Peugeot 308 hatchback - Engines, drive & performance
The 308 strikes a balance between fun handling and comfort on bumpy roads
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 involving 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.
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.
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 it’s likely to be the most popular choice overall. It has 128bhp and as with all versions of the 308, is only available with an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
When the car is stationary and when you’re cruising, the 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.
The 1.5-litre diesel engine has the same 128bhp as the 1.2-litre petrol and the last-generation 308, which is no surprise as it’s essentially unchanged. However, partly because the new car is 42kg heavier, 0-62mph now takes 10.6 seconds – 1.2 seconds slower than before.
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.
There are two hybrid models, one with 178bhp and one with 222bhp. Both use the same electric motor and battery, it’s only the power from the 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine that changes. The battery allows a 37-mile driving range on electric power, which should be more than enough for the average daily commute, and it does so in near-silence.
This makes the plug-in especially relaxing when driving in EV mode, 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 cheaper plug-in hybrid models are well worth checking out.