Smart design, well built, plenty of tech, refined hybrid engines
Interior layout remains polarising, rear seat space rather tight
What is it?
It’s the new 308. Peugeot has shifted over 1.3 million 308s in its 15 years on sale, meaning this new one matters for the company’s bottom line. Fortunately, its design department has (yet again) smashed it out of the park with the third generation, the best looking yet.
Peugeot’s aim is to be an ‘inventive high-end generalist’ brand, marketing gobbledigook that disguises a range of cars that are as well-engineered and robust as any of its apparently more esteemed rivals. So talk of the 308 mixing it with the likes of the Audi A3, BMW 1 Series and Mercedes A-Class isn’t too far-fetched, alongside C-segment stalwarts such as the Ford Focus and VW Golf. No pressure.
It’s available as a five-door hatch or SW semi-estate form. Click these blue words if it’s the latter you’re after.
IT LOOKS... STRIKING.
The 308 represents further evidence of Peugeot’s concerted push both upmarket and its commitment to delivering something palpably different. Few mainstream car companies have executed a more convincing design about-turn than these guys, and the new 308’s dramatic aesthetic keeps the faith with the quasi-concept car look of the 2008 and 3008 crossovers.
The front end positions the bold new Peugeot badge in the middle of an equally punchy grille, the long nose doing most of the visual heavy lifting. The wheelbase has grown by 55mm for more room in the rear compartment, and it sits 20mm lower than the previous model. It’s also impressively slippery with a drag coefficient of 0.28, and Peugeot has pumped up the colour palette.
HOW DOES THE CABIN COMPARE?
Plenty of noise has been made about Peugeot’s i-Cockpit interior, complete with compact steering wheel and 10-inch digital instrument cluster. The steering wheel still looks like a TIE fighter from the Star Wars universe and sits unusually (and, for some, uncomfortably) low, but don’t let it be a deal breaker until you’ve spent a good amount of time in the driver’s seat – it quickly feels natural.
Elsewhere, the central touchscreen - 10 inches as standard - has been slightly reworked with a row of ‘i-Toggle’ shortcut buttons underneath (from Allure trim upwards), which can be customised to the driver’s liking. Peugeot calls it i-Connect Advanced and it looks really smart, contributing to a cabin that is as good as anything else out there. Head over to the interior tab for full details.
WHAT'S BEHIND THE BADGE?
The range is admirably streamlined for the UK and starts with the 1.2-litre PureTech 130 or the 1.5-litre Blue HDi 130 diesel, but the big step forward here is the arrival of two plug-in hybrid powertrains, in 180 (177bhp) or 225 (221bhp) forms. Both of these are powered by a 1.6-litre petrol engine augmented by a 81kW (109bhp) electric motor and a 12.4kWh lithium-ion battery, and use the e-EAT eight-speed automatic transmission.
It’s far from a Peugeot hot hatch of times gone by with a clear focus on refinement and efficiency, but that’s not to say fun can’t be had – the steering is nicely weighted and it has decent body control. Head over to the driving tab for more.
Range prices begin at £24k for the PureTech 130 in Active Premium trim, with the hybrids starting from £33k. Full details over on the buying tab.
What's the verdict?
The 308 lands in a class that is absolutely rammed with talent, endless possibilities and where deals can be done even in chip-limited times. But Peugeot has rolled the dice on design, inside and out, and while this might deter the more conservative elements of the customer base, the rest of us should applaud this refreshingly emboldened approach.
On top of that there’s quality of execution, lots of tech, and more than competent dynamics – the hybrid 180, in particular, ticks most of the boxes. Not exactly a 205 GTI successor but more fun than you might imagine.