What Car? says...
Even when you’re surrounded by talent, good looks can help you stand out from the crowd – as Harry Styles' post-One Direction solo career shows. Likewise, the Peugeot 308 hatchback's striking appearance could help it stand out in a field of talented competitors.
It won't be easy for the 308, though, because those rivals include big-selling family cars such as the Ford Focus, Seat Leon, Toyota Corolla and Volkswagen Golf. And as The X Factor has demonstrated many times, to be truly successful in the big wide world you need plenty of substance to back up rock-star looks.
It's a good thing, then, that the Peugeot 308 has another ace up its sleeve: plug-in hybrid (PHEV) power. That’s something the Golf offers, but the Focus, Leon and Corolla don't. There’s even a fully electric version on the way, which will be called the e-308.
Of course, the low running costs offered by plug-in hybrid power are only part of the equation. To succeed in this class, the Peugeot 308 must also be good to drive, with good space for passengers and all of their luggage. It must have also a high-quality interior that can stand up to the rigours of family life.
So, is this the start of a glittering solo career or will the Peugeot 308 end up as a backing dancer for the best family hatchbacks? In other words, is the 308 a good car, a great car – or one to avoid? Read on and we'll tell you everything you need to know.
By the way, if you're interested in the more practical estate version of the 308, head over to our Peugeot 308 SW review.
If you do decide to buy a new 308 – or indeed any other new car – our free What Car? New Car Buying service can help you find a great deal. There are often some seriously tempting Peugeot 308 deals.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
The cheapest engine (badged 1.2 PureTech 130) is a 1.2 petrol with 129bhp. It comes with an eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard and delivers acceleration that's respectable enough, with 0-60mph taking around 9.5 seconds. It's a fair bit quicker than a Toyota Corolla 1.8 Hybrid, although a Seat Leon 1.5 TSI 130 is noticeably faster.
There’s also a 1.5-litre diesel (badged 1.5 BlueHDI 130) that pumps out an identical 129bhp. It has the same automatic gearbox, and pulls well from low revs, although doesn't rev as sweetly as the 1.2 petrol.
Finally, there are two plug-in hybrid (PHEV) options, starting with the Hybrid 180. It mates a 1.6-litre petrol engine with an electric motor for a combined 178bhp – enough for 0-62mph in 7.6sec. The 12.4kWh battery pack offers an official pure electric range of more than 40 miles, although you'll struggle to do more than 30 miles in the real world before the petrol engine cuts in. Meanwhile, the more powerful Hybrid 4 (available only on the top two trim levels) adds more power and four-wheel drive. Acceleration is barely any quicker, though, and it's a lot more expensive – as we'll explain later on in this review.
Suspension and ride comfort
From the moment you pull away, it’s clear that Peugeot has tried to prioritise ride comfort over handling – but in the end the 308 feels a little compromised on both counts.
You see, the suspension is noticeably softer than the set-up on the Ford Focus and Seat Leon, but the 308 lacks the body control of those rivals. So, while it feels relatively plush on a smooth road, once you turn off and on to a more demanding stretch of undulating Tarmac, it can feel quite floaty over crest and dips. If that were the only issue we wouldn't grumble, but venture into town and larger abrasions, such as expansion joints and potholes, tend to send jolts and shudders through the 308’s structure.
As ever, stick with smaller alloy wheels if comfort is a priority. Wheels of up to 18in are available, but the 16in rims will, we suspect, give you the best cushioning. As you might expect, the ride in the PHEV versions is slightly firmer than in the regular petrol and diesel because of the extra weight of the battery packs.
The 308 isn’t the sort of car you’ll be inclined to go for a drive in just for the heck of it. It’s far from a wallowy barge through the corners; you just don’t feel particularly involved in the experience and the comically small steering wheel (more on that later) doesn’t give a great sense of connection with the front wheels.
If you want a family car that's more agile and will really put a smile on your face, check out the Focus or Leon. The Corolla and Golf also handle more sweetly than the 308.
Noise and vibration
In the regular 1.2 petrol, driveability is badly hampered by the standard eight-speed automatic gearbox. Go to pull out of a junction and, rather than surging forwards promptly, there’s often a pause while the ’box decides which gear it wants to be in. The worst thing, though, is how badly the gearbox dovetails with the engine’s stop-start system. It makes it almost impossible to drive this 308 smoothly in slow-moving traffic.
