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In-depth reviews

Peugeot 308 hatchback - Engines, drive & performance

The 308 strikes a balance between fun handling and comfort on bumpy roads

Carbuyer Rating

4.0 out of 5

Owners Rating

4.0 out of 5

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Engines, drive & performance Rating

4.0 out of 5

The Peugeot 308 isn’t the most fun car of its type to drive, nor is it the most comfortable, but it falls into a happy middle ground between the two. It’s not as enjoyable on a twisty road as a Ford Focus, nor is it as smooth over a bumpy road as a Skoda Octavia, but it’s comfy and enjoyable enough for almost anyone.

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Even our top-spec car on its big 18-inch wheels wasn’t uncomfortable; you could merely feel the state of the tarmac beneath you. Cheaper models come with smaller wheels and more tyre sidewall, so should be slightly softer.

On UK roads, we found it to be more engaging than the latest DS 4, with impressive poise and body control. Its compact steering wheel also makes the car feel agile, with just a flick of the wrist required for most corners. There’s not an awful lot of feel through the wheel, as is the case with many modern cars.

The 308 is smooth at speed on the motorway and the interior stays quiet too, so it’s a good companion for long trips. If you’re only planning to do short journeys, the hybrid version is best as its low-speed electric-only running means it’s very relaxing; it’s ultra-quiet in traffic.

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We found the brakes to be surprisingly grabby, making it really difficult to slow down or stop smoothly. This was the case when we let the adaptive cruise control adjust the car’s speed, too.

Peugeot 308 petrol engines

Peugeot's 1.2-litre PureTech three-cylinder engine is used in many other models including the Citroen C4, and like that car, a mild-hybrid version of the same unit was later introduced for 2024. The standard unit has 131bhp and as with the majority of versions of the 308, is only available with an eight-speed automatic gearbox. As well as being more economical, the mild-hybrid gets an increased output of 134bhp thanks to assistance from an electric motor, and instead gets a six-speed automatic transmission.

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When the car is stationary and when you’re cruising, the standard petrol engine stays nice and quiet, but it’s a bit noisier than the small petrol engines in the SEAT Leon and Volkswagen Golf. It provides adequate rather than sparkling performance, but feels a little more lethargic than its 9.7-second time suggests. It’s fairly punchy from low revs so you don’t have to rev it too much. 

The automatic gearbox is smooth enough for the most part, although at low speeds it can be a little abrupt - though this is also true in the DSG automatic in the VW Golf, SEAT Leon and Skoda Octavia. If you use the manual paddles to override the gearbox, the changes are noticeably quicker than in the Golf. You may want to do that from time-to-time, because in some modes the gearbox holds onto gears for a little too long.

Diesel engines

The 1.5-litre diesel engine has the same 131bhp as the 1.2-litre petrol, however, 0-62mph takes 10.6 seconds, so it’s not as quick in a sprint.

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Another big change is that the diesel now comes fitted with Peugeot’s eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard. This has quite sluggish shifts in the car’s Eco and Normal driving modes, but Sport sharpens things up quite a bit.

Hybrid engine

There are two versions of the plug-in hybrid on sale, using an electric motor and a 1.6-litre petrol engine with a combined output of 178bhp (badged 180) or 222bhp (badged 225).

Drive it on purely electric power – say for the average daily commute – and the 308 will transport you in near-silence. This makes it especially relaxing to drive, and it remains quiet even at motorway speeds. Floor the accelerator to speed up, however, and there's a loud and coarse sound when the petrol engine is working hard, which is a shame because the added boost of the electric motor gives the 308 a reasonable turn of speed. Overall, though, the plug-in hybrid model is well worth your consideration.

Electric version

Peugeot produces an electric version of the 308 badged the E-308, which we've reviewed separately. Zero tailpipe emissions mean it sits in the lowest BiK (Benefit-in-Kind) tax bracket for company-car owners, and VED (road tax) is free until 2025. Unfortunately, as every E-308 costs over £40,000, they incur an extra annual fee of £390 for the first five years. The E-308 can do up to 257 miles on a charge of its 54kWh battery.

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Charlie writes and edits news, review and advice articles for Carbuyer, as well as publishing content to its social media platforms. He has also been a regular contributor to its sister titles Auto Express, DrivingElectric and evo. As well as being consumed by everything automotive, Charlie is a speaker of five languages and once lived in Chile, Siberia and the Czech Republic, returning to the UK to write about his life-long passion: cars.

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