First Drive

2015 Peugeot 308 SW GT Blue HDi 180

The new range-topping Peugeot 308 estate gets more power, a standard automatic gearbox and loads of kit, but a high price to go with it.

Words ByVicky Parrott

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This new range-topping Peugeot 308 SW GT Blue HDi 180 is the most sporting version in the range, with 178bhp from its 2.0-litre diesel engine and a six-speed automatic gearbox as standard. It also comes with a surfeit of luxuries as standard, including LED headlights, keyless start and even a massaging driver’s seat, on top of all the usual niceties such as sat-nav.

Mind you, it needs to be well equipped because it costs thousands more to buy than plenty of similar rivals, including the Seat Leon ST.

What’s the Peugeot 308 SW GT Blue HDi 180 like to drive?

Not very sporting, that’s for sure. The engine is eager, but the automatic gearbox can be dim-witted. Sometimes it’s overly keen to change down on moderate inclines, yet at other times it’s hesitant to shift down when you want a sudden burst of acceleration.

Even using the steering column-mounted paddles doesn’t always provoke the prompt response you’re looking for. Still, while the gearbox is more of a hindrance than a help in vigorous driving, it does a reasonable job at a steady potter, when the lazy shifts aren’t a problem and it keeps the engine in its broad mid-range.

The handling is respectable for a standard diesel estate, but for something that - at a push of the Sport button - lights up with red dials, a turbo boost gauge and even a g-force meter, it doesn’t really live up to the hype.

A small steering wheel enhances a sense of dartiness as you turn in to a corner, but even in Sport mode the steering weight drops off mid-bend, and is then quite keen to self-centre. While there’s enough grip to carry good speeds through corners, the 308 SW will still start to wash wide sooner than more taut-feeling rivals such as the Seat Leon ST FR and Ford Focus ST Estate.

Ride comfort isn’t great, either. Granted, the 308 settles on the motorway and over smoother urban roads, but it’s jarring over potholes, and mid-corner bumps send a heavy shudder through the cabin and can even cause it to lose traction and momentarily skitter over the road.

Overall, this GT model really just feels like an everyday estate with a bit more poke, a more unforgiving ride and a jacked-up price, with little or no added fun to show for it.

What’s the Peugeot 308 SW GT Blue HDi 180 like inside?

The driving position is good, with lots of bolster support on the sports seats to keep you in place, and a smattering of red stitching - and the odd GT badge adds a further splash of luxury feel to this top-end 308.

It's just a shame that some may find the brake pedal a little offset to the left and there’s less headroom than in most rivals - especially if you add the optional panoramic glass roof (Β£500) that was fitted to our test car.

As with all but entry-level 308 models, the huge 9.7in touchscreen is the nerve centre. It looks great, it doesn't respond as quickly as you'd want and some menus are very fiddly to use.

Rear passenger space is also very tight by class standards, particularly in terms of legroom, so adults may feel a bit cramped.

The boot makes up for this in some respects, being bigger than that in any rival – even including the fairly enormous Skoda Octavia Estate - and high-end 308 SWs even get rails with magnetic, sliding lashing-eyes as standard, as well as 60/40 split rear seats that can be folded easily via a lever in the well-shaped load bay.

Should I buy one?

This GT model would be hard to recommend even if it were better to drive, but as it is it’s a disappointing version of an otherwise decent family estate. Even low emissions (and low company car tax costs) don't make it recommendable to business users given the array of alternatives.

If you really like the 308 SW, the 2.0 HDi 150 is cheaper, yet just as good to drive (if not better as a manual). Otherwise, look to the well-priced and more entertaining Seat Leon ST FR 184 TDI for a really well-sorted fast diesel estate, or a Ford Focus Estate ST TDCi, which also costs less and is great fun, although there's no automatic option.

What Car? says...

Rivals

Ford Focus Estate 2.0 TDCi 185 ST

Seat Leon ST 2.0 TDI 184 FR

Peugeot 308 SW GT Blue HDi 180

Engine size 2.0-litre diesel

Price from Β£26,845

Power 178bhp

Torque 295lb ft

0-62mph 8.6 seconds

Top speed 135mph

Fuel economy 68.9mpg

CO2 107g/km