The plug-in hybrid (PHEV) versions of the 308 are smoother to drive and, when running in pure electric mode, have the obviously advantage of no petrol or diesel engine chugging away under the bonnet. There's some wind noise on the motorway, so the 308 isn't as hushed as a Golf or Corolla. However, it's roughly on a par with the Leon for its ability to isolate you from the outside world.g it difficult to reduce your speed smoothly.
The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
The 308’s driving position is somewhat unusual. As with other modern Peugeots, there’s a high-set digital instrument panel that you’re supposed to view above (rather than through) a tiny steering wheel. The good news is that none of our testers struggled to see the instruments, a problem that afflicts the smaller 208. The bad news is that the driving position is still a bit awkward; you almost feel as though you’re sitting on the floor.
All trim levels come with adjustable lumbar support to aid comfort. However, the driver's seat doesn't provide a great deal of side support for cornering. Another bugbear is that you need to faff around with the touchscreen just to adjust the interior temperature. In the Corolla, for example, you just twist a well-positioned dial – an act that’s less distracting when you’re driving.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
Front visibility in the 308 is good, thanks to a low dashboard and slim windscreen pillars, which mean you don’t have to constantly recheck your sides at junctions. The view out of the back is hampered by thicker pillars and a smaller back window than you’ll find in the Focus and Seat Leon.
Fortunately, every 308 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, 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 physical shortcut buttons and a rotary controller.
You can bypass Peugeot’s system because Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring come as standard. Or, you can use the natural voice recognition software instead, allowing you to ask the car to alter the temperature, change the radio station or set a new sat-nav destination merely by talking to the car. It works well when stationary, but isn’t so successful with the background noise of a car full of people.
Need to charge up your phone? There are two USB Type C ports in the front of the 308, and two more in the rear, so no one need complain about getting enough juice for their devices.
The surfaces you’ll touch regularly in the 308 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 is better here, because while it features harder plastics lower down as well, its materials feel pleasant enough to touch. The 308 is about on a par with the Leon, and everything does feel well screwed together and built to last.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
Even those who are both big and tall will have no problems with space in the front of the Peugeot 308. There’s plenty of head and leg room, and there’s very little chance of you rubbing shoulders with the person sitting next to you.
You’ll also find numerous options to stow your keys, wallet or whatever else you might want to bring with you. Spaces range from a wide door bin (carpeted at the bottom to limit rattles) 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 which houses a wireless charging pad from Allure Premium trim and above.
A six-footer sitting behind someone else the same height won’t want to be in the back of the 308 for very long. Their head is likely to be brushing the roof-lining and their knees will be pressed into the seatback in front of them. There’s little space for their feet, too, so they’ll feel quite restricted overall.
Smaller adults or children will be fine, but if you plan to carry lofty passengers frequently, the Ford Focus and Skoda Octavia are definitely better bets. Similarly, anyone in the middle seat will be rubbing shoulders with the person next to them, and has to straddle a central tunnel, but for short journeys it should be fine.
There’s more storage for oddments in the rear, with wide door bins and a cubby for your change on the back of the centre console.
Seat folding and flexibility
The 308’s rear seats fold in a 60/40 arrangement, which is pretty standard for family cars in this price bracket.
The 308 beats most rivals (not including the vast Octavia) for boot space, so even a family for whom travelling light is an alien concept should have no trouble fitting in their holiday luggage.
The boot is a useful square shape, with only a small loading lip at its entrance, which makes heaving your items in and out easier. An adjustable height boot floor isn’t an option, though.
It’s worth noting that if you go for a plug-in hybrid 308, the boot shrinks a little to accommodate the 12.4kWh battery pack that sits under the boot floor. We could only fit five carry-on suitcases, which is typical for a plug-in hybrid family car.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2
The Peugeot 308 is priced broadly in line with its key rivals from Ford, Seat, Skoda and Vauxhall, but it’s worth sticking to one of the lower-end trims to ensure the best value for money. Our favoured plug-in hybrid (Hybrid 180) is not available in entry-level Active Premium trim but it is still competitively priced against other PHEVs.
Peugeot routinely offers good discounts across its model range, and we’d expect that to hold true of the latest 308 in time too. It’s worth keeping an eye on our free What Car? New Car Deals pages for the latest Target Price offers. It’s also predicted to hold on to its value better than the Seat Leon, Toyota Corolla and Volkswagen Golf, so competitive finance deals are already available.
