First DriveIf you’ve got a penchant for French metal and you’re after a spacious, frugal and generally inoffensive family hatchback, then the 308 makes a good case for it
First DriveRefined, economical and pleasant enough small estate that’s also practical
What is it?
It’s Peugeot’s revised 308, in eco form. The firm has refreshed its big seller (almost a million have been built since its introduction in October 2007) with a new corporate grille and badge treatment, flashes of chrome, new headlights and an improved cabin.
Most interestingly, it’s also introducing what Peugeot calls the ‘e-HDi micro hybrid system’. It comprises a 5V super capacitor which stores electric power and helps the car’s regular battery to restart the engine. In contrast with many other stop-start systems, Peugeot’s set-up uses a reversible alternator to crank the motor back into life. The firm claims this results in super-quick restart times (400ms) and “no vibration”.
The e-HDi system operates from around 12mph on the manual 308s, and 5mph on robotised manual models. It’s paired with the 110bhp version of Peugeot’s 1.6-litre turbodiesel, delivering CO2 figures of 109g/km for the manual and 104g/km for the robotised transmission.
There will also be an ultra-economical variant, with systems that disconnect the power steering where possible, and tyres with even lower resistance. Called Oxygo, this spec will deliver 98g/km in robotised manual models and 104g/km with regular sticks. We’re trying the 109g/km 1.6-litre manual here, though, in SR - which is a trim level designed for the fleet market.
What’s it like?
Decent, actually. Peugeot has honed the 308 package into a well rounded one; the cabin feels roomy enough, the dashboard has just about enough soft-touch plastics in the right places and while the centre console remains a bit of a mishmash of buttons, there’s now piano black gloss finish to make it look more premium. The external styling will still divide opinion, although there’s little doubt the revised nose will have broader appeal than the clumsy original.
The e-HDi system works well. There’s still the faintest of vibrations during shut down and restarts but it’s generally less intrusive than the systems in many of this car’s rivals. It’s helped in this regard by a diesel motor that feels refined, quiet and pretty unstressed for a 1.6 in a car of this size.
The stop-start does a good job of keeping systems like the air conditioning working, too - and we like the trip computer’s trick of telling you, to the second, how much of your journey has been spent at a fuel-saving, engine-off standstill.
Dynamically the 308 is still competent, not exciting. The steering is accurate and nicely weighted, but there’s not a great deal of feel there, nor communication of what the front wheels are actually doing.
The slightly taller centre of gravity doesn’t much like rapid changes of direction, either. And while the ride is pretty composed, it can still get caught out and allow the occasional pothole crash through to the cabin. Base models, which get 15in wheels, may be a little more compliant.
Should I buy one?
We can see why you would. The 308’s position in life - that of a worthy, competent family hatchback - is only enhanced by the latest revisions. The e-HDi tech brings useful gains in CO2 emissions and in its latest spec, the 1.6-litre 110bhp turbodiesel feels more than up to the job (we wouldn’t look at the 2.0, to be frank).
But flaws remain; it’s still not that involving a drive and more worryingly, it’s alarmingly close on price to VW’s Golf Bluemotion, which is also cleaner on CO2 emissions.
Peugeot 308 1.6 e-HDi SR
Price: £18,265; Top speed: 118mph; 0-62mph: 11.4sec; Economy: 67.2 (combined); CO2 emissions: 109g/km; Kerb weight: 1318kg; Engine: 4 cyls, 1560cc, turbodiesel; Installation: Front, transverse, FWD; Power: 110bhp at 3600rpm; Torque: 199lb ft (210lb ft overboost) at 1750-2000rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd manual