First Drive

2014 Peugeot 308 review

The Peugeot 308 seems to offer a cheaper alternative to an Audi A3 Sportback or VW Golf, with sleek looks and outstanding efficicency. We test the new 91.1mpg 1.6 BlueHDi diesel in the UK.

Words ByVicky Parrott

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The new Peugeot 308 was launched in the UK at the end of 2013 to a broadly positive, if slightly apologetic reception of 'it’s nice, but it’s still not as good as the Golf'.

However, the advent of a host of impressively efficient new engines, including a 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol (available in three power outputs) and a 1.6-litre diesel, could drag the 308 into class contention.

What’s the 2014 Peugeot 308 like to drive?

Aside from a bit of patter from the rear wheels, the 308 rides pretty well – particularly if you go for a model with small alloys. Unfortunately, the handling is less ideal.

The 308 leans heavily when you turn into a bend, while the steering is a touch nervous-feeling in the way it responds at higher speeds, and a bit too light to instill much confidence mid-corner.

The brake pedal response can be a little grabby, too, which takes some getting used to.

The good news is that the new engines are great. The 1.2-litre will be available with 81bhp, and two turbocharged versions will offer either 109bhp or 128bhp, and we’ve tested both the latter units.

The 109bhp engine comes with a five-speed gearbox, which has a light and positive shift action. Despite its three-cylinder layout, the engine is surprisingly smooth from idle right up to its rev limit.

However, the nature of its power delivery means there’s not much point in working it that hard. Long gearing and a dearth of top-end power mean its performance is ultimately limited when pushed. It’s best between about 1200-3500rpm, when the punchy spread of torque delivers a relaxed drive.

If you opt for the higher-powered engine, you also get a six-speed β€˜box as standard. Thankfully the hike in power makes no difference to the engine's smoothness, but the extra gear and boost in torque ensure a nippy throttle response and brisk acceleration. Mind you, despite feeling usefully responsive in everyday driving, it never feels quite as eager or flexible as the engines in rivals such as the Volkswagen Golf 1.2 TSI and Ford Focus 1.0 EcoBoost.

The new 1.6 BlueHDi diesel is a real success. It’s remarkably efficient, yet is also more powerful and more refined than the 1.6 115 e-HDi motor that it will eventually replace later on this year.

By the standards of small diesel engines, it revs smoothly and it will hold very low revs without feeling like it's on the verge of stalling, while emitting a distant, muted hum that’s easy to ignore.

It also pulls cleanly, even from the dregs of the rev range, so you don’t need to change gear much around town. It’s not going to set any records for outright pace, but it’s quick enough in mid-range to make easy work of occasional b-road overtaking.

Currently, the old 1.6 115 e-HDi diesel is still available for Β£500 less than the new Blue HDi, but – despite decent in-gear flexibility – it’s worth paying the extra for the better emissions, economy and performance of the newer engine.

Avoid the 91bhp 1.6 diesel that is on offer in the 308, as it feels more strained than the others, even in moderate driving, is decidedly boomy when revved, and isn’t as frugal as the more powerful BlueHDi.

The new 1.6 is also preferable to another of Peugeot’s new engines, the 2.0 BlueHDi diesel, which is expensive. Although it’s quite fast, all of its oomph arrives in one surge around 2000rpm, so you’re inclined to change gear regularly, and it feels harder work than the more flexible 1.6.

However, while the new engines are refined, the 308 remains blighted by lots of wind noise on the motorway and a quite vague (if fairly light) gearshift action.

What’s the 2014 Peugeot 308 like inside?

Very smart. The modern cabin has a simple layout and there are some high-quality touches.

Entry-level Access trim comes with air-con, cruise control, electric front windows, Bluetooth and DAB digital radio.

Active models are the best choice, because they’re well equipped, with 16-inch alloy wheels, sat-nav, climate control, an electronic parking brake and parking sensors included.

Higher up the range, you'll find Allure and GT Line. Allure adds electric folding mirrors, a reversing camera, front parking sensors and LED headlights, while GT Line is the sportier option and adds tinted rear windows, twin exhaust pipes and aluminium-style pedals. We wouldn't recommend either of these trims as they come with larger alloy wheels that affect the 308's ride.

