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

What are they like inside?

Both the Skoda Octavia and VW Golf have driver’s seats with a generous amount of manual adjustment, including adjustable lumbar support, while both steering wheels can be manipulated to suit most drivers. Our Allure-spec Peugeot 308 test car was fitted with the optional (£1500 from new) electric, leather sports seats, but the standard seats are comfortable enough.

Less impressive is the 308’s tiny steering wheel, over which you look to see the instrument dials. Some of our testers found the top of the wheel blocked their view of the dials.

Skoda Octavia 1.5 TSI 150 SE L - interior

In the 308, Allure trim is well equipped, with a 9.7in touchscreen featuring Bluetooth, a DAB radio, a USB port, sat-nav and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring. However, the screen isn’t particularly responsive when you touch it, requiring the odd double prod to select menus, while some of the icons are too small to hit with any confidence. Furthermore, some of the graphics look a bit old-hat.

The Octavia’s standard 8.0in touchscreen (the optional 9.2in Columbus screen is pictured here) is far more responsive than the 308’s, is quicker to process requests and has easier-to-work menus. It, too, has sat-nav as standard, as well as smartphone mirroring, a USB port, a DAB radio, Bluetooth and controls on the steering wheel.

Volkswagen Golf - interior

The Golf’s infotainment system is the same basic 8.0in touchscreen found in the Octavia and features sat-nav, Bluetooth, a DAB radio, a USB port and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Its menus are similarly easy to follow and it’s every bit as responsive. Like the Octavia’s standard system, it features a couple of rotary dials; the one on the left controls volume and the one on the right scrolls through the menus.

Seeing out of the front and sides of all three cars is easy enough, thanks to their thin windscreen pillars, so judging roundabouts and T-junctions is never an issue. Your over-the-shoulder view in the Octavia, and even more so the Golf, is also reassuring, but the 308’s thicker rear pillars and smaller rear screen mean there’s more guesswork involved when reversing. Thankfully, all three cars get standard rear parking sensors. Peugeot and Volkswagen also include sensors at the front, but they were optional on the Skoda.

New Skoda Octavia & Volkswagen Golf vs Peugeot 308

The Golf just edges the Octavia for interior quality. The Golf’s dashboard and doors feature soft-touch plastics, and these continue further down in the interior, although the general fit and finish of both cars, as well as the substantial feel of both sets of buttons and switches, are very closely matched. Perceived material quality in the 308 is decent enough, but start to prod and press and it becomes clear that there are more brittle plastics and the switches aren’t as nicely damped. 

Talking of switches, the Golf’s manual air conditioning (optional climate control is pictured) is easy to use and the Octavia’s standard climate control system is similarly intuitive. Less so is Peugeot’s decision to incorporate the 308’s climate controls within the menus of its touchscreen, making it a real faff to adjust the temperature while you’re driving.

New Skoda Octavia & Volkswagen Golf vs Peugeot 308

Space and practicality are the Octavia’s fortes; it frankly destroys the Golf and 308 here. Its rivals come closest to matching it in their front seats – a couple of tall adults will enjoy good head and leg room in all three cars – but the Octavia still offers the most.

In the rear, there really is no contest. The Octavia has by far the most leg room and marginally the most head room, too, allowing another pair of tall adults to stretch out behind similar-sized people in front. The Golf isn’t far behind on rear head room and actually offers decent rear leg room by wider class standards, but it still seems stingy next to the Octavia. Trailing in third place is the 308, which not only looks comparatively cramped in the back but feels it, too. In fact, it has less knee room than many cars from the class below.

New Skoda Octavia & Volkswagen Golf vs Peugeot 308

The main reason for the 308’s tight rear quarters is that space has been given over to its generous-sized boot, which is larger than the Golf’s and a consistent square shape inside. Still, the Octavia’s boot easily outguns both its rivals’ for space and access. Indeed, in our carry-on suitcase test, it swallowed a staggering 11 cases – more than many large SUVs – versus the six we managed to squeeze in the 308 and the five that fitted in the Golf.

However, it’s worth pointing out that while all three cars get 60/40 split-folding rear seats as standard, only the Golf gets a standard height-adjustable boot floor. This means it’s the only car that has a near-flat extended load bay from the boot entrance right through to the front seatbacks when the rear seats are folded down.

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