Design, build quality, hybrid is very refined, well-equipped
Interior layout remains polarising, rear seat space rather tight
What is it?
It’s the new 308. Peugeot has evidently abandoned levelling up its numerical nomenclature - 309 has been used, of course, and very nicely in GTI form for those of us with long memories.
Depending on various factors, this could be your new family transport, company car, or possibly something you’ll end up renting. Peugeot has shifted in excess of 1.3 million 308s in its lifetime, so whatever it is, it’s highly significant to the company’s bottom line. It’s available as a five-door hatch or SW semi-estate form.
The big step forward here is the arrival of a plug-in hybrid. Beyond that, 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. Even the Olivine Green is pretty extrovert.
It looks… striking.
True, it isn’t an inherently pretty car but nor does it look like anything else out there, which automatically makes it more interesting. And French. Vive la difference etc.
The, erm, challenging i-Cockpit has received some ameliorations, the standard 10-inch touchscreen reworked and newly available with a row of ‘i-Toggle’ short-cut buttons. Peugeot calls it i-Connect Advanced. The steering wheel still looks like a TIE fighter from the Star Wars universe and sits unusually and, for many, uncomfortably low. We like the fact that Peugeot has stuck to its guns on this, but it’s so wilfully idiosyncratic that it risks overwhelming the driving and ownership experience. Don’t let it be a deal-breaker.
Peugeot’s aim – get this – 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 more apparently 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.
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. There are 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 an 81kW (109bhp) electric motor and a 12.4kWh lithium ion battery, and use the e-EAT eight-speed automatic transmission. Range prices begin at £24,000 for the PureTech 130 in Active Premium form.
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.
Peugeot has rolled the dice on design, inside and out, which might deter the more conservative elements of the customer base. The rest of us should applaud this refreshingly emboldened approach, but 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.