28.6.2016Peugeot 308 1.6 BlueHDi review
Peugeot's 308 is fighting in a very competitive sector. Up against the likes of Ford's Focus and the VW Golf, the French hatchback is up against some stiff competition. With a stylish design and extremely efficient range of engines, the 308 could have what it takes to compete at the top.
Review by Chris Lilly
The model tested is the 308's green champion, with a 1.6 BlueHDi diesel engine offering 120hp under the driver's right foot. This power - combined with 300 Nm of torque - will get the car from 0-62mph in a perfectly respectable 9.7 seconds. More importantly though, the diesel unit will emit just 82 g/km of CO2 - but that figure raises to 98 g/km in GT Line specification tested with its EAT6 six-speed automatic gearbox. In terms of performance, the engine pulls strongly and is a nicely well-rounded engine. Complementing its excellent efficiency ratings, in 120hp guise the 1.6 BlueHDi has no real weak points and is the pick of the bunch for the 308 for petrol or diesel. Smooth, reasonably refined, and flexible, the unit is complemented by the EAT6 transmission which is good enough to consider, even though I usually prefer manual gearboxes. It shifts smoothly and is rarely caught out of gear, settling down to a nice motorway cruising pace when needed, or able to be flicked down a cog with either the stick or paddles when the situation calls for something sportier.
Matching the engine perfectly is the 308's dynamic set-up. The chassis and suspension offer a similar Jack-of-all-trades ability which is by far and away the most sensible option when buying a family car like the 308. If you want something sharper, there's a GTI version available, and anything softer is likely to cause sea sickness when driving over a bumpy road. Supple and relaxing on the motorway or around town, the 308 is far from soggy when cornering, holding a tight line and remaining level through the bends - statements that are whether the quality of the road surface is silky smooth or heavily patched-up. The steering is a little light and the feedback isn't the best out there, but the 308 benefits in my opinion from having Peugeot's i-Cockpit layout. Primarily, this involves a smaller than average steering wheel which offers a sharper turn-in and improved control. It's great to use and makes a difference in everyday driving, making 'normal' steering wheels feel large and cumbersome by comparison.
The conventional five-door hatchback shape is ticked off here without much innovation, but then it's one of the most practical shapes around. Peugeot's current design language is nice if a smidge fussy, but the 308 looks good in general - and even better in GT Line trim. This adds a splash of sportiness to an exterior that can look a bit tame otherwise, and really complements the 308's styling details. Boot space is very good but the high lip hinders the loading of large objects a bit. Passengers in the rear get a tougher time of things though with less leg and head room than some of the 308's rivals. It's not restricting but, especially in a cabin with dark trim, the rear doesn't feel particularly spacious, even with a panoramic glass sunroof.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
As mentioned above, the 308 features Peugeot's excellent i-Cockpit design with a smaller steering wheel. This means that the instruments sit above the top edge of the wheel so that they aren't partially obscured by it most of the time. It looks nice in design, but has the added bonus of meaning the driver's eyes don't have to flick as far down the dashboard and improves safety. The rest of the controls are extremely clean thanks to the reliance on a large touchscreen system incorporating the majority of the systems. It looks nice but means most regular tasks - changing the heating for example - require a few stabs of the touchscreen to get to the right menu, rather than just the turn of a dial. It's a question of preference, but I think basic audio and air conditioning controls should have their own switchgear since they are used most often, even at the the expense of a minimalist looking console. No matter what the system's complexity, and drivers quickly get used to it, the whole interior feels very well finished and fitted. It doesn't quite rival the VW Golf in terms of premium feel, but it isn't far off at all.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
Here we come to the 308's greatest strength. The PSA Group - which includes Peugeot, Citroen, and DS Automobiles - are the leading large manufacturer in the CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Emissions) rankings. There are discrepancies between real-world and official figures as everyone knows, but Peugeot's usually come out on top of their class when it comes to MPG and emission figures, and is beginning to publish independent real-world results to back that up. As mentioned, the 1.6 BlueHDi 120 engine will emit as little as 82 g/km CO2, but that raises to 98 in this trim because of larger alloy wheels. This still means the VED paid remains at zero for both the first year and all subsequent ones since it's placed in band A. The official fuel economy figure is 74 MPG in GT Line specification - 91 MPG in the most efficient Active trim - and the car's trip computer stubbornly refused to show anything less than 50 MPG even when being thrashed hard. Treat the 308 a little more kindly and early-60's figures are easily attainable, with that number improving even further when being driven very economically.
All models are fitted with Stop & Start technology to save fuel and reduce emissions in traffic, and this model features Peugeot's EAT6 gearbox which uses Quick Shift technology and low resistance parts to improve efficiency in the drivetrain. A combination of Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) and particulate filter technologies improves CO2, NOx, and particulate emissions too. According to our calculations, the tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 34.
All versions of the 308 are well equipped, with the likes of DAB radio including USB and Bluetooth, cruise control, and air conditioning standard across the board. In GT Line trim, 18-inch alloy wheels, front LED sequential indicators and fog lights, privacy glass, front and rear parking sensors and reversing camera, dual zone climate control, and 9.7-inch colour touchscreen control with satellite navigation are all included. The steering wheel is trimmed in leather with red stitching and there are aluminium accents around the cabin too. The GT Line seats are nice and supportive but not too high to climb into, and the whole cabin has leather detailing and red GT Line stitching.
The Peugeot 308 is a genuine contender in the family hatchback sector then. An excellent all-rounder with its greatest strength in an efficient powertrain line-up, the Peugeot easily competes with the best in its class. There is plenty of choice when looking at trim and engine levels, but the GT Line option with the 1.6 BlueHDi 120hp engine is perhaps the strongest combination. The only real gripes are with rear passenger space and the slightly fiddly touchscreen control system - but the first is negligible if you rarely carry adults in the rear, and the second point can be overcome with time should the Peugeot be picked by buyers. It's not perfect, nor does it stand out as a clear class leader. But given the strength of the class as a whole, to be considered with the best in the group is an achievement in itself.
Model tested: Peugeot 308 GT Line BlueHDi 120
Body-style: Five-door hatchback
Engine / CO2: 1.6 litre diesel / 98 g/km
Trim grades: Access, Active, Allure, GT Line, GT
On-road price: Range from £15,930. Price as tested £24,530
Warranty: Three years / 60,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4.0 stars