Wednesday, 13 May 2015

REVIEW - Peugeot 308 SW BlueHDi Active

European car of the year 2014. That was the accolade given to the Peugeot 308. So when I got a chance to review the estate version of it, I had rather high hopes. The recent re-styling of the model range undertaken by Peugeot has certainly succeeded in uplifting the brand image. With this new 308 the French manufacturer finally has a family hatchback offering to rival the Volkswagen Golf. And that’s not something which should be taken lightly. So once I had the bigger, more practical estate car parked on my drive, I could set about seeing just what makes the 308 so good…

Looks – 8/10

The new 308 is a wonderful looking car, and the estate version looks just as good. At the front the smart daytime running lights are rather executive looking, and the bonnet lines are smooth and sleek, and the unusual ‘kink’ in the headlights remind you this is a Peugeot. The rear end is also sleek and rounded, and the car actually rather suits being an estate. The optional panoramic roof (£500) is a must-have in terms of the option list, and finishes off the exterior nicely. The only thing that lets the 308 down somewhat are the alloy wheels; being the lower-trim models the design isn’t particularly exciting. Privacy glass would be nice too, but this is only available on GT Line models further up the pecking order.

Peugeot has opted for a minimalist approach for the interior of the 308. And they’ve certainly stuck to their guns. Take the centre console. Aside from the on/off for the stereo and the CD eject button, there are just 5 buttons. Even the majority of the heater controls are accessed via a 9.7-inch touchscreen in the centre of the dash. It looks very smart as well. Then there’s the small steering wheel and the instrument cluster set higher up in your eyeline. The little touches make a difference too; the rev counter goes counter-clockwise for example. The materials in the 308 are top-notch, and the elements of brushed aluminium break up the black plastic.

Handling/ Performance – 10/10

The engine that came in my test car was one I’d been dying to try out. It’s a 1.6-litre diesel engine with a strong nod to economy. Called the “BlueHDi” it offers up 120PS and 300Nm of torque. Sent to the front wheels via a 6-speed manual gearbox, the 308 can go from 0-62mph in 12.1 seconds and on to a top speed of 121mph. It’s not the fastest car, but then again that’s not what this car is about. Most importantly the torquey engine gives good in-gear acceleration and plenty of overtaking prowess on the motorway. And the gearbox is one of the tallest I’ve ever driven. It really allows you to keep the revs down which make for a great motorway cruiser.

Peugeot have also got the suspension spot on with the 308. The ride is extremely comfortable and many a mile will pass as you waft along on the motorways without a care in the world. Then if you take the 308 on a more exciting road it still manages to feel alive. There’s very little in the way of body roll, although there was a little bit from the tyres which were a little tall on 16-inch rims. The steering feels nicely weighted and the little steering wheel gives a much more direct feel. You notice the bumps but the comfort found on the motorway doesn’t translate into any blancmange-like wallowing over bumpier stuff, which is a great balance.

Economy – 10/10

Being the BlueHDi model, efficiency is the focus of the engine. The 308 SW emits a mere 85g/km CO2 which puts it in VED band A. Currently that means free road tax in the first and subsequent years. It also makes the 308 a great choice for company car users, because there will be a low benefit on your P11d. On a combined cycle the 308 boasts a whopping 88.3mpg too. Granted, in real life these figures may not be what you’ll see, but there’s no denying this is a rather efficient car. Part of this economy is down to the clever technology in the auto stop/start, and partly due to the tall gearing keeping the revs low. The rest is just some witchcraft under the bonnet that Peugeot has conjured up.

Practicality – 10/10

The 5-door 308 was a rather practical car indeed, so by adding a larger boot Peugeot has only improved matters. Now you can up the ante from putting your shopping in the boot, to putting your mountain bikes in there instead. As for the rest of the cabin there’s plenty of space all round, and that makes the 308 a brilliant car to live with. My test car was the ‘Active’ model, which means rear parking sensors, dual-zone air conditioning, electric windows throughout, cruise control and an electronic handbrake with hill start assist. The 9.7-inch touchscreen is also standard, as is a satellite navigation system and Bluetooth hands-free telephone interface. All this equipment makes the 308 a wonderful car to live with.

Fun – 8/10

When looking for the sign of a good car I want something that puts a smile on your face. A car has to make you want to drive it, and enjoy your time behind the wheel when doing so. Where I took issue with the 308 is that without the privacy glass and in a dark blue colour the image didn’t really fill me with joy. However that’s not really the car’s fault, and having seen recently a 308 SW GT Line, I was taken aback at how good looking it was. That aside I was often smiling behind the wheel. I go on and on about cars that rev too high on the motorway and then all of a sudden here was a car that got it exactly right. And moreover, here was a Peugeot that was a serious contender to the VW Golf and Ford Focus, and that quality emanates from behind the wheel.

Concluding Remarks

So that’s my week with the Peugeot 308 SW. It looks rather smart, and the interior is a resounding success. The drive is brilliant and the manual gearbox is an absolute gem. By making the 308 an estate car Peugeot has further enhanced its appeal to the modern family. The versatility of having the extra space at the back with no compromise to styling is definitely a winning formula. And the 308 is well priced too. The estate version with the BlueHDi engine and in Active trim will set you back £20,745 which is reasonable. You needn’t factor in too much for options too thanks to the decent standard spec. For more information visit the Peugeot website or pop in to see your local dealer. And I’ll leave you with this. The Peugeot 308 SW; European Car of the Year’s big brother. Brilliant.

Total Score – 46/50

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