Like the Volkswagen Group family, the Stellantis group has a niche for each brand in its massive portfolio. Citroen is the comfy, quirky brand, Vauxhall is the value-focused volume one, DS is the premium segment hopeful, Fiat is the purveyor of chic small cars and Jeep is the weird American cousin no-one talks about.
Which leaves Peugeot, which in recent years has been smartly repositioned, moving away from fleet sales and big discounts, with a vision to become the high-end mainstream arm of the group. Models such as the 508, 5008 and 3008 have certainly done their job in establishing that image and feel, and the all-new 308 continues that winning development, blending eye-catching design with impressive refinement that puts it near the top of the class.
That’s a class that contains old stagers like the Ford Focus and VW Golf, as well as other recently launched all-new models such as the Vauxhall Astra and Honda Civic, plus the Toyota Corolla and Seat Leon.
Part of Peugeot’s recent success has been down to its striking design language which has embraced a bolder sharp approach. The 308 is no different, with a deep and wide grille designed around Peugeot’s new shield logo which neatly hides its ADAS sensors. The brand’s trademark fang running lights help create an easily identifiable “face” and at the rear the clawmark tail lights have been replaced with smaller, rectangular units which retain the distinctive three-segment design. While the hatch is handsome enough, there’s no doubt the SW estate is the better looking of the pair.
Interior and technology
Inside, the new 308 features the latest version of Peugeot’s innovative i-Cockpit as well as an all-new infotainment system and a continuation of Peugeot’s neat, unfussy design. Sharp angles and lines create a crisp, modern look enhanced by high-quality materials and sporty but supportive seats. While those up front are well accommodated, the 308’s rear space is cramped but the 412-litre boot is some way ahead of most rivals.
Ahead of the driver is a 10-inch digital instrument display viewed over rather than through the tiny steering wheel. As with every version of the i-Cockpit, some drivers will love this approach while others hate it. The new infotainment setup features a 10-inch main touchscreen with configurable homepages plus “iToggle” digital shortcut buttons that can be set up to link to your most used functions. The displays are sharp and reasonably responsive but the whole arrangement feels too busy, especially with an additional row of physical buttons set low down in the centre console.
Alongside the new connected infotainment, which includes wireless phone mirroring, the 308 boasts Peugeot’s latest driver assistance and safety technology, ranging from adaptive cruise control and active safety braking with night mode to long-distance blind spot warning and automatic post-collision braking.
Engine and driving
Under the bonnet our test car featured Peugeot’s tried and tested 1.2-litre PureTech petrol engine. This motor has impressed in virtually every application and the 308 is no different. Despite being a mere 1.2-litre three-cylinder, this turbocharged petrol engine puts out 128bhp and propels the 308 along with remarkable verve and refinement. Coupled to an eight-speed automatic gearbox it makes everyday motoring an easygoing breeze and unless you’re particularly rough with the throttle you’re barely aware of the engine’s presence thanks to the car’s impressive sound insulation.
Plenty of torque manages to mask the engine’s relatively sluggish 0-62mph performance but for drivers seeking more oomph, two plug-in hybrids offer 178bhp or 222bhp, better acceleration and up to 37 miles of electric drive. For drivers keen to move away from any form of combustion engine, next year will see the arrival of the fully electric e-308 with 156bhp and a 248-mile range.
Its tiny steering wheel means the 308’s steering responses are quick, especially around town but the 308 isn’t quite as direct or engaging as a Focus, Leon or BMW 1 Series. It’s still balanced and composed and offers ride quality and refinement to swallow up long distances with ease.
Price and specification
The 308’s trim levels cover a broad spectrum, reflecting its ambition to compete against premium models like the BMW 1 Series and Audi A1 as well as mainstream alternatives. Prices start at £25,380 for the Active Premium trim with the basic petrol engine, rising to £39,470 for a GT Premium PHEV. Our tested Allure Premium PureTech is set to be the range’s big seller, coming in at £28,130. This brings appealing extra kit such as larger alloys, keyless entry and adaptive cruise control along with wireless phone charging and mirroring on top of more basic models’ specification. However, if you want luxuries such as heated seats and 360-degree camera you’ll need to step further up the range.
Despite the rise of the SUV there is no shortage of choice in the family hatchback market. Into this mix the Peugeot 308 brings a splash of style and a high-quality, high-tech interior and range of proven drivetrains. An overly complex infotainment system and cramped rear space are black marks against it but otherwise, the 308 is a competent all-round family machine.
Peugeot 308 Allure Premium
Price: £28,130 (£28,825 as tested); Engine: 1.2-litre, three-cylinder, turbo, petrol; Power: 128bhp; Torque: 170lb ft; Transmission: Eight-speed automatic; Top speed: 130mph; 0-62mph: 9.7 seconds; Economy: 43.5-52.1mpg; CO2 emissions: 129g/km