New three-cylinder petrol performs well in the 308, adding extra appeal to this stylish and upmarket family hatch

What is it?

The Peugeot 308, equipped with one of the French firm's new 'PureTech' petrol engines, a range of three-cylinder turbocharged and naturally aspirated powerplants. They'll eventually appear in models like the 108, Peugeot 208 and Peugeot 2008 crossover, but for now are confined to the 308 and its SW estate sibling.

Peugeot says its PureTech 1.2-litre engine can give you all the power of a 1.6, handy since it'll go on to replace the current 1.6-litre THP unit in Peugeot's range. It's tested here in e-THP 130 form, meaning there's 129bhp on offer, alongside 170lb ft of torque. 

The real headline figures here though come with the car's fuel efficiency, with Peugeot tempting buyers with claims of 58.9mpg on a combined cycle and CO2 emissions of just 110g/km. All the while, the 308 must also live up to its Car of the Year credentials in offering a premium and stylish driving experience.

What's it like?

Relaxing, even when the engine is pushed into the upper limits of its rev range. It never feels too strained, and there's a decent throttle response from low-down in the range. 

It's also very comfortable, with the 17-inch alloy wheels fitted to our test car absorbing the lumps and bumps of a roadwork-stricken motorway very well. Even at lower speeds, the 308 feels composed. We've praised the new 308's cabin many times before for its tremendous leap in quality. The Allure car comes with a leather steering wheel and gearknob, as well as extra kit including front parking sensors and a reversing camera. That's not to mention the Peugeot's integrated satellite navigation which also comes with lesser Active specification. All of those functions are controlled via Peugeot's 9.7-inch touchscreen interface, and doing so means the rest of the cabin is relatively button-free.

On a spirited drive through the Surrey countryside we found this 308 to be particularly light on its feet, thanks to its smaller engine, but the compromise comes with cornering. Perhaps because of the loss in weight the 308 feels a little unsettled, a little too keen to roll about. The steering is quick and well weighted, but there's little feedback through the wheel.

Other minor issues come with the six-speed manual gearbox. We struggled with some gear changes, especially from second to third, where the 'box felt unwilling to engage. 

Still, most buyers will be more concerned with saving money on their fuel bills, and while we didn't match Peugeot's official claimed 58.9mpg we did manage over 45mpg figure after a mix of countryside and urban routes.

Should I buy one?

If you're after a stylish but economical family hatchback, then this should certainly be on your shortlist. While rivals like the Ford Focus 1.0 EcoBoost and Volkswagen Golf 1.2 TSI might have more agility and dynamic focus, this is still a commendable effort by Peugeot.

The Focus might also have the edge over this 308 when it comes to running costs. The average annual cost of fuel for this three cylinder 308 over 12,000 miles would be £1278, compared to £1258 for the Focus and £1306 for the Golf. But while the Focus emits 114g/km of CO2 in six-speed manual form, the 308 puts out just 110g/km. Where the Peugeot also shines is inside, with a more premium cabin than the Ford.

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This is a 308 which feels well placed to take on its hatchback rivals, competing on economy as well as on premium style. The addition of its frugal new three-cylinder engine only sweetens the deal, too.

Peugeot 308 Allure e-THP 130

Price £21,270; 0-62mph 10.3 sec; Top speed 125mph; Economy 58.9mpg; CO2 110g/km; Kerb weight 1370kg; Engine 3 cyls, 1198cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 129bhp at 5550rpm; Torque 170lb ft at 2750rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual

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Magellan 16 May 2014

Five stars

Just had my 308 Active e-THP 130 delivered yesterday.
I had it down to a short list of one before ordering it and it has exceeded my expectations.
The engine is gutsy, with excellent torque low down the rev range and a great sound when you put your foot down. Great ride and handling too, makes deceptively swift and smooth progress - a "proper" French car. I have no time for the bone-jarring suspension with silly wheels and grotesque styling that many seem to favour these days.
For the record, my must-haves (in no particular order) were:
Low CO2 emissions
Spare tyre (why is its absence never mentioned in road tests?)
Dual zone climate control
DAB radio
Tyres/rims: 16" or less: anything more is absurd in a family hatchback.
Amazing value for money compared to similarly specced opposition (if you can find it).
Andrew Lee 24 April 2014

Lucky lucky lucky

Peugeot really lucked out winning COTY with this. Committees eh? I suppose it looks OK. But 'premium'? 'Upmarket'? I think not.
Fox Terrier 24 April 2014

Don't want to criticise as I

Don't want to criticise as I love French cars generally, but does this car look less boring in the metal?