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Engine options, speed, acceleration and refinement

As with the majority of modern hatchbacks, Peugeot's engine range comprises a selection of efficiency-orientated petrol and diesel engines.

Petrol engines range from an 81bhp, 1.2-litre three-cylinder to the usual 1.6-litre turbo with 203bhp, with interesting 108 and 128bhp 1.2-litre turbo triples making up the rest of the petrol range. Diesels include 1.6-litre units of 99 and 118bhp outputs, while the range is completed with a pair of 2.0-litre HDis - producing 148bhp and 178bhp respectively.

The Peugeot's engine is transversely mounted and it drives the front wheels via a five or six-speed manual, or an optional six-speed automatic

Slowest is the 99bhp diesel. It's willing enough if you’re not in a particular hurry and don’t mind the considerable turbo lag when pulling out of tight bends. As it's cheaper, it may actually be preferable to the 118bhp version above it, which isn’t much of an improvement despite receiving the slicker six rather than five-speed gearbox.

Topping the 308 range is the GTi - which is powered by the same turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol engine found in the GT model and the 208 GTi, but with the wick essentially turned up so it produces a healthy 268bhp.

Gearboxes are five or six-speed manuals with a six-speed automatic coming later. It's a torque converter unit from Japan's Aisin, but the shift speed, quality and efficiency are boldly promised to mimic that of the best dual-clutchers.

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With an even more advanced diesel engine on the horizon, it augurs well that the 308’s 1.6 e-HDi unit – the one many buyers may look to – is so competitive. Relative to that in an equivalent Volkswagen Golf or Ford Focus, you’ll find the Peugeot is refined, responsive, flexible and economical. Punchy, even, compared with how some sub-100g/km fleet-targeted diesels can perform.

The engine reacts smartly when you ask for power at low revs and summons plenty of mid-range torque and a fair amount of top-end power for overtaking. Peugeot’s six-speed gearbox saves it from pulling longer intermediate ratios and drawing out in-gear progress, and the engine – which is well isolated and quiet at idle – remains well mannered and free of harshness as it spins under load.

The car’s sprint to 60mph was dispatched in 10.1sec, while 30-70mph in fourth – our usual flexibility benchmark – took 15.1sec. An equivalent Focus is more than half a second slower in the former respect, and a like-for-like Skoda Octavia is over four seconds slower in the latter.

Peugeot’s Dynamic Cruise Control is, however, worth mentioning. It's standard on Active models and we like the way it lets you save and select quick-reference speeds via the central touchscreen. But that’s about all we like.

The radar transceiver quickly falters in bad conditions, and without being able to actuate the brakes, the system simply drops out too often on an averagely busy motorway, even when set to maintain the longest possible gap to the car ahead.