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Electric 308 hatchback and estate use style and dynamic sophistication to bid for premium family car clientele

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Peugeot has been a little bit slow to get fully electric powertrains into some of its big-selling C-segment cars, beaten to the punch by the likes of Renault, Volkswagen and Cupra, as well as electric car stalwarts Hyundai, Kia and Nissan.

Because of that, we can now state with some confidence what is the going rate for a roughly Golf-sized, zero-emissions hatchback or estate. And, rather inconveniently, it seems to be a fair bit less than is being asked for the Peugeot e-308 and Peugeot e-308 SW.

Perhaps it’s the influence of so many emerging, bargain-basement Chinese cars; and, given that so many of us decide whether we can afford cars like this on the basis of a monthly finance payment in any case, perhaps the problem’s less of an actual problem than we might imagine it is. Peugeots hold their value rather well these days, after all.

Even so, in a market niche where you needn’t ultimately fork out more than £37k-odd for an equivalent Renault Mégane E-Tech Electric, Kia Niro EV, Volkswagen ID 3, Fiat 600e or Jeep Avenger, and at a time when we’re all hyper-aware of exactly what kind of value for money we’re getting, doesn’t forty large for the very cheapest take on the electric 308 seem a touch steep?

It’s no steeper, to be fair, than in the technically related Vauxhall Astra Electric. Still, if you tend to feel that way about EVs in general, this one certainly won’t help.

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DESIGN & STYLING

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peugeot e 308 sw rear dynamic

This car isn’t the only one within the electric car going for sporty, stylish and a little bit premium - but it certainly does so fairly effectively.

It uses Stellantis’s recently updated EV powertrain technologies: a 54kWh NMC battery and a 154bhp hybrid synchronous motor driving the front axle, both squeezed into the 308’s chassis. Interestingly, they amount to a kerb weight more than 120kg greater here than that of the equivalent Citroen ë-C4. The Citroën’s an eCMP-platform car by contrast, the Peugeot an EMP2 one (if you’re a collector of such terms, these architectures have now been updated and redubbed, in Stellantis group speak, STLA Small and STLA Medium respectively).

At a little under 4.4 metres in length, the 308 remains one of the hatchback class’s more effete members - although some of its electric-only competitors use cleverer packaging to deliver even more compact dimensions. At well under 1.5 metres in height, however, the car avoids the funny, higher-rise proportions from which some rivals seem to suffer. In that sense, it carries its underfloor battery cleverly.

There is quite a convincing ‘premium’ sheen about the e-308. It looks stylish and sophisticated both inside and out, and there’s a sense of classic-hatchback compactness about its size that promises equally sophisticated, dynamically appealing handling.

INTERIOR

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peugeot e 308 review 2023 04 driving

The e-308 takes the third-generation 308’s interior wholesale, the regular hatchback itself having been introduced only in 2021. It has quite a boldly sculpted fascia dominated by a central touchscreen infotainment system, with the car’s primary control layout conforming to Peugeot’s i-Cockpit ergonomic regime (which makes for a small, low-sprouting steering wheel, a high-set digital instrument pack and a driver’s seat positioned to you can see the latter over the upper edge of the former’s rim). 

Even lower-tier, Allure-trim cars get Peugeot’s impressive i-Connect 10in touchscreen infotainment system, with its driver-selectable i-Toggle shortcut controls. Allowing you to set your own quick-access permanent menu shortcuts for things like navigation, audio and driver assistance functions, these are a great aid to usability. 

Peugeot offers a couple of seat comfort upgrade packages, one with massagers as well as heating, but they’re only available at additional cost on top-grade GT models. For the money, I think I’d stick with an Allure with the standard seats.

Driver comfort is good, the quirky control layout working better in the 308 than in other, larger Peugeots.

Material quality is high in places, with some harder, cheaper mouldings robbing the car of a really consistent high level of fit and finish; but, on the eye at least, the impression of apparent quality is convincing enough.

Second-row space is limited, even by mid-sized hatchback standards, but growing kids or young teenagers would be happy enough back there, and that’s precisely the compact-second-car vibe that Peugeot has always pursued with its Golf rivals. 