On paper the non-PHEV 1.2-litre petrol and 1.5-litre diesel are fairly frugal with official economy of more than 50mpg for the petrol and 60mpg for the diesel. On our real-world test route, the petrol returned 43.4mpg, which is a little disappointing (the 1.8 Toyota Corolla managed 55.5mpg). CO2 emissions are reasonably low, but company car users would be far better off trying the PHEV 180 – it's in one of the cheapest tax bands for anything other than an electric car. The PHEVs take just over seven hours to charge to 100% if you’re using a three-pin plug. That drops to 1hr 40min if you use a 3.4kW wall box charger and opt for the 308’s optional 7.4kW on-board charger (the standard model is 3.7kW).
Equipment, options and extras
The 308 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 full smartphone connectivity.
Allure is the first trim available on the two plug-in hybrid models, and is also our preferred trim. It adds 17in alloys and a useful rear-view camera. Allure Premium is expected to be the trim level most buyers go for and comes with adaptive cruise control, wireless smartphone mirroring and wireless phone-charging. We reckon you can live without those, though.
GT and GT Premium add luxuries including larger alloy wheels and Alcantara leather trim inside, but they cost too much to recommend.
This latest 308 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 comes with a three-year, 60,000-miles warranty, while the 12.4kWh battery pack of the plug-in hybrid versions is covered for up to eight years or 100,000 miles.
Safety and security
When it comes to safety, the 308 scored four stars out of five when it was tested by Euro NCAP. It scored well in most areas but Euro NCAP commented that protection for the driver's chest was fairly weak.
Better news is that the list of standard safety kit is comprehensive. Blind-spot detection, a speed limiter, cruise control, lane-keeping assistance and traffic-sign recognition are all included, as is an automatic emergency braking (AEB) system that can recognise pedestrians and cyclists.
A semi-automatic lane-changing system and systems that can automatically adjust your speed for bends in the road or according to traffic signs also feature on the options list.
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The latest Peugeot 308 is too new to have appeared in the What Car? Reliability Survey but Peugeot as a brand finished in joint 22nd place (alongside Mercedes and Vauxhall) out of 30 manufacturers, behind Kia, Renault and Skoda. Every 308 comes with a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty, while the batteries on plug-in hybrid (PHEV) models are covered for up to eight years or 100,000 miles. Read more here
The Peugeot 308 is not available in fully electric form yet, although an electric car variant is likely to appear in the coming years. For now, though, buyers have two plug-in hybrid (PHEV) versions to choose from, the Hybrid 180 and the Hybrid 225. The Hybrid 180 gets 178bhp from its 1.6-litre petrol engine and dual electric motors, while the Hybrid 225 boosts that power to 217bhp. Both models can officially travel up to 37 miles without using any fuel. Read more here
We think most buyers will be best served by the lower-powered plug-in hybrid option, badged the Hybrid 180. Teaming this with Allure Premium trim will get you a decent amount of kit without pushing the 308’s price too high. Indeed, Allure Premium models come with adaptive cruise control, wireless smartphone mirroring and wireless phone charging, among other luxuries. Read more here.
If you want a plug-in hybrid version of the Peugeot 308, you must choose at least Allure trim, which comes with most of the kit you’ll want, including 17in alloy wheels and a reversing camera. We recommend stepping up to Allure Premium trim, which gets you more luxuries while still keeping costs sensible. The difference between these two trim levels is how much equipment they come with, and how much they’ll cost you. Read more here
Peugeot’s i-Cockpit setup won’t be to everyone’s taste, but the 10in touchscreen is better than the system in the old 308, with crisp graphics and plenty of customisation options. It can be slow to respond to your touch, though, and some of its smaller icons can be hard to hit on the move. Every 308 gets Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring, so you can bypass Peugeot’s system entirely if you want. Read more here.
You can fit more into the boot of the Peugeot 308 than in rivals including the Ford Focus and Seat Leon, although the gargantuan Skoda Octavia can take even more. The boot has a useful square shape, and only has a small lip at its entrance, making loading heavy items easier. If you go for a plug-in hybrid 308, the space is diminished slightly because of the battery pack – although we still managed to fit in five carry-on suitcases. Read more here
|RRP price range||£28,050 - £42,170|
|Number of trims (see all)||3|
|Number of engines (see all)||6|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||hybrid, diesel, electric, petrol|
|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)||£80 / £1,877|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£160 / £3,755|