It takes a while to get used to quirks such as the tiny steering wheel and raised pod of dials, but the driving position is good and the seats are supportive. The clutch pedal is set too high, though, which hampers comfort on a long drive.

The 308 SW estate (which is also getting the same new engines) has improved the rear legroom, but adults in the back of the hatchback will find themselves hemmed in; the optional (Β£500) panoramic sunroof is best avoided because it eats into the available headroom.

The plastics used in the rear cabin also feel a lot cheaper than the classier trim located nearer the driver. The glovebox is tiny, too.

Should I buy one?

The new 1.6 BlueHDi has a lot going for it; it’s slightly more refined and is Β£1695 cheaper to buy than the Golf 1.6 TDI Match, and very low emissions mean the 308 is also around Β£10 cheaper per month for (higher rate) company car users, at Β£91.

However, while the 1.6 BlueHDI, and high-powered 1.2 PureTech petrol are very good engines, the 308 still falls short of rivals – including cars such as the Audi A3 Sportback, Seat Leon and Skoda Octavia. This is largely because of the space for rear passengers, its infotainment system, the slightly underwhelming handling and a driving position that will be fine for many and highly irritating for some.

The 308 also won’t hold its value so well, meaning it’s unlikely to be the cheapest hatchback to own privately, despite competitive equipment and list prices.

Ultimately, if you can live with its quirks, the 308 is an effective and somewhat charming car, but even the excellent engines haven't changed that original verdict; it’s nice, but still not as good as the Golf.

What Car? says…


Audi A3 Sportback

Volkswagen Golf

Peugeot 308 1.2 VTi 82
Engine size 1.2-litre petrol
Price from Β£14,895
Power 80bhp
Torque 87lb ft
0-62mph 13.3 seconds
Top speed 106mph
Fuel economy 56.4mpg
CO2 114g/km

Peugeot 308 1.2 PureTech eTHP 110
Engine size 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol
Price from Β£16,145
Power 109bhp
Torque 154lb ft
0-62mph 11.1 seconds
Top speed 117mph
Fuel economy 61.4mpg
CO2 105g/km

Peugeot 308 1.2 PureTech eTHP 130
Engine size 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol
Price from Β£18,345
Power 129bhp
Torque 173lb ft
0-62mph 9.6 seconds
Top speed 128mph
Fuel economy 61.4mpg
CO2 107g/km

Peugeot 308 1.6 THP 125 Engine size 1.6-litre turbo petrol
Price from Β£16,095
Power 123bhp
Torque 148lb ft
0-62mph 8.9 seconds
Top speed 125mph
Fuel economy 50.4mpg
CO2 129g/km

Peugeot 308 1.6 THP 156
Engine size 1.6-litre turbo petrol
Price from Β£20,150
Power 154bhp
Torque 177lb ft
0-62mph 8.0 seconds
Top speed 133mph
Fuel economy 50.4mpg
CO2 129g/km

Peugeot 308 1.6 HDi 92
Engine size 1.6-litre diesel
Price from Β£16,845
Power 91bhp
Torque 170lb ft
0-62mph 11.3 seconds
Top speed 113mph
Fuel economy 78.4mpg
CO2 93g/km

Peugeot 308 1.6 e-HDi 115
Engine size 1.6-litre diesel
Price from Β£17,645
Power 114bhp
Torque 203lb ft
0-62mph 10.2 seconds
Top speed 121mph
Fuel economy 76.3mpg
CO2 95g/km

Peugeot 308 1.6 BlueHDi 120
Engine size 1.6-litre diesel
Price from Β£19,495
Power 118bhp
Torque 225lb ft
0-62mph 9.7 seconds
Top speed 122mph
Fuel economy 91.1mpg
CO2 82g/km

Peugeot 308 2.0 BlueHDi 150
Engine size 2.0-litre diesel
Price from Β£20,395
Power 148bhp
Torque 277lb ft
0-62mph 8.6 seconds
Top speed 135mph
Fuel economy 74.3mpg
CO2 99g/km