Boot space is class-competitive for the hatchback. It measures in at 361 litres below the load bay cover, which is acceptable, but smaller than the ICE version.

The figure rises to 548 litres for the longer-wheelbase e-308 SW estate. Once again, this is smaller than in the ICE equivalent, but it is usefully larger than the boot found in the MG 5.

ENGINES & PERFORMANCE

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peugeot e 308 review 2023 05 front action

Stellantis’s very latest electric powertrain hardware doesn’t quite give this car the turn of speed that some might expect for the money or that you may find elsewhere, but it’s delivered in a car that’s very refined and easy to drive, even by EV standards. There’s no sense of deficiency about the quiet, progressive, pleasant way that the e-308 accrues and carries speed, but it needs around 9.0secs (longer in the SW) to get to 62mph from rest, in a class where something between 7sec and 8sec would have been closer to the norm.

Just like in the ë-C4, you have to remember to use Sport driving mode to get the full 154bhp from the motor; and while there’s very respectable motorway urge when you do, as well as plenty of A- and B-road performance, there’s isn’t quite enough to quicken the pulse.

There are no driver-selectable regenerative-braking controls either, which some rivals EVs offer. I wonder if they’re a bigger miss than Peugeot realises, because, even though this car is a little short on battery capacity versus some, it’s efficient. 

We averaged 4.4mpkWh for the hatchback and 3.8mpkWh for the SW on test routes with a bit of keen driving thrown in, and plenty of gradient.

These resulted in a real-world range of 224 miles for the hatchback (a bigger-batteried Mégane is no rangier, in our test experience) and just over 200 miles for the SW. With the ability to effectively dial out regen altogether at times only to bring it back in when really needed, the e-308 might do even better still.

RIDE & HANDLING

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Like the styling, and perhaps unlike the performance in some ways, the e-308’s ride and handling do feel worth the outlay. Not only is it a little smaller and lighter than many of its competitors, but it also feels quite sensitively tuned for UK roads: isolated, supple and compliant-riding yet tautly controlled, poised and fairly agile with it. 

The wheels deliver a quiet, supple, rubbery-feeling ride with plenty progressive body control: a grip level that doesn’t feel as if it has been compromised for the sake of lower rolling resistance and handling that doesn’t feel overly burdened by mass, as plenty of EVs still can in both cases. 

The extra bulk of the e-308’s batteries even seems to give the car’s downsized steering wheel greater useful weight and makes placing it in a corner feel more intuitive than in the cases of plenty of other current Peugeots. You might stop short of calling what it all amounts to fun, but it's certainly pretty sophisticated and a little gratifying to find.

MPG & RUNNING COSTS

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peugeot e 308 review 2023 01 tracking front

Prices for the e-308 hatchback start at just above £40,000 for what is effectively a mid-spec Allure-trim model, while the estates start from around £1000 more.

As you've already read, that makes the e-308 around 6-10% more expensive than key rivals at list price. On personal finance, though, the Peugeot is more competitive, with stronger residual values playing in its favour. So, over a typical four-year term, an e-308 Allure is only marginally more expensive than an entry-level Mégane or Cupra Born. But then both of those rivals offer a bigger battery, greater range and faster DC charging.

VERDICT

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peugeot e 308 review 2023 15 static front

The Peugeot e-308 is clearly one of the better-handling cars in the growing compact EV ranks, but away from that, it justifies its price premium more convincingly in some respects than in others.

You can certainly tick off ride and handling, along with kerbside style and infotainment smarts – among the strengths that you might not object to paying £40,000 for – while also writing down practicality, performance, and possibly range in the ‘could do better’ column.

Buyers already familiar with this class may well understand that no one car within it offers everything a buyer might want. If the e-308 were more practical, with greater range, it likely wouldn’t ride and handle like it does. But even allowing for that, it’s a little difficult to conclude that this whole package amounts to what is, after all, almost Tesla Model 3 money - and more than £10,000 more than you will pay for a long-range MG 4 EV.

The e-308 SW ultimately offers a good deal more practicality for not a lot of extra cash, but once again, Tesla and MG have more pragmatic choices.

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.