What is it?
In a nutshell, this is where Peugeot’s 308 C-segment hatchback – its best effort yet at challenging the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus – meets an all-new range of cleaner, more powerful and more frugal diesels, grouped under the BlueHDi brand name.
If you read newspapers, you’ll already know that turbodiesel engines have been losing their lustre, the decline accompanied by a lot of florid, they’re-killing-our-kids headlines. The truth is, oil burners have always been good news for helping to keep CO2 outputs respectable, but until recently many have given too free a rein to other exhaust pollutants, especially particulates and oxides of nitrogen.
Peugeot, a leader in diesel research from way back, has been fitting exhaust particulate traps on its cars since 2007. Its latest step is to unveil a new diesel family, BlueHDi, which uses a new three-element emission control technology to cut pollutants back to stricter Euro 6 levels that are coming soon. It boosts power and torque into the bargain; the company’s engine men claim it as “the most efficient emission control system on the market”.
A handy way of judging the effectiveness of BlueHDi, is to compare Peugeot’s current 1.6-litre e-HDi-engined 308 (115bhp, 95g/km CO2 and 76.3mpg combined) with the new BlueHDi version (120bhp, 82g/km and 91.1mpg combined), and then factor in the knowledge that the newer one already complies with Euro 6 emissions standards that don’t take effect until January 2016. It’s an impressive step forward.
What's it like?
We drove a new top performance BlueHDi version, the 148bhp 2.0-litre in luxurious Feline spec. It takes 8.9 seconds to achieve 0-60mph and can exceed 130mph flat out, yet still deliver just over 70mpg on the combined cycle - a performance that translates into easy everyday consumption in the 55mpg region, with 60mpg perfectly possible in give-and-take driving, providing you’re willing to make the effort.
The 308 is a pleasant and docile car with a crisp throttle response, very useful and impressive low-end flexibility and very good passing acceleration, provided you remember to change up early: it runs out of puff not far over 4000rpm.
However its refinement isn’t the best: you always hear the engine, and the idle is more rattly than many. The gearchange, though well defined in its action, feels more 'grainy' than most close to the top of this hard-fought class, and its long lever seems rather at odds with the small, low-set steering wheel which is so convenient to twirl in tight, low-speed manoeuvres.
The 308 is impressive in most other ways, although there are a couple of 'soft' areas: the car isn’t quite as generously proportioned in the rear compartment and boot as the class leaders, although most users will probably find it decent enough.
Dynamically speaking, its body control is fine but the secondary comfort is disappointing: on the optional 225/40x18inch tyres (17s are standard) our test car picked up surface noise and jitters far more easily than its best competitors.
Should I buy one?
The new BlueHDi engines add a lot to the already-strong Peugeot 308 range. With the new 2.0-litre version fitted, the 308 becomes quite a quick car, especially on difficult B-roads where the engine’s flexibility and quick-acting torque come into play, along with the good handling and quick steering. Seems to us Peugeot is moving steadily through the field towards the front of the pack.