New Peugeot 308 Review - Golf Rival Hits The Green, Scores A Par

Peugeot's previous 308 might have been compared to the Volkswagen Golf on occasion, but rarely in favourable terms.

Peugeot of oldprobably didn't bring up the Golf too often when discussing the car, either. It just never really had what it took to compete - neither the style, nor the solidity, nor the green credentials desired by private and company buyers alike.

But New Peugeot is different. New Peugeot has given us cars like the RCZ, 208 and 2008. Cars that can lay legitimate claim to being some of the best in their class - desirable vehicles, even. New Peugeot knows how to make quality cabins, class-leading engines and designs not inspired by creatures of the deep.

Peugeot 308 rear angle

New Peugeot very obviously created the new 308, and referenced the Golf often and at length during the obligatory pre-drive press conference on the model's recent launch.

The name remains 308 - perhaps 309 still conjures images of plodding 1980s hatchbacks in buyers' memories - but there's little you'd recognise between the new model and its predecessor. It's a neatly-styled vehicle for one - shorter than before with smaller overhangs, cleaner details and Peugeot's attractive new front grille design.

Peugeot 308 front driving

Too Germanic for some perhaps, but the success of the Golf, Audi's A3 and Mercedes' A-Class proves Germanic sells. Following a line of 308s into the darkness for the night-based first drive, there was more than a hint of A-Class about the French car's rump. The similarities subside in daylight, but the overall impression is one of refined solidity.

Inside, things couldn't be more different from the 308's German equivalents. Peugeot calls it 'i-Cockpit' - we call it a larger, more cohesive version of the layout you'll find in the 208 and 2008.

Peugeot 308 interior

The tiny steering wheel and high-set dials return, but endless adjustment in wheel and seat means you'll struggle to block your view of the dials as you might in a 208. It's a comfy seat too, as are those in the back - but while Peugeot has liberated extra boot space in the new car, some may find rear legroom a little cramped should taller folk install themselves up front.

The dash design is hit and miss. Hits include the touchscreen display - far less fiddly than you'd expect and a fantastic way of junking endless buttons - and the overall appearance. Misses include the volume knob and starter button still positioned for left-hand drive, and the surprisingly scratchy plastic textures lower down the dash.

Peugeot 308 dials

You'll not notice these when you're driving, though. Partly because you'll be enjoying the experience.

No, seriously - the 308's tiny steering wheel affords you directness and quick responses, while the chassis is as good at riding bumps as Peugeots of old. There could stand to be more feel through the chubby rim, but Peugeot is hardly the only carmaker guilty of dulling signals these days and the adaptive steering is both light at low speeds and stable at higher ones.

Peugeot 308 boot

At higher speeds you'll also enjoy relatively low wind, road and engine noise and a respectable view through everything but the letterbox rear window.

Engine choice is a little more difficult. We tested two versions - a 115 PS version of Peugeot's 1.6 HDi unit, and a 156 PS 1.6 THP petrol. The former is normally an engine we're fond of - it's smooth and refined - but in the 308 it feels a little over-worked - we'd not even bother recommending the lower-power 92 PS model.

Peugeot 308 rear driving

The turbocharged 1.6 is much more fun, both smooth and willing. If you're easy on the throttle it'll do 48.7 mpg too, which isn't bad at all. Obviously the diesel is even more frugal (up to 74.3 mpg), but another reason we'd not bother is because it's soon to be replaced.

Next year, a new 1.6 BlueHDi unit will appear. With 120 horses it's more powerful, but economy will knock the Golf right back to the club house - 91.1 mpg combined and just 82 g/km of CO2.

That engine will be Peugeot's killer blow, and gives it the most economical C-segment car on the market.

Peugeot 308 duo driving

Verdict

8/10

It's too early to tell whether the new 308's reliability will overcome its oft-derided reputation, but on talent alone the new 308 is well worth a look for family car buyers. Peugeot promises the car will feel like new after three years of use, and we'd be interested to see whether that rings true.

In years gone by, the default choice in this class would have been a Ford Focus or Volkswagen Golf. Neither is particularly special in any way, but each is so competent in most areas that they've risen to the top. The new 308 feels the same.

Until a GTI or 308 R arrives (both are planned) it won't be a car to get you out of bed at 5am for a blast, but it should be right up there with its main rivals on your future family car list. Stay tuned though - carwow aims to have a full review soon.

For more reviews, information, stats, photos and videos, head over to our Peugeot 308 summary page.

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