Our favourite diesel engine is the 128bhp 1.5-litre engine that proves pretty flexible, so you rarely have to rev it hard and makes the 308 SW feel reasonably brisk. Despite its punch, it’s actually more efficient than the 99bhp version.
Unsurprisingly, you have to work the entry-level 1.5 diesel pretty hard at times, but it doesn’t feel significantly slower than the 128bhp version when you do. The 2.0-litre diesel is even more flexible and outright faster but, given the 1.5 isn’t far behind them, we’d stick with that and save some money up front.
The 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol engines are worth a look if you don’t do lots of miles. The 109bhp unit is decently punchy at low revs and is the pick of the petrols – and our overall favourite of the range, too. The 129bhp version feels more urgent and is usefully brisk, but isn’t worth the extra cost.
At the pinnacle of the line-up is a 1.6-litre petrol with 222bhp and coupled exclusively to an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Although it’s certainly quick, you really have to rev the engine out for it to feel like it has all the horsepower advertised. There’s still plenty of shove lower down, but it’s better suited to those wanting to go fast than those carrying or towing heavy loads.
The 1.5 diesel engine stays relatively quiet even when you work it hard, but the 99bhp 1.5 and 2.0 units sound noticeably gruffer and transmit more vibration through the pedals. The 1.2 turbocharged petrols remain calm and quiet at all times, although the top-of-the-range petrol is smoother still and transmits fewer vibrations through the controls.
You have to put up with some wind noise at motorway speeds, while the manual gearbox has a vague action and the auto ’box can be slow to respond. The 308 SW’s pedal weights aren’t as consistent as a Volkswagen Golf Estate’s or Skoda Octavia Estate’s, either.
Sadly, the 308 SW’s ride is a mixed bag. Not only do you hear the suspension thudding over bumps in town driving, but hit a ridge with both front wheels and you’ll feel the car thump – certainly more so than in the more sophisticated Golf Estate. As usual, the bigger the alloy wheels, the worse the 308 SW rides.
The 308 SW’s tiny steering wheel (part of Peugeot’s i-Cockpit design) gives it a keenness to turn in to bends, but you wouldn’t describe it as nervous. And the steering is nicely weighted, staying light in town and building resistance the faster you go.
There’s not much feel through the steering wheel, but most of the 308 SW’s rivals don’t tell you much about the front tyres’ activities, either. The 308 SW has plenty of grip and relatively well-tamed body roll, too, but the Golf remains a sharper and more entertaining drive.