Used test: Peugeot 308 vs Skoda Octavia vs Volkswagen Golf

These three family hatchbacks all offer great value for money when bought at a couple of years old, but which one fulfils the brief best? We have the answer...

New Skoda Octavia & Volkswagen Golf vs Peugeot 308

The Contenders

Peugeot 308 1.2 THP 130 Allure

  • List price when new £20,440
  • Price today  £11,500*
  • Available from 2014-present

The 308 has a frugal little engine and is the cheapest car to buy at this age, but is that enough in this company?

Skoda Octavia 1.5 TSI 150 SE L

  • List price when new - £21,865
  • Price today - £13,500*
  • Available from - 2013-2020

The spacious and practical Octavia has long been a frequent winner of our family car awards

Volkswagen Golf 1.5 TSI Evo 130 SE Navigation

  • List price when new - £21,790
  • Price today - £13,950*
  • Available from - 2013-2020

This mighty Mk7 Golf may have been recently superseded by a newer model, but it’s still a force to be reckoned with

*Price today is based on a 2018 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing

Sometimes, a car that appears too expensive or not competitive on price when new can turn into a used car bargain. 

Take the Peugeot 308. This smart-looking hatchback successfully reinvigorated the French firm’s slightly faded range when it first appeared in 2014. However, such is the topsy-turvy world of residual values, it turns out the 308 loses a reasonable amount of its worth in heavy depreciation, making it a particularly cheap car used.

Peugeot 308 front - 17-plate car

But is that enough to make it stand out against its more expensive rivals? Here, for example, we’ve chosen the perennially popular Mk7 Volkswagen Golf, recently replaced by the all-new Mk8 VW Golf, and lined it up with the deeply impressive Skoda Octavia, likewise a car being replaced in UK showrooms later this year. These two cars share much under the skin, and we’ve always admired them above nearly all others in the family car class when bought new. 

So the question is, does the 308’s attractive price make it a bargain at this age, or is it just another one to be avoided as you rush out to buy the Octavia or the Golf? Read on to find out. 

 What are they like to drive? 

The 1.5 150 engine in the Octavia has an extra 20bhp over the similar 1.5 130 unit in the Golf, and its better pull from low revs can certainly be felt on the road, helping it drag itself up to motorway speeds more quickly in the higher gears and sprint from a standstill with more verve. That said, the Golf never feels out of its depth, whether around town or when trying to keep pace with faster-moving traffic on A-roads. Both cars rev smoothly and also stay vibration-free at high revs.

Skoda Octavia front - 67-plate car

The 308’s three-cylinder engine matches the outright power of the Golf’s four-cylinder unit. Unsurprisingly, it, therefore, matched the Golf in a drag race from 0-60mph, but the 308 doesn’t pull as hard at very low revs, which means you need to change gear more often when driving around town. There’s also noticeably more noise and vibration from the 308’s engine under hard acceleration.

The Golf’s steering is nicely weighted and feels natural, complementing the car’s eagerness to change direction, tidy body control and strong grip. The Octavia isn’t far behind, with steering that’s almost as agreeable and just as much grip, but you can feel its larger body moving about more when you’re cornering. The 308 is some way adrift; its overly quick steering is designed to make it feel agile but, in reality, just makes it feel nervous. Unfortunately, it’s also the first to give up grip through corners, so all told, it’s the least capable and least enjoyable-handling car here.

Volkswagen Golf front - 67-plate car

The Peugeot 308 also has the worst ride. It fails to satisfactorily deal with larger obstacles, such as speed humps, and is the most unsettled around town. The Skoda Octavia does a much better job of sponging away surface imperfections on any road at any speed, even if its rear suspension can be heard going about its business. The VW Golf rides most comfortably, staying neatly composed, even along badly pockmarked roads.

The Golf is the quietest car to be in, too, keeping road and wind noise at bay on the motorway better than the others.

Next: What are they like inside? >>

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