What is it?
Peugeot seems to have rediscovered its touch for sweet-handling family cars with the new Peugeot 308 mid-sized hatchback. Much of the car’s dynamic success seems to depend on its relative lightness and compactness, however, with which heavier powertrains and added-practicality estate bodystyles might seem incompatible. So what about the bigger, heavier versions?
Well, the SW estate is certainly bigger - both between the axles and in the rear overhang. It comes with the same choice on engines as the hatchback offers, so there are two tax- and supposedly fuel-efficient plug-in hybrid options, and two conventional combustion options; and it’s the 1.5-litre, four-cylinder BlueHDI turbodiesel we’re trying here. It develops an identical 129bhp at peak power as the 1.2-litre turbo petrol, but 221- rather than 170lb ft of torque to go with it, and also advertises 20 per cent better WLTP-lab-test combined fuel economy than an equivalent petrol SW.
So is a 308 with a bigger boot and a rather unfashionable turbodiesel engine still a car with particular driver appeal - and how much extra passenger- and cargo-carrying versatility does it offer?
What's it like?
Just as with the last two model generations of 308, the SW version gets a longer wheelbase than the hatchback; although this time, it’s only 55mm longer, which is about half of the hike that older versions enjoyed.
There is no seven-seat option, but boot space jumps by nearly 50 per cent, SW vs hatch, when measured behind the back seats and under the loadbay cover. The SW also includes a twin-level adjustable boot floor on all but the entry grade where the hatchback doesn’t, and a powered tailgate on upper-trim versions.
This car is mostly about boot space and loading convenience, then. Peugeot does claim gains on second-row occupant space relative to the normal 308 five-door hatchback, but they’ll seem pretty slight if you’re a full-size adult trying to get comfortable in one of the back seats. Both headroom and kneeroom are in significantly shorter supply than with rivals like the Skoda Octavia and Ford Focus, although there’s still enough for children and younger teenagers.
To drive, the 308 SW does indeed feel a shade heavier, less agile, less fluently poised in its body control, and generally less engaging than the best, lightest 308 hatchback might be; but if you’re plumping for a heavier powertrain anyway (either a diesel or a PHEV), it’s well worth remembering that the marginal loss would be only slight anyway. The diesel SW handles neatly and moderately keenly in any case, and rides with both absorbency and easy composure. You wouldn’t say it has such a clear selling point for an interested driver as the regular five door Puretech, but it’s pleasant and versatile; and it has decent enough body control that a cabin full of passengers and a boot full of stuff would be unlikely to leave it floundering at speed.