The second generation Peugeot 308 is a very different prospect to its blobby predecessor, offering a svelte, sophisticated and entirely convincing rival to the Volkswagen Golf or Ford Focus. Unlike Peugeot’s prior naming structure, it has decided to stick to the 308 nomenclature rather than move up numerals to try and introduce a bit of Golf like consistency, but don’t mistake the lack of a name change for lack of progress.
With PSA’s growing success in European and Chinese markets, the 308 was the French marque's first move towards offering a more premium, VW Golf-like product in the family hatchback class. Aside from the styling which strays a little too close to the Golf for some, step inside and this couldn't be anything other than a modern Peugeot.
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Based on the EMP2 platform which has now spread throughout the PSA passenger car range, the 308 is shorter, wider and lower than the old 308, having more than a whiff of the sophisticated style of Peugeot icons like the 205 and 306. The question is whether in channelling the Golf, the 308 is just another VW clone or an offering with enough substance to back up its premium aspirations.
Peugeot 308: in detail
Performance and 0-62mph time > The 308 offers a wide range of engines from a 90bhp three-cylinder up to a 267bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged four. Bookends of the 0-62mph performance range are 12.9 seconds for the former and 6.2 for the latter.
Engine and gearbox > Offered with a range of three and four-cylinder units, the 308 has a largely impressive spread of engines although avoid the lowest powered models as they struggle when under load.
Ride and Handling > A polished performer, the 308 has suspension that is well judged helping the 308 feel agile and spritely. Those after ultimate handling prowess in the class will do better with a Focus, but it out-drives most rivals with conviction.
MPG and running costs > Thanks to a low kerb weight and frugal engines, the 308 is one of the most cost effective options in the class. Even residual values are stronger then past Pugs.
Interior and tech > Featuring a pared back interior shorn of buttons, the theory is sound, but infotainment and ergonomic issues limit the 308’s appeal.
Design > The 308 looks like a chic VW Golf from some angles. It lacks the wow of newer Peugeot models, but should resist dating too quickly as a result.
Prices, specs and rivals:
The 308 has been designed to wholeheartedly fit the family hatch template, so along with its Golf-lite styling, comes Golf-lite pricing. The base Access version starts the range off at just above £16,500, with another four trim levels sitting between it and the range-topping GTi.
The model is available with both diesel and petrol engines, ranging from the turbocharged 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol unit in either 81, 108 or 128bhp configurations, to the 266bhp range-topping GTi - the GT sits just below the GTi with 202. 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre diesel units give you 98 or 118bhp, and 148 or 179bhp respectively.
Entry-level 308 models are sparsely specified, only including basic features like air con and cruise control as standard. Active models cost an extra £1700 engine-for-engine, but also give you the option of brawnier powertrains as well as strong equipment levels, including dual-zone climate control, alloy wheels, embedded sat nav, parking sensors and auto wipers.
Go above this level of trim and you’ll find prices start to creep uncomfortably close to those of a Volkswagen Golf, a car that in Mk7.5 form, has all the same equipment and more yet feels considerably more expensive both inside and on the road, than a similarly-priced 308. The Renault Megane is another rival, offering a more interesting interior and better equipment as standard, with the Ford Focus and Mazda 3 being dynamically superior.
Though Peugeot does offer an estate version of the 308, should you want a bit more space, we’d go for the more accommodating Skoda Octavia if that’s your concern.