- Wide range of petrol and diesel engines to choose from
- No hybrid or electric versions with improved efficiency
- Hot GTi 260 version provides plenty of thrills
Mainstream petrol engines
There are two power options in the mainstream range and both of them are centered around Peugeot’s fabulous 1.2-litre, three-cylinder PureTech motor.
It’s one of our favourite triples on the market thanks to impressive refinement and a slightly larger displacement (many three-cylinder units are 1.0-litre), which makes it more responsive at low revs.
The entry-level PureTech 110 version has 110hp, 205Nm of torque and a manual gearbox, resulting in 11.1 seconds 0-62mph and a top speed of 117mph. It works well in the 208 but feels a bit stretched in the larger 308, although offers almost diesel-like running costs for low-mileage motorists.
Better is the PureTech 130 version, with 131hp and 230Nm of torque for a 9.1-second 0-62mph time. You can also select an automatic gearbox although this is about half a second slower over the benchmark sprint. Both top out at around 125mph.
There’s more performance with the 1.6-litre THP 225 petrol with 224hp and a manual gearbox. With 285Nm of torque on tap, it hits 0-62mph in 7.4 seconds and tops out at 146mph.
It feels as fast as these figures suggest, responding quickly and smoothly, yet quiet enough when driving normally.
Wide range of frugal diesel engines
There’s more choice here largely because in 2017 Peugeot introduced a 1.5-litre BlueHDi engine that replaced the 1.6-litre motor.
Bottom of this range is the 1.5-litre 101hp BlueHDi 100, which packs 250Nm of torque and accelerates the slowest of all options here, taking 11.5 seconds to get from 0-62mph and maxing out at 116mph.
The puncher 1.5-litre BlueHDi 130 with 131hp seems a better bet, with a burlier 300Nm of torque and faster 0-62mph time – 10.2 seconds for the manual and 9.4 for the auto. Top speed for the manual is 127mph and 128mph for the automatic.
There’s a 2.0-litre BlueHDi 180 (181hp) with torque swelling to 400Nm and comes as an automatic only. There's a 140mph top speed and an 8.4-second 0-62mph time.
Sporty 308 GTi 260 by Peugeot Sport
Topping the range is the 262hp GTi 260 by Peugeot Sport, which uses a more powerful version of the same 1.6-litre THP engine found in the THP 225.
Peak torque of 340Nm is available from 2,100rpm, allowing this 308 to sprint from 0-62mph in just 6.0 seconds, progressing on to a top speed of 155mph.
The GTi’s throttle response can be sharpened further by pressing the Sport button near the gearlever – GT versions have this feature as well, although the affect is less noticeable.
Peugeot 308 gearboxes
No surprise to find that the 308’s available with both manual and automatic gearboxes. All models come with a six-speed manual and while it’s an easy thing to use, it doesn’t set any benchmarks in terms of precision or enjoyment. The shift action is a bit notchy and the lever’s movement into each gear can feel a bit vague, but it certainly does the job.
An eight-speed automatic, introduced in 2017, is much better than the previous six-speed option available, but is limited to the higher-powered engines.
Discontinued Peugeot 308 engines
The 1.6-litre THP petrol engine was previously sold in 125hp and 155hp guises. The more powerful petrol is nippy around town, easily able to cruise on motorways and keeps up with the faster-moving traffic without difficulty. On more twisty back roads we needed to change gear more frequently to keep the engine in its torquier power band, though.
A 1.6-litre e-HDi diesel with 115hp was also sold – this doesn’t offer a huge amount of punch low down in the rev range, but builds quickly to provide good overtaking ability and high speed cruising.
Peugeot also initially offered the 308 GTi with 250hp but this version was dropped in order to focus on the more successful 272hp car from 2017. In response to more stringent WLTP emissions testing in the middle of 2018, the GTi 270 was subsequently altered to become the current GTi 260.
