What Car? says...
We reckon someone involved in the creation of the Peugeot 308 SW estate car is a fan of the hit film School of Rock.
Why? Well, in the movie, Jack Black plays a guitarist who enjoys his rocker lifestyle but has to learn to adapt to the adult world. As he discovers, it's possible to embrace practicality while still having fun.
Some of that ethos has gone into this all-new 308 SW: it’s aiming to be sensible and useful, but with a hint of fun underneath. Indeed, its looks alone set it apart from rivals, including estate versions of the Ford Focus, Seat Leon, Skoda Octavia, Vauxhall Astra and Volkswagen Golf.
Looks can only carry a car so far, of course. To compete with the best estate cars the 308 SW needs to offer all the space and practicality that a growing family might ask for, as well as keen driving manners, low running costs and a lot of kit for a reasonable price. Crikey, we don’t want much do we?
Fortunately, Peugeot has given it the right tools for the job. As well as its keen-as-mustard looks, it’s also available for the first time as a plug-in hybrid (PHEV), teaming up a petrol engine and an electric motor.
That immediately gives it an edge over the Ford Focus Estate and Volkswagen Golf Estate because they're not available as PHEVs. An all-electric version, expected to be called the e-308 SW, is expected in 2023 too.
So will the Peugeot 308 SW be going straight to the top of the estate car class? In this review we’ll take you through what it’s like to drive and live with, and compare it with the main rivals, including the Seat Leon Estate and Skoda Octavia Estate, before delivering our ultimate verdict.
By the way, if you're more interested in the hatchback version, we also have a full Peugeot 308 review.
Don’t forget, if you plan to buy a 308 SW – or indeed any model of car – make sure you search for the best prices available using our free What Car? New Car Buying service. It has lots of good new estate car deals.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
There's one petrol-only option in the Peugeot 308 SW engine range – an excellent 1.2-litre unit with 129bhp. It pulls strongly from low revs, and is as at home on a motorway as it is in town, even with a full boot or four passengers. The sole diesel engine available is a 1.5-litre engine that matches the petrol for power.
There are also two plug-in hybrid (PHEV) choices, starting with the Hybrid 180. That pairs a 1.6-litre petrol engine with an electric motor for a combined 177bhp – enough for 0-62mph in 7.7sec. The 12.4kWh battery pack offers a WLTP-certified electric-only range of more than 40 miles (Skoda Octavia Estate PHEV manages 41 miles officially). The electric motor’s instant acceleration makes driving in town effortless, and if you’re gentle with the accelerator, you can get up to motorway speeds without waking the engine.
The higher-powered PHEV version, the Hybrid 225, has the same set-up, but power from the petrol engine is boosted, and you get a combined 222bhp. It feels fast enough when you put your foot down, but we suspect most 308 SW buyers will find the Hybrid 180 powerful enough.
Suspension and ride comfort
The 308 SW rides well over most surfaces, and does a reasonable job of cushioning you from larger bumps. The Octavia Estate is comfier still, while the firmer set-ups in the Ford Focus Estate and Seat Leon Estate provide better body control over undulating roads.
As ever, stick with smaller alloy wheels if comfort is a priority. Wheels of up to 18in are available for the 308 SW, but we'd expect 16in ones to give you the most comfortable ride. The two PHEVs are slightly firmer than pure petrol and diesel versions because of the extra weight of their battery packs.
No 308 SW is uncomfortable, though, and you won’t find yourself wincing every time you go over a drain cover or pothole.
The 308 SW has softer suspension and more body lean than the most agile rivals in this class, but it’s far from being a wallowy barge in the corners. There’s plenty of grip on offer and the small steering is light and accurate around town.
Peugeot’s i-Cockpit interior design means it has a small steering wheel, which helps it to feel quick through turns. It doesn’t weight up much as you turn in to corners on faster roads, meaning it’s not as engaging as the Focus and Leon.
Those two rivals also offer far better body control than the 308 SW, and remain the handling benchmarks for estate cars.
Noise and vibration
The 308 SW isolates you from the outside world reasonably well around town, but there's a noticeable amount of tyre roar once you reach motorway speeds. That's accompanied by wind noise around the door mirrors.
