it has yet to really rejuvenate the spirit that brought us those great-handling hatchbacks and saloons of the 1980s: cars like the 205, 405, 406, 309 and 306.

This week, we find out if the company’s all-new mid-sized hatchback, the Peugeot 308, can bring a clearer dynamic flavour of the old Peugeot back. This is the second time that the firm has recycled the 308 model nomenclature for its VW Golf-segment entrant, and it has also recycled and overhauled the old version’s vehicle architecture, while honouring the 308’s relatively diminutive proportions within a class where much larger cars are now more and more common.

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But even so, this car is no stranger to new technology. It is the first 308 to tout plug-in hybrid powertrains, and will be the first to go all-electric too, in the shape of next year’s e-308. For those who prefer to keep things simple under the bonnet, however, Peugeot is offering both petrol and diesel combustion options – and it’s the more traditional petrol we have opted to test here.

Peugeot 308 range at a glance

Peugeot’s UK-market line-up for the 308 has combustion-engined models from around £25,000. The price jump from a regular petrol to a plug-in hybrid is a hefty £6500, some or all of which you might be able to recoup through lower costs of ownership. An SW estate costs about £1200 more than a hatchback.

Trim levels start with Active Premium, and go up through Allure, Allure Premium, GT and GT Premium. Mid-spec Allure Premium gets you 17in alloy wheels, wireless device charging and smartphone mirroring as standard.

Engines Power From

Peugeot 308 1.2T Puretech Active Premium*

129bhp £24,635

Peugeot 308 1.5 BlueHDI Active Premium

129bhp £26,035

Peugeot 308 1.6 Hybrid 180Allure

177bhp £33,035

Peugeot 308 1.6 Hybrid 225 GT

221bhp £37,235

*Engine variant tested

Peugeot 308 FAQs

Is the Peugeot 308 available as a plug-in or electric?

The latest Peugeot 308 will be available with a plug-in hybrid powertrain later in 2022. Available with either 178bhp or 222bhp, each version uses the same 1.6-litre petrol engine and electric motor combination and claims up to 37 miles of electric range. Peugeot has also revealed that an all-electric e-308 will join the range in 2023 and promises a range of around 250 miles on a single charge.

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What are the main rivals to the Peugeot 308?

Buyers are spoiled for choice in the compact family hatchback class, so the Peugeot 308 has no shortage or rivals. The toughest of the lot is the Volkswagen Golf, which feels a touch more upmarket, is more composed to drive and has plug-in hybrid options. The Volkswagen shares its architecture and engines with the more spacious and sensible Skoda Octavia and the more stylish and sharper-handling Seat Leon. The new Vauxhall Astra is closely related to the Peugeot but looks more eye-catching, while the agile and engaging Ford Focus is more fun to drive.

How much power does the Peugeot 308 have?

Peugeot has kept it simple with the Peugeot 308 engine line-up, with the result that both the petrol and diesel have the same power output. The turbocharged 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol and 1.5-litre diesel deliver an identical 128bhp, although the latter has more torque, with 221lb ft compared to 170lb ft. The plug-in hybrid units serve-up the most power, with a choice of between 178bhp or 222bhp, the latter capable of completing the 0-62mph sprint in 7.5 seconds. Unfortunately, there will be no hot 308 GTi version of the current car.

What choices of gearbox are there for the Peugeot 308?

Surprisingly for a relatively affordable family hatchback the only gearbox option for the Peugeot 308 is an eight-speed automatic. Unlike the old version there’s no manual transmission, even on the entry-level versions. Known as the EAT8, the gearbox is effective enough, but it lacks the speed and smoothness of the best twin-clutch automatics, serving up slightly ponderous gear changes even when trying to drive quickly.

Where is the Peugeot 308 built?

The current Peugeot 308 only went on sale earlier this year, and so far production is limited to the brand’s factory in Mulhouse, France. However, it’s likely that the car will be built in other plants around the world, as the previous generation machine was built in locations as far flung as Wuhan in China and Gurun in Malaysia. There was even a suggestion that the 308 and closely related Vauxhall Astra could be assembled in the UK.

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How many generations of Peugeot 308 have there been?

Now in its third generation, the Peugeot 308 was one of the first models to benefit from the brand’s decision to stick with the same model number, rather than change it for each all-new version. Previously, Peugeot’s compact family hatch had been known as the 309, which was replaced by the 306 and then the 307. The first 308 arrived in 2007 and was replaced by the second generation machine in 2013.

Peugeot 308 First drives