Peugeot seem to have come on leaps and bounds recently, with big improvements taking place with each successive model being launched. The model where this progress is most evident has to be the new 308 that’s been widely praised and recently scooped the coveted European Car of the Year award.
Further boosting the already expansive range, Peugeot are adding a new turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine to the lineup dubbed e-THP. With a capacity of just 1,199cc the new direct injection unit aims to offer all the benefits of a 1.6-litre four cylinder unit but with vastly superior fuel economy, low CO2 and drivability.
Aimed squarely at rival downsized engines from Ford and Volkswagen, the new powerplant can be specified in both 110 and 130 bhp guises, the latter of which I tested mated to a 6-speed manual gearbox. With emissions of just 107g/km the 308 Active sits in Band B, equating to an annual VED cost of just £20 per year.
The moment you turn the key there’s very little noise or vibration at idle, which is impressive from a three-cylinder unit. Only when you blip the throttle does the familiar rasping sound make its way into the cabin but it’s never intrusive or tiring.
On the move there is plenty of power on offer from just 1,750rpm, making swift progress a doddle with the turbo spooling up quickly, offering a good burst of thrust when you need it. Thanks to its low kerb weight, the sprint to 60 mph takes just 9.6 seconds. The 6-speed gearbox has a slick action, so keeping the engine on the boil is a pleasure, but the box rarely requires stirring thanks to the engine’s flexibility and eagerness to rev.
Where the old 308 wasn’t much of an enthusiast’s car, the new 308 couldn’t feel more different. The shrunken steering wheel and low driving position provide a sporty feel which is helped by a chassis that’s far better equipped to deal with anything you put in its path than ever before.
The new levels of poise and agility are welcome when cornering, making the Peugeot feel well balanced – ironing out rough surfaces brilliantly, even if the ride is a touch firmer than Peugeots of old. Fluid steering and generous grip from the wide tyres mean that enthusiastic drivers can have far more fun at the wheel, although a touch more feel through the column wouldn’t do any harm.
The rest of the package is as competitive as ever, with a smartly styled, Germanic exterior design that looks sophisticated and well-proportioned if a little similar to its rival from Volkswagen, especially around the rear.
Peugeot’s ‘i-Cockpit’ design features inside, which is essentially a dinky steering wheel with the dials positioned much higher and closer to the windscreen than traditionally. Many people experienced difficulties seeing the dials in the 208 which shared the same layout, but this time round Peugeot have been clever. By moving the rev counter and speedo further apart, reversing the direction of the rev counter and offering a little more steering column adjustment it’s almost impossible to obscure the dials when finding a comfortable driving position.
The rest of the cabin is a feast of sophisticated materials and modern design with a superb 9.7” touch screen infotainment system taking pride of place in the centre of the dashboard. It’s the same system as Citroen’s C4 Picasso, controlling almost every function you can think of. It has also enabled Peugeot to reduce the buttons on the dash leaving just five. It certainly looks good and is very intuitive to use, but having to enter a sub-menu to adjust the climate control settings can be a touch annoying.
The 308’s trump card is its boot which is now the biggest in class, offering 470 litres of cargo space which expands to 1,309 litres with the seats folded. Room in the front is also generous, but I couldn’t help notice how cramped the rear seats are. There’s just enough shoulder room for three across the bench but legroom is lacking by class standards. Thick rear pillars also make the cabin feel a little dark unless you go for the optional panoramic glass roof fitted to the test car, but this does reduce rear headroom.
With four different trim levels to choose from, Active models such as my test car come with good levels of standard equipment including alloy wheels, dual zone air conditioning, cruise control, an electronic parking brake, rear parking sensors, auto lights and wipers, sat nav, USB input and electric driver lumbar support. My test car also has some additional kit included which I would highly recommend, including Aluminium metallic paintwork (£525), front fog lights (£130) and a panoramic roof (£500).
During my week with the 308 over a mixture of driving conditions I managed 55 mpg, which isn’t far off Peugeot’s own 61.4 mpg figure. Given the performance on offer it’s an impressive figure that should only get better as the engine loosens up over time.
Tech Data for the Peugeot 308 e-THP
Price as tested: £19,340 (£17,945 excl options)
Engine: 1.2 12v 130 bhp – 0-62 mph: 9.6 secs – Maximum Speed: 128 mph –
Economy: 48.7 mpg (urban) 72.4 mpg (extra-urban), 61.4 mpg (combined) – Emissions: 107 g/km (Band B) – VED (12 months): £20
Dimensions: Length: 4,253 mm – Width: 2,043 mm – Height: 1,457 mm – Wheelbase: 2,620 mm – Kerb Weight: 1,090 kg
*data from Peugeot UK
- See Rob’s full review of the Diesel Peugeot 308 1.6 Active
- Leasing Deals for the Peugeot 308 from First Vehicle Leasing