The latest 308 drives very strongly indeed, with a balance of ride and handling that competes with the class leaders. As indicated by the classy looks and interior, the focus of the mainstream models is on good cruising comfort over long distances: low noise levels, a supple ride and good stability make the Peugeot a fuss-free choice in everyday use.
It’s not soft or soggy, though. The car is much sharper to drive than older 308s, with decent turn-in and fair agility in corners. Over-assisted, artificial-feeling steering does cloak some of this, but it’s still an enjoyable car that doesn’t roll or wallow over twisting roads. And as road surfaces get worse, so the suspension’s ability to isolate you improves.
GT models are firmer (their suspension is up to 10mm lower than on the equivalent GT Line version), but they remain comfortable, and the GT’s larger 18-inch alloys can give a more comfortable ride than models on smaller rims. The extra grip of this version is welcome and it’s a convincing warm hatch.
Peugeot offers a choice of six petrol engines and four diesels in the 308. Diesels are generally more popular with larger Peugeots, and buyers can pick from 1.6 or 2.0-litre BlueHDi versions, in two different power outputs.
The 1.6-litre BlueHDi four-cylinder comes in either 99bhp or 118bhp guise: on the core 308 Active model, the price difference between the two is around £1, 000. The BlueHDi 100 feels like an entry-level engine in terms of performance, too. It claims 0-62mph in 11.3 seconds and a top speed of 116mph. Peak torque of 254Nm comes in nice and early at 1, 750rpm, but it isn’t the most muscular engine. It also only has a five-speed gearbox.
The 1.6 BlueHDi 120 has a six-speed gearbox and the enhanced performance to back it up: 0-62mph takes 9.7 seconds and top speed is 122mph. It’s also more torquey, delivering 300Nm at 1, 750rpm, plus its peak power comes in 250rpm earlier than on the BlueHDi 100, at an accessible 3, 500rpm. This makes it the better, more well rounded engine, although both 1.6-litre diesels are smooth, fuss-free and impressively refined.
Peugeot also offers the 1.6 BlueHDi 120 with its six-speed Efficient Automatic Transmission, or EAT6. This is a generally smooth and slick-shifting automatic gearbox (it’s much smoother and less frustratingly jerky than Peugeot’s earlier automated manual gearboxes), with steering wheel shift paddles in support. It adds around £1, 000 to the price, which is a bit easier to swallow than the usual £1, 500 extra for a ‘full’ auto. Surprisingly, it makes the diesel marginally faster from 0-62mph than the manual, cutting its time to 9.5 seconds.
The 2.0-litre engine, offered in 148bhp BlueHDi 150 and 178bhp BlueHDi 180 guise, is a little gruffer, but its stronger performance makes this easy to forgive. The 148bhp version claims 0-62mph in 8.9 seconds and a 132mph top speed. It also produces a much meatier 370Nm of torque at 2, 000rpm, making this version a good choice if you regularly travel with passengers or want to drive long distances with a lack of fuss.
The BlueHDi 150 is offered with the EAT6 automatic gearbox alongside the regular six-speed manual. The auto works well with the torquey diesel engine and, again, helps to cut its 0-62mph time, to 8.6 seconds.
The BlueHDi 180 is only available with the EAT6 box. This engine produces its 178bhp a little earlier, at 3, 750rpm, although it only has 30Nm more torque. For this reason, acceleration isn’t significantly better – 0-62mph takes 8.4 seconds – but the extra top-end power shows through in the higher 137mph top speed; the BlueHDi 150 tops out at 132mph.
The six petrol engine choices are focused around two core units, the 1.2-litre PureTech and 1.6-litre PureTech. The 1.2-litre engine is a three-cylinder unit, available in non-turbo 81bhp guise or, with a turbo, as 108bhp PureTech 110 and 128bhp PureTech 130 motors.
Avoid the PureTech 82 unless you’re purely focused on list price. It’s slow, taking 13.3 seconds to cover 0-62mph, and 118Nm of pulling power won’t cope well with laden family trips. The 108bhp PureTech 110 turbo is far superior: 0-62mph takes 11.1 seconds, it has a 10mph higher top speed of 117mph and offers almost twice the torque, at 205Nm, delivered at just 1, 500rpm.
The PureTech 130 lifts things further, with 0-62mph taking 9.6 seconds, a top speed of 129mph and torque swelling to 230Nm. It also has a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, or the optional EAT6. All PureTech engines have a pleasant throbbing engine note and the torque of the turbo makes them easy to drive and impressively refined. They’re very grown-up, appealing engines.
The sporty-feeling 1.6-litre PureTech comes with either 202bhp, 248bhp or 267bhp, all delivered at an identical (and revvy) 6, 000rpm. Even the PureTech 205 does 0-62mph in 7.5 seconds – a significant performance step up over any other 308 engine. The GTi PureTech 250 does it in 6.2 seconds and the GTi PureTech 270 in just 6.0 seconds, with both hitting a 155mph top speed. A healthy torque output of between 285Nm and 330Nm from less than 2, 000rpm proves that this motor is as flexible as it is powerful – again, it’s ultra-smooth and appealing to use, too.
Curiously, the 1.6-litre PureTech is the only engine in the 308 not to be offered with the EAT6 automatic option: all versions are hooked up to the six-speed manual only. 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