The Peugeot 308 has evolved. The formula is much the same but the execution is miles better in this latest car with a focus on refinement, interior quality and efficiency.
The best bit? This is now a model that exudes a certain self-confidence and, yes, desirability.
The 308 has never really been a car for the hard charger and despite Peugeot getting us all a bit hot and bothered with its 270bhp 308 R Concept, this 308 is more about refinement and a relaxed gait. The suspension carries no great surprises, with a standard front strut and rear torsion beam arrangement. The electrically-assisted power steering is geared towards ease of use rather than detailed feedback but perhaps that’s just as well. It makes the 308 very comfortable around town in the sort of usage it will mostly see.
The petrol engine line up opens with an 82bhp, 1.2-litre three-cylinder, then there’s a choice of either 110 or 130bhp versions of this engine. The zippiest model is the 1.6-litre THP turbo with either 125 or 156bhp. Go diesel and you’re looking at a 1.6-litre turbodiesel, but there are various choices: the base 92bhp unit is cheapest but the 115bhp e-HDi variant is just as clean and frugal. Even more efficient is the ‘BlueHDi’ 120bhp unit. The same ‘BlueHDi’ badge is worn by the single 2.0-litre diesel on offer, which develops 150bhp. Transmissions are fairly standard fare, with five and six-speed manuals or a six-speed torque-converter automatic.
The fact that this is an all-new model yet it still retains the 308 name should tell you something. That something is that the 308 badge now has some respectability, something that eluded the previous 307. The first generation 308 had morphed into quite a good looking car and the latest model is even more handsome. The front end features a sculpted bonnet and sharky headlights but there’s a maturity, a confidence, about the styling. It’s not trying too hard. We like that.
The interior is dominated by a 9.7-inch touchscreen and while some of the materials quality is a bit variable, sit in a Golf Mk 7 and you’ll come to a similar conclusion. There’s a small strip of buttons for locking, demist and hazard lights and then virtually everything else is controlled by the touchscreen, making for a very clean-looking interior. The 308 gets the tiny steering wheel debuted on the 208, but in this instance, it’s possible for shorter drivers to see the dials over the top of it. Space all round is more than adequate and the 470-litre boot is excellent.
The Peugeot 308 has developed in an interesting manner. In many respects, it has quietly morphed into something very slick, something quintessentially French, despite being benchmarked against a Golf. If you enjoy flinging your car along the twistiest road you can find, a Focus will doubtless deliver a bigger hit. Having said that, the 308’s laid-back demeanour and long-legged loping gait, attributes that hark back to classic Peugeots of the distant past, are actually qualities more in tune with the way we use cars today.