What is it?
You know exactly what this is and chances are you don’t really give a monkey’s. But maybe it’s worth a second look. Peugeot has recently given the 308 a new lease of life with an effective redesign and new engines. It’s still unlikely to be as desirable or as involving as the big hitters in the C-segment, but there are considerable savings to be made on a car like this – you know it, the dealers know it – and it does have a certain chic about it.
Long gone are the days when Peugeot’s hatchbacks were some of the sweetest-handling cars on sale. Today they are adequate and no more, with excessive weight, height and overhangs all seeming to trip the engineers up. The 308 drives reasonably well with decent levels of mechanical grip, but it still feels dumpy and detached when compared with, say, a Renault Megane or VW Golf.
The suspension is stiff to counteract body roll and this creates a ropey old ride over most road surfaces, bordering on unsettled too often when the going gets rough. Couple this with vague steering and a slightly rubbery gear change and you have one of the least enjoyable cars in the class to take into the hills.
As ever with Peugeot, your best bet in terms of power supply is any one of the impressive HDi diesels. They offer the best balance of performance, refinement and
economy, although they do make the 308 seem expensive.
On the inside
This is the area where the most significant improvements are being made at Peugeot, and the 308 is no exception. The new car benefits from a much more Germanic sense of quality, with soft-touch materials and a generally greater sense of solidity pervading throughout. It’s not wholly convincing, though – when you can still find some desperately cheap plastics at lower levels in the cabin.
Nevertheless, this is a big step up, and the 308 feels and looks good, with decent equipment levels on all models and attractive options like a panoramic roof to play with.
Peugeot does not currently enjoy a great reputation for reliability, and the 308 has not fared terribly
well in customer satisfaction surveys lately. This new car may address many of those issues, but only time will tell. In the meantime, if you’re willing to take a punt, this is an affordable mid-level family hatch that, with a fair wind and the right engine choice, could give you a few years of faithful service on a compellingly modest budget. Try before you buy.