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How Peugeot took different route with daring 308 hatch

Eddie Cunningham

Power of PHEV shines through, rear-seat room a bit tight but the cabin is fine


Peugot 308

Peugot 308

Peugot 308

The more I looked, sat in and drove the new Peugeot 308 hatchback, the more I realised how big a step they have taken with this car.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it was well worth taking a chance on being really different. But at a time when the emphasis is so heavily on ‘SUV-like’ contours and looks, even on small cars, they have bucked a trend and decided to make something very much of their own identity. I think it works.

I know that Peugeot themselves have evolved cars from plain-enough Joes/Janes to striking SUV crossovers in a couple of overhauls.

I’m talking about the likes of the 3008 SUV, for example, which went from pretty ordinary people carrier to fairly striking crossover in the blink of a designer’s eye.

I think they were right to go with the low-slung, near-coupe looks of the sturdy 308 hatch from the start.

It is worth thinking about the type of signal they are sending to the current market, and their potential customers, in so doing. They are saying: we’re different, really different.

It is also important to make the point that it’s not entirely about external looks either.

From where I was sitting and driving just a few minutes ago, the interior is something decently different too.

Take the edgy dash on the side of the front passenger (not something that is often spoken about). It took a lot of thought to make it look as dynamic as it does. The instrumentation and screens for the driver are angled for quick assimilation of information.

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They all play a part in making it a distinctly modern take on what should present itself to a new owner sitting in.

Yes, there are drawbacks. Getting in behind the small, ‘flat’ steering wheel (part of the famous iCockpit set-up) posed a little challenge because the aperture between the low roofline and seat height wasn’t gargantuan.

Much the same comment/criticism applied to getting into the rear. It was another little challenge for me; the seats are low and when I did get in there, I was bit disappointed with the leg room. But as is often pointed out to me, those seats are mostly occupied by children.

I won’t go so far as to say that the design infringed on rear-seat space, but if the roof was any lower at all, I think I would be saying that.

For the record, it is a chunky 4.36m long (up 11cm) and the wheelbase is increased by 55mm to 2.675m, so there is supposed to be more rear-room.  

On test, I had the hatchback with an 8spd plug-in hybrid system: the Allure 1.6 PHEV 180 automatic in that lovely Olivine Green colour I mentioned at launch preview a wee while back.

Now the price of the test car is a whopping €45,325 which, no matter what way you look at it, is a lot of money for a compact family motor. But the starting price of the 308 is €32,765, so you needn’t break the bank to get your hands on one.

I took it for a few spins over the days and am writing this after just coming back from one lovely drive down through sunny Wicklow.

The hybrid system generated a lot of power; a lot.

And the 8spd transmission was certainly responsive, as I found a few times on overtaking.

I was surprised to find that the steering was a little bit vague for my liking; more so in Sport mode, which I found strange given it was designed to build in a bit more ‘hands-on’ feel.

Not a major criticism and not a negative factor in how the car handled and drove (which was fine) but it just goes to show how driving modes don’t always give you what you expect.

My test car had a one-charge capability of 60km, so there’s plenty of scope to drive on electric only if you are within reasonable commute of work or school.

I worked the paddles on the steering wheel to inject even more dynamism into the drive – and picked up a bit of regenerative braking.

The Li-ion battery has a capacity of 12.4 kWh, and 102kW of power.

There are two types of on-board chargers: a 3.7 kW version as standard and a 7.4 kW version as an option.

Boot size didn’t look that extensive at 412 litres (with the rear seats folded, the maximum load is 1,323 litres), but there are also 28 litres of bits and pieces around the cabin.

After all that what’s the bottom line? Well, I think they have been exceptional in the way they have gone about setting this car apart.

I think most people will respond in kind.

There are always conservatives who will look elsewhere. But I would buy this if I were in the market for a standout hatch.

Yes, I’d have a criticism or two. But I like the car and what it stands for.

Fact File

Peugeot 308 family hatchback. Starting price is €32,765. Test car: Allure 1.6 PHEV 180: €45,325.

New i-cockpit, depending on spec up to four USB C sockets, voice recognition, adaptive cruise control, Lane Keeping Aid, semi-automatic lane change, anticipated speed recommendation, curve speed adaptation. Depending on spec: long-range blind spot monitoring, rear traffic alert, 180° reversing camera, 360° parking assistance with four cameras (front, rear and side).

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