- e-HDi version emits just 98g/km, and around 70mpg
- SW and CC versions tested offer decent performance levels
- Suspension crashy, busy ride, but handling reasonable
The Peugeot 308 was launched in 2007 and a lot was expected of it: the 307 that it replaced turned out to be the biggest-selling '3' for Peugeot so the pressure was on.
Four years on and the 308, the first of Peugeot's 8 generation, has still not outsold the 307. So far 90,000 308s have gone to homes in the UK in hatchback, convertible and estate form but that's not quite as strong as its predecessor. It is hoped this mid-life refresh will give the 308 the sales push to beat the 307.
So what's new about the refreshed 308? Well, it doesn't look hugely different - it is a facelift after all - but gone, thankfully, is the quite ridiculous over-sized front grille that made the whole thing look like a basking shark.
With the huge gob rectified and a few LEDs added Peugeot, like many other manufacturers, has used the facelifting process as a way of improving efficiency across the range. The 308 now comes with a 1.6-litre e-HDi version featuring stop/start that emits just 98g/km of CO2 - making it free to tax. In addition Peugeot has reduced the weight by 25kg on average on all cars, has fitted tyres with low rolling resistance, reduced drag on the fuel economy versions to make it the most aerodynamically efficient in the segment and has tweaked the engines to make them more efficient. It's also taken the trouble to carry out a few tweaks to the steering and other mechanical parts to improve fuel economy.
So what does that all mean in practicality? In short it means you get a 15% reduction in fuel consumption in urban traffic and a 5g/km reduction in CO2 emissions. If you are running with low rolling resistance tyres with the electric semi automatic gearbox you could get up to 70mpg on average.
The start/stop function is pretty standard in terms of its usability. The system is purportedly 40% faster than others on the market, but let's be frank, you couldn't tell the difference. Interestingly though, the engine can shut-down from as much as 12mph with a manual and 5mph for the electronically controlled gearbox. Peugeot says it has a 'silent' operation and no vibrations on start-up. We won't argue with that.
As well as the e-HDI we tested the SW and the CC versions, the former with a 2.0-litre 163bhp diesel engine with an automatic gearbox and the latter using the 1.6-litre 200bhp petrol engine with six-speed manual in GT spec.
Both cars offer enough grunt to keep you amused: the SW will pull nicely when a speedy overtake is required and the CC's throaty 1.6-litre delivers smooth, unflustered, yet throaty acceleration. They both do the job nicely.
What they don't do nicely though is cope with less-than-smooth road sufaces very well. The ride on the cars we tested was very busy on elderly carriageways and the suspension got very crashy when the cars were driven over fairly innocuous indentations. They started to irritate after a while.
The rest of the driving experience offered by the 308 in all guises wasn't particularly memorable either, although grip levels were better than adequate. Steering feel on three cars wasn't great, the gearchange can be a little notchy but the brakes are good enough to make you feel secure when brisk stopping is required.
Inside, the 308 is nicely put together and cabin materials do have a premium feel. The seats are comfy and you can get a reasonable driving position without too much faffing about.
Overall, the 308 is a pretty decent performer. It's let down by a poor ride and crashy suspension. If you can cope with that, you'll enjoy the low running costs of the eHDi, the practicallity of the SW and the excitable performance offered by that in the 200bhp CC GT.
As a facelift, there's little change, but just enough to keep sales ticking along.
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