The 1.2-litre petrol isn’t particularly hushed (especially at higher revs) but it doesn’t sound harsh when you work it hard. The 1.5-litre diesel doesn't sound as pleasant, but it remains quiet and is smoother than the petrol, sending fewer vibrations through the pedals and steering wheel. The plug-in hybrids are even quieter, especially in electric-only mode. Some of our test cars had double-glazed front windows that further cut out exterior noise.
All 308 SWs come with an eight-speed automatic gearbox that you can override using paddles on the steering wheel. It shifts smoothly but can be slow to downshift when you want to press on and incredibly hesitant when setting off from stationary. There's a stop-start system that's jerky and unpredictable, so it’s tricky to drive smoothly at low speeds. The grabby and inconsistent brakes don’t help matters either, with the light brake pedal making it difficult to judge how much pressure is required.
The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
The driving position in the Peugeot 308 SW is mostly sound, with plenty of adjustment in the seat and steering wheel. Setting up your preferred position shouldn’t take too long, but the slightly offset pedals from the seat and steering wheel might hamper comfort on longer drives.
The i-Cockpit design is set up so you look over, rather than through, the small steering wheel at the standard 10in digital instrument cluster. It takes some getting used to, and if you're particularly tall or short, the wheel can obscure your view. Higher-spec GT trim models have a 3D effect on the instrument panel, but the graphics aren't very slick, and the colour contrast isn't as good as in the Audi A3 Sportback or versions of the Ford Focus Estate with a digital driver display.
The 308 SW follows the trend for having minimal physical buttons on its dashboard, but it does have toggles to let you adjust the temperature and other vehicle settings without delving too far into the infotainment screen. If you choose Allure trim or above, you also get a row of large touch-sensitive icons that you can set up to take you to commonly used features – the sat-nav or your favourite radio station, for example.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
Front visibility in the 308 SW is good, with a low dash and slim windscreen pillars that save you from constantly re-checking your sides at junctions. The large door mirrors help when checking what’s behind you and rear visibility is better than in the Peugeot 308 hatchback because of the larger rear windscreen and slightly thinner pillars.
Every 308 SW comes with rear parking sensors as standard, while Allure models get front and rear sensors. A 360-degree camera and a self-parking system are optional on most trims, and come as standard on GT Premium cars.
Eco LED headlights come as standard on lower-spec 308s, while GT models and above get full matrix LED lights, which automatically adapt their pattern to provide maximum visibility without blinding oncoming drivers.
Sat nav and infotainment
The i-Cockpit infotainment system, presented on a 10in touchscreen in the 308 SW, is better than in previous models we’ve tried. It features clear, crisp graphics and is packed with features and customisation options. It can be a little slow to respond to your inputs, though, and a lack of proper buttons or even haptic feedback means that using it is inherently more distracting than systems using a rotary controller.
You can bypass the Peugeot system because Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring come as standard. Or, you can just tell the car what to do instead with the natural voice recognition software. It worked well when we tested it, allowing us to ask the car to alter the temperature, change the radio station or set a new sat-nav destination merely by talking to it with "Okay Peugeot…".
Need to charge up your phone? There are two USB Type C ports in the front of the 308 SW, and two more in the rear, so everyone will be able to get enough juice for their devices.
The surfaces you’ll touch regularly in the 308 SW feel premium enough and are covered with squidgy plastics and soft-touch materials. You don’t need to search far to find some harder, scratchier plastics lower down, though, particularly around the lower door cards and central tunnel.
The Skoda Octavia Estate is better here, because while it too features harder plastics lower down, its materials feel pleasant enough to touch. The 308 SW is about on a par with the Seat Leon Estate and everything feels well screwed together and built to last.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
Even those who shop both big and tall will have enough space around them in the front of the Peugeot 308 SW. There’s very little chance of you rubbing shoulders with the person sitting next to you.
You’ll also find plenty of options to stow your keys, wallet or whatever else you might want to bring with you. Spaces range from a wide door bin to a deep cubby underneath the central arm rest, while your phone will slide neatly into a recess at the front of the centre console. If you go for at least Allure Premium trim, the recess has a wireless charging pad.
A six-footer sitting behind someone who’s as tall as they are won’t want to be in the back of the 308 SW for very long. Their head will be close to brushing the roof-lining and their knees will be pressed into the seatback in front of them. There’s also less space for feet under the seats than in the Seat Leon Estate and Ford Focus Estate.
Smaller adults and children will be fine, but if you plan to carry lofty passengers frequently, the Skoda Octavia Estate is definitely a better bet. Anyone in the middle back seat will be rubbing shoulders with the person next to them, and has to straddle a central tunnel, although for short journeys it should be fine.
