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Peugeot 308 Reviews

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Peugeot's latest 308 looks to have come of age. Andy Enright reports.

The Peugeot 308 has evolved. The formula is much the same but the execution is miles better in this latest car with a focus on refinement, interior quality and efficiency. The best bit? This is now a model that exudes a certain self-confidence and, yes, desirability.

I'm not sure what it is about Peugeot, but it's a company that's not short of public good will. Car enthusiasts want to see great Peugeots for sale. Perhaps it's the nostalgia of cars like the old 205 GTI that breed in us the suspicion that if the French company wanted to achieve brilliance, it's entirely within its compass. The stars just have to align with the right personnel and products. Until now, even the biggest fan of the marque would have difficulty identifying the 308 hatchback as the car that would lead Peugeot to this hallowed ground. That's not to say it wasn't several steps in the right direction, but that wasn't too hard coming after the disappointment of the 307. The 308 was better in almost every regard, but still not a car that many would instantly put on their shortlists to go head to head with a Golf or a Focus. A Renault Megane or a SEAT Leon rival, maybe, but even after the 2011 facelift that gave it a prettier look, it never really had the firepower to go head to head with the class best. That looks set to change. The latest car is made from the right stuff.

The 308 has never really been a car for the hard charger and despite Peugeot getting us all a bit hot and bothered with its 270bhp 308 R Concept, this 308 is more about refinement and a relaxed gait. The suspension carries no great surprises, with a standard front strut and rear torsion beam arrangement. Peugeot has fitted rear trailing arms that allow greater longitudinal arc in the wheel travel. It sounds esoteric but it makes for a smoother ride when the rear wheels hit ridges or bumps. The electrically-assisted power steering is geared towards ease of use rather than detailed feedback but perhaps that's just as well. It makes the 308 very comfortable around town in the sort of usage it will mostly see. The petrol engine line up opens with an 82bhp, 1.2-litre three-cylinder, then there's a choice of either 110 or 130bhp versions of this engine. The zippiest models get the petrol 1.6-litre unit with either 125, 156 or even 205bhp. Go diesel and you're looking at a 1.6-litre turbodiesel, but there are various choices: the base 92bhp unit is cheapest but the 115bhp e-HDi variant is just as clean and frugal. Even more efficient is the 'BlueHDi' 120bhp unit. The same 'BlueHDi' badge is worn by the single 2.0-litre diesel on offer, which develops 150bhp - or 180bhp in 'GT' form. Transmissions are fairly standard fare, with five and six-speed manuals or a six-speed torque-converter automatic.

The fact that this is an all-new model yet it still retains the 308 name should tell you something. That something is that the 308 badge now has some respectability, something that eluded the previous 307. The first generation 308 had morphed into quite a good looking car and the latest model is even more handsome. The front end features a sculpted bonnet and sharky headlights but there's a maturity, a confidence, about the styling. It's not trying too hard. We like that. The interior is dominated by a 9.7-inch touchscreen and while some of the materials quality is a bit variable, sit in a Golf Mk 7 and you'll come to a similar conclusion. There's a small strip of buttons for locking, demist and hazard lights and then virtually everything else is controlled by the touchscreen, making for a very clean-looking interior. The 308 gets the tiny steering wheel debuted on the 208, but in this instance, it's possible for shorter drivers to see the dials over the top of it. The contra-rotating rev counter is a neat touch, the oversized manual gear knob less so. Space all round is more than adequate and the 470-litre boot is excellent. If you need more space, there's a 308 SW estate variant with a 660-litre boot extendable to 1,660-litres with the rear bench folded.

Prices range in the £15,000 to £25,000 bracket and there's a choice between Access, Active, Allure and Feline trim levels, plus five-door hatch and SW estate bodystyles. Engine options range between a choice of three different 1.6-litre HDi diesels, plus a 2.0-litre HDi unit. Petrol people choose between 82, 110 or 130bhp versions of the 1.2-litre unit, or a turbo 1.6 THP with either 125 or 156bhp. Even the most basic models include air conditioning, remote central door locking, cruise control with speed limiter, a DAB digital radio, LED daylight running lights and Bluetooth connectivity. However, if you go for base Access trim, you don't get the infotainment touchscreen that's such a key part of his 308's much improved cabin. The minimum trim requirement for this is the 'Active' level, which starts at just over £17,000. The range-topping Allure model gets leather and Alcantara seats, or you can pay a bit more and go for full leather. This features subtle stitching, some impressive fluting and a particularly comfortable shape. The optional electric adjustment includes a variable massage function. The full-length glass roof transforms the feel of the rear seats and is sure to prove a favourite option. Electric parking brakes haven't found universal favour but the one fitted to the 308 is one of the better examples. It disengages automatically as you pull away and makes the centre console look clean and tidy.

Peugeot's engineers have been assiduous in their quest to reduce the excess weight from the 308's construction. To this end, the car is a significant 140kg lighter than its predecessor. It's helped by the fact that it's actually a couple of centimetres shorter than the car it replaced. The 1.6 diesel tips the scales at 1,160kg, which to save you looking is about ten per cent less than the equivalent Volkswagen Golf. The chassis features aluminium and composites and the tailgate is made from thermoplastic. Fuel economy is rated at 74.3mpg for the 1.6 e-HDi 1.6-litre, with 95g/km emissions. If you really want to eke every mile from a gallon, you'll probably be drawn to the 1.6 BlueHDi model which returns 91.1mpg and emits a mere 83g/km. This 308 is the first Peugeot car to benefit from an innovative three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine - the 1.2-litre e-THP with a choice of 110 or 130bhp. It's a very clean unit, able to put out as little as 104g/km of CO2.

The Peugeot 308 has developed in an interesting manner. In many respects, it has quietly morphed into something very slick, something quintessentially French, despite being benchmarked against a Golf. If you enjoy flinging your car along the twistiest road you can find, a Focus will doubtless deliver a bigger hit. Having said that, the 308's laid-back demeanour and long-legged loping gait, attributes that hark back to classic Peugeots of the distant past, are actually qualities more in tune with the way we use cars today. You need to avoid the entry-level model to get the touchscreen-trimmed cockpit that really brings the interior to life, but aside from that, there aren't too many caveats. The diesel engines are hugely economical and the three-cylinder petrol units characterful and fun. Peugeot's biggest challenge will come in delivering three-year residual values that will make this 308 as affordable to run as a Golf. That's not the work of a moment, but if this 308 is anything to go by, the French company is certainly moving in the right direction.

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The dynamic shaping of the 308 allows for superb handling at a wide variety of speeds. The 308 has a five-star Euro NCAP rating, and all versions get six airbags, stability control and hill-start assistance. However, you’ll have to upgrade to have the more technologically-advanced options such as blind-spot monitoring and forward collision alert. The dashboard is fitted with a brand new 9.7inch touchscreen which handles everything you will need: air-con, satellite navigation and so forth. Although it may take some adjusting to; it adds some modern style to the glamorous interior. Standard technology kits on the Peugeot 308 models includes a DAB radio, USB connectivity, Bluetooth, air-con, remote central locking and a cruise control system with a speed limiter function.
The boot capacity has increased from its predecessor to an impressive 470 litres with the rear seats in place. This can expanded by a furtherer 35 litres due to two dynamic under-floor storage bins.With improved aerodynamics and a lighter platform, the Peugeot 308 is one of the most economical cars in its market.The 308 is brilliantly inexpensive to run, as diesel models can achieve a terrific 78.5mpg, and will emit a highly efficient, 95g of CO2.

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