This is Peugeot’s all-new 308. It’s the revived version of the French brand’s family signature hatchback that was first launched back in 2007. Only now, it’s been given a brand new modular platform and an A-Class rivalling design.

The new C-segment hatch is Peugeot’s first big step forward in producing quality cars and is set to tread on the toes of Volkswagen’s Golf and the Ford Focus. Sophie Williamson-Stothert has been out to give it the once-over.

What is it?

It’s the bigger and better second-generation 308, featuring Peugeot’s back-to-basics streamlined styling and number of class-leading gadgets. The new-look 308 has been put on a crash diet and by using a mixture of composites, aluminum and steel in its construction, it’s now 140kg lighter than its predecessor, improving both performance and efficiency.

The 308 will go head-to-head with VW’s Golf and the Ford Focus in the C-segment market, only its smaller price-tag – £14,495 for the entry level Access model – is a lot more appealing. Peugeot’s promise to provide a high-quality driving experience also puts the 308 on the tail of the Audi’s A3 and the Mercedes A-Class.

What is it like to drive?

When you get behind the wheel, it’s clear to see Peugeot has put in a top effort and really upped its game when it comes to driving dynamics and overall quality. The 308 is comfortable to drive and feel planted in the corners. It does suffer from a hint of body roll when you pile on the pace, but that’s expected from a standard family car.

The most impressive feature has to be the fully electric power assist steering. At low speeds the steering wheel satisfyingly light, which means maneuvering into tight parking spots is completely effortless. But pick up the pace on the motorway or along a twisty B-road and the steering wheel automatically tightens up to improve road-to-wheel response.

The 308 will first be offered with the choice of three petrol and two diesel engines. The petrol units range from an 82bhp 1.2-litre VTi three-cylinder unit to two 1.6-litre THP turbocharged engines which can produce 125 and 155bhp. The diesel alternatives include a 92bhp 1.6-litre HDi unit and a 115bhp 1.6-litre e-HDi engine, which are both capable of achieving more than 75mpg.

Sadly, the two diesels suffer from noticeable turbo lag and delayed acceleration out of the corners, but that’s no problem for laid-back, long distance journeys or the daily morning school run. The 1.6-litre engines have the most punch and offer greater low-end torque, while both options feel refined and are notably quiet.

What is it like inside?

Take a look inside and you’ll notice the cockpit been completely purged of any unnecessary buttons, adding to the 308’s bold but sophisticated aura. It’s designed to offer buyers more for their money when it comes to on-board technology, while keeping the design relatively simple.

Any ‘untidy’ looking buttons have been stripped from the cockpit and neatly tidied away into the 308’s high-mounted touch-screen centre console, which is exceedingly easy to use on the move. The interior also features a compact steering wheel and a new i-Cockpit cluster, which is designed to keep drivers’ eyes on the road.

The new model comes with the option of four trim levels from the basic Access, through the mid-range Active and Allure to the top-of-the-range Feline, each of which are competitively priced and come with a number of features, including a full glass panoramic glass roof on Feline models.

Elements of the 308’s styling and build quality are clearly German-inspired and no longer feel cheap, including the perfectly-shaped and -weighted door handles and the central armrest and cup holder. Even the basic Access model remains well-equipped with electric power assist steering, cruise control, air conditioning, Bluetooth connectivity, keyless start and park assist.

Is it practical?

The 308 benefits from a class-leading 380-litre boot space, so it will have no problem handling the weekly-shop, while its firmer build quality means the interior is a little more child-proof in comparison to the outgoing model. Drivers who opt for the diesel unit won’t have to worry about making frequent stops at the fuel pumps either, with an average fuel consumption of 75mpg.

The 308’s all-new LED headlights, which are designed to improve road safety after dark, make night-time driving an absolute doddle, while its numerous driver aids and safety features – which include Dynamic Cruise Control, Emergency Collision Alert and Emergency Collision Braking – provide peace-of-mind at the wheel.

Should I buy one?

Yes, you definitely should. It’s hard not to be impressed by the new 308 and the amount of effort that’s gone into its engineering. It’s miles ahead of its predecessor when it comes to ride and build quality, but it still features all the elements that make the 308 a standard family hatchback. It’s not quite ahead of the VW Golf of Ford Focus, but it’s certainly close behind.

Don’t want to buy new? You can browse for a used Peugeot 308 in our classifieds here.

The facts

Model: Peugeot 308 1.6-litre Feline

List price: £21,345

Engine: 1.6-litre turbo petrol

Power: 156bhp

Top speed: 132mph

0-62mph: 8.4 seconds

Fuel economy: 48.7mpg

Emissions: 129g/km

Euro NCAP rating: Not yet tested

Leon Poultney


November 22, 2013