Refined, economical and pleasant enough small estate that’s also practical

What is it?

This is the estate version of Peugeot’s facelifted-for-2011 308 hatchback. The French firm knows the UK’s appetite for small estates isn’t particularly voracious, but nevertheless the 308 SW benefits from styling updates, revised trim levels, some clever rear-seat packaging and, would you believe it, price reductions.

However, the revisions of most note have centred on improvements in CO2 emissions and fuel economy. Peugeot is rightly satisfied with the environmentally pleasing results obtained by its new e-HDi “micro hybrid” engines. These use an intelligent alternator/starter motor set-up that both captures regenerative braking energy and acts as a stop-start system, mated to a Euro 5-optimised 110bp, 1.6-litre diesel engine. The net results are headline figures of 62.7mpg on the combined cycle and 120g/km of C02 for the estate tested here, as fitted with a six-speed manual gearbox as opposed to the optional robotised manual offering.

What’s it like?

In its latest guise Peugeot’s 1.6-litre diesel is an impressively smooth and refined engine, with useful torque around town and an eager enough delivery on the open road. Inevitably a degree of engine noise can be heard in the cabin, but it never intrudes. The stop-start works well, too; it’s not exactly undetectable in operation but is by far the least intrusive diesel stop-start system we’ve tried.

What the 308 SW isn’t, however, is a particularly engaging drive, although given that the 308 never really was we’re not too disappointed by that. It rides nicely enough and road noise isn’t an issue, but the suspension is on the soft side and the steering lacks feel. That, of course, won’t be an issue to many. Instead, the roomy interior, full-length panoramic roof (standard on Active and Allure models) and flexible load space with individually folding rear seats may well swing the deal over any dynamic deficit. There’s also a £525 option in the shape of a pair of individually removable third-row seats, turning the 308 SW into an occasional seven-seater if the need arises.

Should I buy one?

Quite possibly, yes. Estate-bodied variants of a C-segment hatches tend to get a bit lost among the hordes of headline-grabbing mini-MPVs and the like, but in truth there’s no reason to rule it out. It may not be the first choice for the driving enthusiast, but the 308 SW is a refined, economical and pleasant enough small estate that’s also practical and, with those optional third-row seats added, exceptionally versatile.

Peugeot 308 SW Active e-Hdi 112

Price: £19,915; Price as tested: £20,440; Top speed: 115mph; 0-62mph: 11.9sec; Kerb weight: 1407kg; Economy: 62.7mpg (combined); CO2: 120g/km; Engine: 4 cyls in line, 1560cc, turbodiesel; Max power: 110bhp at 3600rpm; Max torque: 210lb ft (with overboost) at 1750rpm

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Chris576 19 May 2011

Re: Peugeot 308 e-HDi Active SW

Maybe the styling has improved with the facelift, but it's still utterly meh. When you think how good Peugeots used to be the current range is a crime.

Will86 13 May 2011

Re: Peugeot 308 e-HDi Active SW

Headline figures of 62.7mpg and 120g/km CO2. Well I didn't think I would be calling 60+mpg disappointing for another few years, but it is disappointing. The Focus estate with an earlier version of this engine was offering these figures 3 years ago, whilst the V50 again with the same basic engine offers over 70mpg and 99g/km. Ok neither have two seats in the boot, but other than that they are entirely comparable cars. At least the styling has improved with the facelift.