Visually, this latest-generation 308 is convincing. Noticeably more streamlined than previous models, along with the absence of flab is the disappearance of any conservatism in the styling department. A bold grille and equally bold profile sets a pleasingly positive tone. Shades of the 208 are evident when viewed from the rear, with taught lines and a wide stance banishing any thoughts of this 308 being a visual pushover.
This bold approach from Peugeot’s designers has been emulated by the firm’s engineers. Gone is the ultra-conservative approach of old that resulted in an uncharacteristically uninspiring driving experience, with bold claims now being made of a return to a time when Peugeots were fun.
The good news for fans of the brand is that, for once, the reality does indeed match the hype. The combination of a new approach to car set up, the retention of a familiar engine line-up boasting low CO2 plus high levels of refinement all combine to deliver a level of competence and driver involvement that was lacking in the previous cars.
With agility in spades, direct steering and a sorted suspension, this 308 is closer to Peugeot’s cars of old than anything we’ve seen recently. For instance, the fluid ride and punchy characteristics of the 156-horsepower turbo-petrol model demonstrate that it’s possible to have fun and keep your fillings even on the roughest of urban roads.
You might be surprised to learn that key to the 308’s appeal is not just the car’s ability to engage and please keen drivers, but also the considerable work that’s been done to lift the cabin ambience to a level that should have Peugeot’s German rivals worried. Yes, there’s a considerable amount of stereotypical black plastic, but it’s all done in the best possible taste. Furthermore, the car’s plush seats, quality switchgear and clear instrumentation are a world away from the cabin ambience of only a generation ago.
Space in the cabin is also good, and while it will never challenge the versatility of a genuine MPV, there’s enough room for a growing family plus a decent levels of oddment storage. Business users will no doubt like the spacious door pockets and convenient spaces for mobile phones and drinks.
Company car drivers will also like the emphasis on low-CO2 diesels complete with stop-start technology and a headline-grabbing 93g/km for the 92 horsepower oil-burner. Petrol power remains key to appeal to private buyers, with a wallet-friendly 1.2-litre unit partnering a more powerful 1.6-litre unit in various states of tune.
As you’d expect, manual and auto gearboxes are offered depending on engine choice, and this generosity is also reflected in the 308’s general specification. Four trim levels are available (Access, Active, Allure, Feline), with even the entry-level Access gaining DAB radio, Bluetooth and cruise control.
Alloy wheels, a large colour touchscreen incorporating sat-nav and electric parking brake are highlights of the Active trim level, while full LED headlamps and all-round parking sensors and a reversing camera come standard on Allure spec cars. Move up to the flagship Feline spec and you gain keyless entry and ignition, panoramic glass roof, active cruise control and sports front seats.
Producing one good car (RCZ) after a creative slump could be viewed as a fluke. Producing a second (208) was proof that Peugeot was back to what it did best. The 308 is evidence that the firm famous for gems such as the 205 and 306 is very much on a roll.
With a typical flourish of French flair, Peugeot has shown that, despite some challenging circumstances of late, it’s capable of digging deep and producing a car to rival the best in the family hatch sector. If the safe, conservative options don’t appeal, Peugeot’s stylish and engaging 308 might just do the trick.
Car: Peugeot 308 1.6 THP 156 Feline
Price From £21,345
Engine 1.6-litre petrol developing 156bhp
Performance Max speed 132mph, 0-62mph 8.4 seconds
CO2 emissions 134g/km