2014 Peugeot 308 SW review

* Estate version of Peugeot's VW Golf rival * New 1.2 three-cylinder petrol model tested * On sale now, with deliveries from June...

2014 Peugeot 308 SW review
Author Avatar
John McIlroy
31 Mar 2014 23:01

The Peugeot 308 SW is the estate version of the latest 308 hatchback, but the French manufacturer is keen to point out that the SW is more than just the same car with a bigger boot.

Peugeot has kept the front-end looks of the regular 308 but built the estate version on a longer chassis (the wheelbase is 110mm longer) that should, in conjunction with a larger rear overhang, help the car better the VW Golf Estate and Seat Leon ST for outright luggage space.

There's also a chance that the longer wheelbase could address one of our main concerns with the regular 308: rear kneeroom. Peugeot says the rear seats in the 308 SW are 29mm farther back from the front seats than they are in a 308.

The 308 SW is launching with a mix of three-cylinder petrol engines and four-cylinder diesels. The 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrols are the latest in Peugeot's line-up, with power outputs of 109bhp and the 129bhp unit we're evaluating here – they emit as little as 109g/km of CO2. The entry-level motor uses a five-speed manual gearbox, while the more powerful petrol gets a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic.

There's a wider selection of diesel motors, with CO2 emissions of as little as 85g/km; none of the diesel engines emits more than 111g/km, even when equipped with an automatic transmission. There's a 1.6 with 91bhp and a five-speed gearbox, a 1.6 with 114bhp, a six-speed gearbox and engine stop-start, and a 148bhp 2.0 with either a six-speed manual or a six-speed auto. The cleanest engine in the line-up, though, is the BlueHDi 1.6 with 118bhp, engine stop-start and a six-speed manual; Peugeot's figures for this motor are 88.3mpg and 85g/km of CO2 (on 15-inch or 16-inch wheels).

What's the 2014 Peugeot 308 SW like to drive?

The suspension has been tweaked to cope with the increased weight of the SW, but the basic values of the regular hatchback remain. That means that, apart from a bit of patter from the rear end, you get a generally composed ride, although the trade-off is more body lean in corners than you'd find in a VW Golf.

The light steering is well suited to town use, but the manual gearbox is a little vague, meaning that the 308 SW is best suited to relaxed progress than attacking a B-road with vigour.

The new three-cylinder petrol engine is a strong point, though. In 129bhp form it has 170lb ft of torque, and while it is perhaps a little vocal if you rev it hard, that strong, low-revving ability means that you'll rarely need to do so. You can easily shift up gears at around 2300rpm and let the turbocharger do the rest in much the same way you would in a diesel.

The petrol's refinement at motorway speeds is impressive too; you're much more likely to be bothered by wind noise, particularly from around the door mirrors.

Of the diesels, first we tried the 2.0-litre diesel, which, with 277lb ft of torque, pulls strongly from low down and will have no problem hauling a family and their luggage. Aside from some pedal vibration, it remains smooth when revved, and also stays hushed at a motorway cruise.

The biggest seller will be the 118bhp 1.6 diesel, though. It might have less power and torque than the 2.0, but it's easily strong enough out on the open road, and doesn't get bogged down at low speeds, either. It manages to remain quieter and more refined than the 2.0, too – even when worked hard. 

We also had the chance to sample Peugeot's six-speed automatic gearbox. It's generally a pleasant companion, making good use of the considerable torque on offer by sticking with the gear it's in rather than changing down when accelerating. Downchanges aren't particularly smooth, though, and sometimes gears are held for too long, making the engine seem noisier than necessary. 

We also had a chance to sample the new Sport Mode button, a £375 option on the 129bhp 1.2 petrol and the 148bhp diesel. Flicking the switch adjusts the steering weight and throttle response, turns the instrument dials red and brings up a digital display showing engine characteristics or a g-force meter. It also activates a digital 'enhancer' which tries to take the more appealing elements of the engine's noise and amplify them through the stereo speakers.

You can certainly feel the improved response, and on this petrol car at least, the digital enhancer does a good job of making the motor sound more appealing. The steering weight is less easy to detect, though, and since the suspension isn't an 'adaptive' system the car's core abilities don't really change.

What's the 2014 Peugeot 308 SW like inside?

