What's the used Peugeot 308 hatchback like?
It might seem like the SUV has had it all its own way over the last few years, especially for those seeking a practical and good-value family car, but the hatchback still has a lot of life left in it.
It wasn’t so long ago that we used to associate Peugeot with the production of innovative small hatchbacks designed to appeal to just that audience, with cars such as the 205 and the 306 leading the way, but the French firm seemed to lose the thread for a while. However, when this new version of the 308 came along in 2014, it once again had a serious contender on its hands, and it scooped up the European Car of the Year Award that year.
Maybe that victory wasn’t so surprising: the 308 is a tidy and pleasing design, and it has a wide range of petrol and Euro 6-compliant diesel engines. Those petrols range from an 81bhp 1.2-litre three-cylinder unit to 108bhp and 128bhp 1.2-litre turbocharged three-cylinders to a 203bhp turbocharged 1.6-litre. Diesels include 1.6-litre units of 99bhp and 118bhp, while the line-up is completed by a pair of 2.0-litre HDi engines with 148bhp and 178bhp respectively. The 118bhp 1.6 was replaced in 2018 by a 128bhp 1.5-litre unit.
There’s a pleasing choice of trim levels, too. Even the entry-level model getting LED daytime running lights, air conditioning, cruise control, a DAB radio, Bluetooth and USB connectivity as standard, while range-topping GT trim is positively plush.
On the road, we like the later 1.5 diesel. The 1.5 is flexible, so you rarely have to rev it hard, and it makes the 308 feel reasonably brisk. It's also more efficient and economical than the previous unit, despite having more grunt. You have to work the entry-level 99bhp 1.6 diesel pretty hard at times, but it doesn’t feel significantly slower than the higher-powered version when you do. The 2.0-litre diesels are the quickest but, given the 1.5 isn’t far behind them.
The 109bhp 1.2 petrol unit is decently punchy at low revs. The 129bhp version of the 1.2 feels more urgent and is usefully brisk. The 1.6 petrols bring plenty of performance, but are rather thirsty.
The GTi hot hatch not only gets more power, but also 19in alloy wheels, a Torsen limited-slip differential on its front axle, red brake calipers, bigger front brake discs and bucket seats to keep you in place under hard cornering.
The 308 is good to drive and comfortable inside, although some won’t be enamoured by Peugeot's i-cockpit design, with its unusually small steering wheel and high-set instruments. Space up front is fine, but one of the 308’s worst features is its rear space. It’s poor next to almost all of its rivals, including the Volkswagen Golf and Vauxhall Astra, but especially huge rivals such as the Skoda Octavia. Essentially, adults will have a hard time staying comfortable on a long journey. Head room isn’t too bad, but there’s precious leg room, so their knees will be forced against the front seatbacks. It’s a smart interior, though, and there’s a large boot, too.
The 308 was facelifted in 2017, with alterations to the front and rear bumpers and light designs. However, despite the updates, the real problem for the 308 has always been the strength of its opposition, because it finds itself up against cars such as the Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf and the hugely spacious Skoda Octavia. It means too that depreciation is high, which won't please anyone buying a new or nearly new 308, but is something that those buying used could well use to their advantage.
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