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New Peugeot 308 review

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We say the 'new' Peugeot 308 but in fact many of the components of the car are tried and tested, floor pan, engines, transmissions, so perhaps the 308 is more of an 'evolution' from the 307.

The new 308 five-door hatchback is 74mm longer at 4,276mm, 53mm wider at 2,038mm with wider front and rear tracks and it looks sleeker due to the 12mm reduction in height. In reality it looks a much bigger and imposing car all together than the 307.

The large 'smiling grille', available, with two types of finish depending of the specification chosen, the deeply sculptured bonnet with its pronounced end nose together with the long front overhang, in hatchback form appears front end heavy and probably the SW versions will look better balanced overall.

However give credit where it's due - the new 308 is an eye-catching attractively-styled car with much better road presence.

It is the interior overall that has the biggest and most improved changes. Just a first glance and my immediate view was the quality is vastly improved, the layout of the controls and instruments is much better and more logical and the fascia and door trims are superb.

They have a nice soft feel with variations in textured finish. We really are talking about a much better car, close to 'premium' class and customers will love it. The curved fascia panel is positioned much further forward in the car.

The centre of the fascia is now dished inwards giving both front occupants greater free space. The design also gives a lower forward site line and that creates an impression of more space as well and improves visibility.

The rear seating space is also improved with adequate width for three adults. The backs of the front seats are neatly sculptured to improve knee room.

The rear headroom is not great for a six-footer like me but then the test cars I tried had the panoramic roof system, which adds even more light to the inside of the car, but does cut down on head space a little.

In addition to improved rear passenger legroom, the extra overall length has given the 308 five-door Hatchback more luggage space, 430-litres with the rear seats in position, 1,398-litres with the three rear seats folded.

The handling, ride comfort and roadholding are also improved. The wider front and rear tracks offer a flat and controlled ride with little bodyroll or fore to aft pitch. The suspension absorbs the potholes and bumps with relative ease and the steering has a sharp turn-in and responsive attitude with good feedback.

It feels a much more solid and 'well planted' car and this will appeal to all customers as it is definitely a move up in class and refinement.

I cannot understand why Peugeot have not fitted all 308s with the Electronic Stability Programme system fitted as standard. It makes sense in the interests of improved handling safety, for less experienced drivers, or when the car is fully loaded.

The 1.25 million miles undertaken in pre-launch development and refining programme of the 308 has paid big dividends for the customer.

All the improvement in new front, rear and side safety zones, better materials, improved specification and so forth has added weight to the vehicle, 62kgs more than the comparable 307 models, so I expected this to take its toll on engine performance and economy.

I had the opportunity to try the two main selling engines this week, the 1.6-litre VTi 120 petrol unit from the PSA/BMW/MINI joint venture - the likely top choice for retail customers.

The second test was with the 1.6-litre HDi 110 turbodiesel unit, which will be the mainstay power source for fleet and business car users. Both have a 5-speed manual gearboxes as standard although a more precise gearchange and 6-speed units with a taller sixth gear ratio would be a benefit.

The 1.6-litre VTi engine we know already from the Peugeot 207 and MINI ranges. It is smooth, responsive and with good fuel potential.

Power output is 120bhp with 120lb ft of torque from 4,250 so it has to be revved quite hard to keep it within the optimum power band. Certainly the extra weight in the 308 has taken its toll of bottom end 'grunt'. It takes time to get moving swiftly but the 0-62mph figure of 10.8 seconds suggests it is no slouch. Top speed is 122mph.

On the open road or around town it was surprisingly better than I expected and it will be a good choice for private buyers of all ages. The fuel economy was also better than you might expect for the size and weight of the new 308.

Officially it returns 42.1mpg in the combined cycles. My test car returned 35mpg over a fairly short country roads route so I expect around 40mpg to be achievable.

The second engine is the well respected 1.6-litre HDI turbodiesel unit with 110bhp and 180lb ft of torque from just 1,750rpm. Performance figures quote 119mph and 0-62mph in 11.3 seconds with 57.6mpg being the average fuel consumption.

My test car returned only 40.6mpg so I reckon the extra weight has taken its toll on this engine. Whilst it performed adequately well, it was certainly no ball of fire and perhaps the 1.6 petrol engine has the edge on it this time around.

However the low CO2 figure of 130g/km, giving it a £115 vehicle excise duty rating, will be appealing to fleet and business customers - just where this model is aimed.


Peugeot 308 SE VTi 120 5-Door

Price: £15,895 (£17,545 as tested)

Engine: 1.6-litre, four-cylinder, variable valve timing, petrol, 120bhp, 120lb ft

Performance: 122mph, 0-62mph 10.8 seconds, 42.1mpg (35mpg actual), CO2 159g/m, VED £140

Insurance group: 6E

For: Size, interior styling and much improved quality, driveability, sweet engine

Against: Overweight makes it feel underpowered


Peugeot 308 Sport HDi 110 5-Door

Price: £16,495 (£18,770 as tested)

Engine: 1.6-litre, four-cylinder, high pressure direct injection diesel with turbocharger and particulate filter, 110bhp, 180lb ft

Performance: 119mph, 0-62mph 11.3 seconds, 57.6mpg, (40.6mpg actual) CO2 130g/km, VED £115

Insurance group: 7E

For: Size, a high quality interior with much improved styling, road holding, ride comfort

Against: Increase in car's weight dulls engine performance and reduces fuel economy