An estate needs to have a decent boot, and the 308 SW's is impressive – not only in outright space, but also because of other practical touches. The overall capacity is 660 litres and even if you discount the 70 litres of underfloor space, it's still comparable with, say, that of the Seat Leon ST and VW Golf Estate.

You can lower the 60/40 split rear seat using easy-to-reach handles at either side of the boot; put down both seats and the 308 SW's capacity rises to 1660 litres, comfortably more than the Leon's maximum and a little ahead of the Golf's.

Better still, the rear bases move forward and down slightly as you lower the seats, so the seatbacks are able to lie at an angle of no more than a couple of degrees, ensuring an impressively flat load space. It's a shame the front passenger seat back can't fold for even taller loads, though.

Other neat touches include tie-down points, a hook that holds up the boot floor when you want to put something under it and a cut-out in the plastic moulding under the carpet designed to accommodate the luggage cover.

There is a bit more knee- and legroom for rear passengers in the SW than in the hatchback, but it's still some way shy of what you'd find in a Skoda Octavia.

The cabin, meanwhile, has a clean, uncluttered dashboard design with a pleasing choice of materials and relatively few buttons.

On all but entry-level models, that means you control the bulk of the car's systems, including sat-nav, the stereo and even the heating and ventilation, through the central touch-screen. This sounds a little slicker than it really is; there are 'hot keys' that take you to the relevant screens, but it's still a little frustrating to have to select the heater menu before you can make an adjustment.

The panoramic glass roof that's optional on all but Feline editions certainly brightens up the cabin, particularly for rear passengers. It does impact a bit on headroom in the back, though, so it's worth checking before you tick the box.

All cars get air-conditioning, LED daytime running lights, electric front windows, remote central locking, Bluetooth and a DAB radio as standard.

Moving from entry-level Access up to Active trim level (from £18,295) brings 16-inch alloy wheels, the multi-function 9.7-inch touch-screen with sat-nav, a USB socket, a leather-covered steering wheel and gearknob, dual-zone air-con, an electric handbrake, automatic headlights and wipers and rear parking sensors.

The next trim up, called Allure and starting from £19,745, adds 17-inch alloy wheels, a reversing camera, front parking sensors, and electric folding mirrors with puddle lights. The range-topping Feline models, meanwhile, cost from £22,095 and bring 18-inch alloys, a panoramic glass roof, tinted rear side windows, half-Alcantara sports seats, keyless entry and a Driver Assistance Pack (dynamic cruise control, emergency collision alert and emergency collision braking).

Should I buy one?

The new Peugeot 308 SW is a fine addition to the increasingly impressive line-up of family estate cars. It offers well thought-out, practical touches that can make all the difference to family life, and it's strong enough in other areas to compete with the best in class, too.

We can't help thinking that many buyers will still be frustrated by the limited rear legroom, and if overall boot capacity is your priority then you're still better off with a Skoda Octavia Estate. However, if you've found yourself eyeing up estate versions of the Honda Civic, VW Golf, Seat Leon or Ford Focus, then you should definitely add the 308 SW to your shortlist.

What Car? says...


Skoda Octavia Estate

VW Golf Estate

Engine size 1.2-litre turbo petrol
Price from £16,845
Power 109bhp
Torque 154lb ft
0-62mph 11.6 seconds
Top speed 116mph
Fuel economy 60.1mpg
CO2 output 109g/km

Engine size 1.2-litre turbo petrol
Price from £19,045
Power 129bhp
Torque 173lb ft
0-62mph 10.0 seconds
Top speed 127mph
Fuel economy 57.6mpg
CO2 output 114g/km

Engine size 1.6-litre diesel
Price from £17,545
Power 91bhp
Torque 173lb ft
0-62mph 11.9 seconds
Top speed 114mph
Fuel economy 74.3mpg
CO2 output 99g/km

Engine size 1.6-litre diesel 
Price from £18,345
Power 114bhp
Torque 203lb ft
0-62mph 10.6 seconds
Top speed 121mph
Fuel economy 76.3mpg
CO2 output 95g/km

Engine size 1.6-litre diesel
Price from £20,195
Power 118bhp
Torque 225lb ft
0-62mph 10.1 seconds
Top speed 123mph
Fuel economy 88.3mpg
CO2 output 85g/km

Engine size 2.0-litre diesel
Price from £21,095
Power 148bhp
Torque 277lb ft
0-62mph 8.9 seconds
Top speed 135mph
Fuel economy 74.3mpg
CO2 output 99g/km