- Comfortable yet assured handling
- Composed with sharp steering
- GTi is very rewarding to drive
Another area of significant improvement, compared to the previous generation is how the 308 handles. Helping here is a 140kg weight reduction, roughly the equivalent of two passengers, and the car is significantly more agile as a result.
This agility is accentuated by the small steering wheel which requires less turning action to get the car to change direction.
The suspension is also impressive, providing a compliant ride and smoothing out bumpy surfaces without a lot of roll when cornering. It certainly is a noticeable improvement over the previous-generation 308, though if you prefer a car that is sharper to drive and don’t mind a harder ride there are other cars that can deliver that.
What also impressed was hard braking while turning into a corner, which did not upset the car and we always felt very much in control.
Impressively agile 308 GTi
For the ultimate in Peugeot 308 handling prowess you’ll want the full-fat GTi 260 by Peugeot Sport. This car features more substantial brakes and a mechanical differential, which helps get as much of that power down on the asphalt as possible.
It’s this that comes to define the way the 308 handles – you pitch the front end into a corner using the fast, reactive steering and the tyres grip hard, allowing the car to hold its line with confidence.
The feeling through the wheel isn’t entirely natural as the diff tends to tug both your hands and the nose of the car left and right under power, but these aggressive, mechanical sensations are all part of the experience.
- Small wheel and high set dials won’t appeal to all
- Clutter free cabin thanks to touchscreen functionality
- Whether you like it or not, it’s at least a different approach
Two things strike you immediately when you nestle into the 308’s driver’s seat: the small steering wheel and minimalist dash layout. It feels strange at first but we find it not only refreshingly different but it helps you to enjoy the driving experience all the more for the direct steering.
The touchscreen is fiddly to use while driving – and a little slow to respond on earlier cars – and while we never struggled to find the function (air-con, sat-nav, audio) we were after, having some physical buttons and knobs would make it easier.
Similarly, the unusual driving position won’t suit everyone – some people find it off-putting looking over the wheel to see the speedo and anticlockwise-sweeping rev counter.
Updates in 2017 brought a more responsive screen, which helps to cut down the number of frustrating jabs and missed button pushes. We hoped the facelifted 308 might have adopted the 3008’s (slightly) increased number of physical switches but the majority of the controls remain virtual.
Uplifted GTi cabin
The main addition for the sportiest 308 is yards of red stitching – it’s on the seats, the door cards, the gearshift gaiter and the floor mats.
Switching to sport mode makes the instrument panel and dash elements go red, and also unlocks the facility to show power, turbocharger boost and torque output in real-time. There’s a G-force meter too, so you can see how much grip the car is generating while cornering quickly.
- Good balance of comfort and handling
- Pliant suspension soaks up ruts and bumps
- Firmer edge to GTi, but still comfy
We were impressed by the Peugeot 308 in terms of comfort, whether stuck in a traffic jam or tackling a non-stop three-hour drive to the airport.
Front seats come with manual adjustment (there is the option of electrically powered control) and the steering wheel is adjustable for both rake and reach, so that enabled us to find a comfortable position easily.
The unusually small diameter steering wheel and position does feel odd at first, but you quickly get used to it and the direct feel and quick response is very enjoyable.
The centrally-mounted screen in the dash is also angled towards the driver making it even easier to read. Also because the touchscreen controls the car’s central functions there are very few buttons visible, so no clutter to tire the eyes as you search for the control you are after.
Peugeot has also provided a great compromise between ride comfort and handling. Over rough, city roads the suspension does a good job of absorbing the dips and bumps, and only the very large potholes deliver a hard knock to the car. Out on twisty roads enthusiastic cornering has the car turning with alacrity and holding a steady line through a bend, even at speed.
Firmer GTi version
A few differences to note in terms of comfort here. The GTi features suspension lowered by 11mm and bigger wheels than the mainstream 308, but it still rides well, leaning more towards cornering performance than outright comfort.
A synthesised engine noise is played through the speakers in the car when you press the sport button too although it’s quite loud and can sound odd to some.