What is it?
This is the refreshed and impressively frugal Peugeot 308, a car we’ve already tested on the Continent. Now we’ve got the 308 in the UK to see how it copes with Britain’s battered black top.
First, some details; the 1.6-litre e-HDi-engined 308 achieves upwards of 62mpg and emits 118g/km, which means the car sits in tax bracket C. More interesting is the 308’s clever e-HDi micro hybrid system, which uses a 5V super capacitor to store electricity and helps the car’s regular battery restart the engine during stop-start periods.
What’s it like?
The subtle changes to the 308’s styling (including a revised grille and flourishes of chrome), do little to improve the car’s aesthetics. Luckily, it’s a different story in the cabin thanks to black gloss finishes to the dashboard and the use of high-grade materials for the switchgear.
The half leather seats are also attractive and nicely sculpted, but soft side bolsters offer little support around tighter bends. That said, they are comfortable and the seating position is very good.
Like its predecessor, the 308’s interior is light and airy (accentuated by a full-length panoramic roof) and front and rear passenger legroom is good. The boot is also a decent size and can swallow 348 litres; a Ford Focus, by comparison, offers 22 litres less luggage space.
On the move, the Peugeot 308’s suspension is generally composed and soaks up medium-sized divots competently, even on the attractive 18-inch alloys this car was sitting on. On rougher surfaces, however, NVH levels suffer and the ride becomes crashy and less absorbent than any of its German competitors – the Volkswagen Golf being the obvious rival.
The steering, although nicely weighted, doesn’t offer a great deal of driver-feedback and the steering rack itself could do with being a touch quicker. Bearing that in mind, aggressive changes in direction don’t bode well, for the 308’s slightly taller centre of gravity makes it a car that doesn’t like to be rushed.
In traffic, the stop-start system works well and allows the engine to switch off sooner than any other car I’ve tested. And when the power’s off, a handy display in the centre console tells you, to the second, how long you’ve gone without power. I managed to rack up over 17 minutes during my 50-minute, 11-mile commute.
Anyone driving the 308 with the hope of harnessing diesel’s punchy low-down torque curve will be disappointed. Despite 199lb ft of twist, tall gearing from the slick six-speed manual gearbox means you have to work the revs hard to get the most out of the engine; frugal motorway cruising is what the 308 is better suited to and it covers large distances relatively quietly and economically.
Should I buy one?
If you’ve got a penchant for French metal and you’re after a spacious, frugal, well-equipped and generally inoffensive family hatchback, then absolutely.
Whilst the 308 won’t excite the keener driver, the impressive 62mpg and 118g/km C02 figures can’t be ignored. But remember, at this price, you’re also knocking on Golf Bluemotion territory.