I said the 308 hatch is the best car Peugeot has ever made and I’m not being influenced by the World Car of The Year Award it won back in 2014. In any one’s opinion, outside of the self importance attached to the car awards season, the 308 is undeniably a very suave proposition.
Its got a great interior full of flair and restrained simplicity which is dominated by a 9.7 inch touchscreen, its all well executed and nicely fitted, there are good levels of space to be had for front and rear passengers and most of all its got that added bonus of estate practicality for what is designated as a compact car.
And practicality means 660-litres of space with the seats up that increase too 1600-litres with the seats folded flat. No manhandling the seats simply pull a lever located on either side of the rear boot and its done. Although you will have to manhandle the seats back into position. That’s what you expect from an estate, that’s what estates do, and the additional 70-litres of underfloor storage aces the practicality.
The 308 is everything Peugeot promises it to be, more upmarket and this time it isn’t just a marketing slogan used as an enticement it really does feel more up market than its predecessor and lighter by as much as 140kg. But there is a problem. The 308 SW on test was powered by a three cylinder 1.2-litre direct turbocharged petrol engine.
Three cylinder engines were good in 1952 when the world was rebuilding after being ravaged by WW2, and three cylinders are for small cars not estates, even the communists avoided doing so during the cold war era.
You feel a slight discomfort at being offered one less cylinder. After all one less cylinder means less power. However they say a Boeing 747 could still fly perfectly stable if one of its four engines cut out mid-flight.
But the 308 SW isn’t a jet liner it’s a station wagon a humble 4 wheeled ambassador seemingly curtailed by a new trend for downsizing engine capacity in order to meet yet more and even tougher EU inspired emissions regulations.
With this in mind Peugeot have replaced the normally aspirated 1.6-litre petrol engine with a range of 1.0-litre and (in this case) 1.2-litre, three cylinder turbocharged petrol engines. But really? A tiny little 1.2-litre petrol engine is it going to be powerful enough to haul the weight of the 308 and family expectations?
Yes and yes. The 1.2-litre, 110bhp, 205Nm turbo-petrol engine is a really punchy little unit with a useful amount of torque that returns a lot of fun. It’s a great engine and can easily cope with the lack of power doubts you may have had, and its reasonably relaxed for long motorway journeys.
That three cylinder growl as you rev swiftly through the slick shifting 5-speed gearbox gives you a sense of occasion even though in reality its nothing more than a sense of occasion. The ousted 1.6-litre petrol was smooth but thirsty, 33mpg on a combined run was pretty good going.
The new 1.2-litre three cylinder turbo can muster up to 42mpg on a combined cycle if driven within normal parameters. And the 308 SW has a mature ride and handling setup which is able to cope with those nasty bumps and potholes. Yes it its geared for comfort and there is slight body roll when you decide to attack a corner but I prefer it to the old setup because it is leagues ahead.