The 308 is fun to drive, as a Peugeot should be, but it also has a comfortable ride and a quiet cabin – it’s a deft all-rounder.
The 308’s engine range has been brought bang up to date thanks to the arrival of an all-new range of 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrols that can be had with a variety of power outputs. The rest of the engine range is a match for the Peugeot’s main rivals and includes 1.6-litre petrols and diesels, as well as a more powerful 2.0-litre diesel.
Ever since Ford launched its clever 1.0-litre EcoBoost engines other manufacturers have been playing catch-up and now it’s Peugeot’s turn to offer an alternative. Christened PureTech, the 1.2-litre petrol is designed to give the performance of a conventional 1.6-litre unit, but with cheaper running costs.
You get three versions to choose from with 82, 110 or 130hp. None are massively quick on paper, but feel more spritely than the figures suggest in practice and emit a willing engine note when accelerating. While both the 110 and 130 come fitted with a turbocharger, the 82 does without. It takes 13.3 seconds to sprint from 0-62mph – more than two seconds slower than the more powerful units. Fuel economy is also slightly less impressive – with 55.4mpg possible, compared to an identical 61.4mpg figure for the other two.
The 1.6-litre petrol fitted to GT models offers a welcome boost in performance, but still doesn’t cost the earth to run. It combines performance, of 0-62mph in 7.5 seconds, with fuel economy of 50.4mpg and CO2 emissions of 130g/km.
The turbocharged three-cylinder 1.2-litre engine is really impressive
If we were to pick a star of the show it would have to be the 1.6-litre 120 BlueHDi diesel, which can return a remarkable combined fuel economy figure of 91.1mpg. Performance is brisk, too, with 0-62mph coming up in 9.7 seconds.
The 2.0-litre diesel fitted to the GT is quickest of all, but its 0-62mph time of 8.4 seconds doesn’t do justice to the car’s impressive overtaking ability that can be attributed to its impressive 295Ib ft torque figure. No matter which of the four diesel models you choose, all return fuel economy of more than 65mpg.
Peugeot used to be known for building fun-to-drive family hatchbacks, but after the 306 of the ‘90s the company arguably lost its way a little. The 308 brings some of the feel of the old 306 back. Its small steering wheel feels sporty and threads the car through bends accurately.
The suspension is also well judged. Corner with enthusiasm and body roll is kept in check, but the 308 also offers a ride that’s comfortable on a variety of road surfaces.
If you are looking for a sportier drive, but don’t want to shell out on the GTi model, then the GT is well worth considering. Both in diesel and petrol forms it is quick and comes with firmer suspension that makes the car even better in the bends. Pressing the GT’s Sport button makes the steering more responsive (boosting your confidence in fast corners) and sharpens the throttle’s responses. We’re not so keen on the fake engines noise that – on the diesel model we tested at least – is a little at odds with the swift-but-relaxing nature of the rest of the driving experience.
Having said all that, if you’re looking for a fun-to-drive hatchback we would first consider the excellent new Vauxhall Astra, which is surprisingly entertaining even in standard form.