£20,594 - £28,974 Price range
47 - 76 MPG
Don’t let the name fool you – the 308 is an entirely new car and is much improved over its namesake predecessor (which, ironically, was just a rehashed 307). This SW estate version adds a dash of practicality to the mix, with a lengthened wheelbase to improve passenger accommodation and provide a roomy boot.
Taking the fight to the family hatchback market is one thing, but taking on their estate variants is something else entirely. The hatch won European Car of the Year in 2014 – so is the estate any cop?
Peugeot has gone the minimalist route and it works pretty well. Material quality and fit-and-finish are streets ahead of where the previous model was. The touchscreen in the centre console, though a little fiddly to use perhaps, does a great job of relocating all the usual buttons to a nicer place and you’re left with just the right balance for a suave interior ambience. A full-length panoramic roof – standard on the Allure trim level and a £500 option below that – brightens everything up.
There’s 11cm extra in the wheelbase which addresses some rear-seat knee-room issues from the hatch, though headroom seems curiously lacking. The longer car can accommodate 660 litres of stuff with all the seats in place, rising to 1,775 litres – big enough to feature in our Top 10 Biggest Estate Car Boots.
As with the hatchback, the 308 SW is softly sprung and it makes for a relaxing and easy drive for the most part. Larger road warts will generate quite a bit of noise but generally the cabin’s occupants won’t be disturbed. It should swish relatively noiselessly down motorways too.
However, it’s not all rosy. The wee steering wheel can make it awkward to get a good driving position and it also makes faster flowing roads a bit of a chore as the steering weights up – critics say there’s just not enough of a lever and it becomes hard work.
It’s exaggerated further by some of the big wheel options which also make the ride harsher. You’re not going to want to attack the curves with quite the vigour of certain rivals, though your luggage will probably be grateful for this.
As you may expect from Peugeot, there’s a diesel-heavy array of powerplants for your 308 SW and all come with very competitive fuel economy and emissions ratings.
Visiting the smaller petrol range first, there’s a 1.2 “eTHP” engine available in 108hp and 128hp versions (the latter with stop/start) and a somewhat fruity 202hp 1.6 exclusive to the GT model. None break under 100g/km, but you’ll find all of the 1.2s netting around 60mpg.
The diesel suite is composed of a 1.6 in three states of tune – 91hp, 113hp and 118hp – and a 2.0 “BlueHDI” in 148hp and 177hp forms. The fuel economy winner here is the BlueHDI version of the 118hp 1.6, which posts amazingly low 85g/km emissions and 88.3mpg combined.
It’s more of a shock these days when a car doesn’t get five stars, such is the industry-wide improvement in safety. Though the 308 SW hasn’t been specifically tested, it inherits the five-star rating of its hatchback cousin.
Replete with airbags and driver aids, the 308 rated 92% for adult occupant safety, 79% for child occupant safety and 81% for safety assists. There were no areas of particular concern and the addition driver assistance pack gives further technological peace of mind.
The 308 SW manages to combine the fit, finish, quality, equipment levels and roominess of some of the class’s more expensive offerings with the price of the budget ones. Even middling cars get satnav and that 9.7-inch colour touchscreen. It’s hard to find a better-appointed car at these prices, even if you drop a class. Most of the range is cheap to insure and cheap on fuel too, thanks to a lighter and more slippery body than the old car.
There are a couple of thorns in the side though. The first is that opting for better equipped models with bigger wheels can put a real dent in your fuel economy and you’ll find you’re paying more VED than you expected. The other is resale – this will not be a car that holds its value as well as Japanese and German rivals.
It’s easy to spoil the proverbial ship, and the missing tar in this instance is the relative size of the steering wheel and the other four. The driving position is a little awkward as a result of the tiny tiller and if you’re fond of going for bling rims you’re going to have a bad time of it as ride, driving enjoyment and fuel economy all suffer badly.
If you can get yourself comfy in the cabin and stick with the smaller wheels and you’ve got a belter. The 308 SW does nearly everything nearly as brilliantly as the leader in the class in each category and with no major maladies. It’s not necessarily the best all-rounder, but it’s one you owe yourself to try before you buy more mainstream alternatives.