There’s more storage in the rear, with wide door bins and a cubby for your change on the back of the centre console. The centre armrest folds down to reveal two cupholders and a tray for pens and other slim items.
Seat folding and flexibility
The 308 SW’s rear seats split and fold in a 40/20/40 arrangement, which is more versatile than the Peugeot 308 hatchback’s 60/40 set-up.
They can be dropped using handy grab handles inside the boot. That’s useful because if you’re loading up larger items and realise you need more space, you don’t need to venture around the side of the car to drop the rear bench.
The 308 SW’s boot isn’t quite up there with the Leon Estate or Octavia Estate, but it beats both the Focus Estate and the Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer. There are also handy little features, including a 12v power socket, a side-mounted hook and luggage nets on either side.
Fitting in a couple of large suitcases for a family holiday will pose no problems, and we dare say even the results of an adventurous outing to Ikea won’t have you calling upon your best Tetris skills. The boot itself is a usefully square shape, with a minimal lip at the entrance when the adjustable floor is set to its highest setting, so getting your items in and out should be a doddle.
Of course, you can drop the 308 SW’s rear seats if you need to, opening up the load volume to a generous 1634 litres. If you go for one of the PHEV versions, the boot shrinks a little to accommodate the 12.4kWh battery pack, but it should still be more than big enough for the needs of most families. Just be aware that if you spec the spare wheel (only available on petrol and diesel versions) it takes up most of the underfloor storage area.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2
The Peugeot 308 SW is priced broadly in line with its key rivals from Ford, Vauxhall, Seat and Skoda, but the lower-end trims give you the best value for money. The Hybrid 180 engine is our preferred option, but you’ll have to step up to the second cheapest Allure trim level to get it.
Peugeot routinely offers good discounts across its model range, and we’d expect that to hold true of the new 308 SW in time too. It’s worth keeping an eye on our free What Car? New Car Deals pages for the latest Target Price offers.
Running costs should be very cheap for the plug-in hybrid (PHEV) models, and they sit in low company car tax bands. The non-PHEV 1.2-litre petrol and 1.5-litre diesel are also economical, with low CO2 emissions. The PHEVs take just over seven hours to charge to 100% if you’re using a three-pin plug. That drops to 3hr 5min if you use a 7.4kW wall box charger and 1hr 55min when combined with the 308 SW’s optional 7.4kW on-board charger (the standard unit is 3.7kW).
Equipment, options and extras
The 308 SW range is broken up into Active Premium, Allure, Allure Premium, GT and GT Premium trims, and no version is poorly equipped. Standard kit includes 16in alloy wheels, rear parking sensors, LED headlights, and the 10in infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.
Allure adds 17in alloys and the reversing camera. Allure Premium, which is expected to be the trim level most buyers go for, gets adaptive cruise control, wireless smartphone mirroring and wireless phone-charging.
GT and GT Premium add larger alloy wheels and Alcantara leather trim, but they cost a little too much to recommend.
This latest 308 SW is too new to have featured in the 2021 What Car? Reliability Survey, but Peugeot as a brand came joint 22nd out of 30 manufacturers (alongside Mercedes and Vauxhall), with a score of 89.6%.
Every 308 SW comes with a three-year, unlimited-mileage warranty, while the 12.4kWh battery pack of the PHEV versions is covered for up to eight years or 100,000 miles.
Safety and security
The 308 SW achieved four out of five stars when it was tested by Euro NCAP and testers noted a weak level of chest protection for the driver in a frontal impact. Unsurprisingly, the closely-related Vauxhall Astra achieved a similar score. The Ford Focus scored five stars, but bear in mind that that was in 2019 under less stringent testing regulations.
The list of standard safety kit on the 308 is comprehensive, with blind-spot detection, a speed limiter, cruise control, lane-keeping assistance and traffic-sign recognition all included, as well as an automatic emergency braking (AEB) system that can spot pedestrians and cyclists.
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|RRP price range||£29,250 - £43,370|
|Number of trims (see all)||3|
|Number of engines (see all)||6|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||electric, diesel, petrol, hybrid|
|MPG range across all versions||242.7 - 62.6|
|Available doors options||5|
|Warranty||3 years / 60000 miles|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£82 / £1,945|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£165 / £3,889|