Peugeot 308 overview
While SUVs rule the roost in most areas of the new-car market, there's still a place for compact hatchbacks, and the latest Peugeot 308 is one of the most upmarket examples that you can buy. The third generation is now on sale, and we've driven it on Irish roads in a variety of guises.
The Mk3 is an evolution of the previous 308, and is based on the same platform, which it also shares with the likes of the Peugeot 3008 and 5008 SUVs, as well as assorted other Citroen, DS and Opel models. This time around the 308 gets an imposing new grille up front and a handsome looking exterior, more tech inside and the kind of upmarket quality that you'd expect from cars such as the Audi A3 and Mercedes A-Class.
However, the 308 is still priced at a level to match rivals such as the Ford Focus, Hyundai i30, Volkswagen Golf, Kia Ceed and the equally-new Opel Astra. Power comes from a range of petrol, diesel and hybrid drive systems, including a plug-in model, while an all-electric e-308 is coming in 2023. Here we're driving the 1.5 BlueHDi diesel in mid-spec Allure trim.
The Peugeot 308 model range
Irish pricing for the Peugeot 308 starts at €31,765, which gets you behind the wheel of an Active-trim model with the 130hp 1.2-litre Puretech three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine. For around €2,000 more you can upgrade to the 130hp 1.5 BlueHDi four-cylinder diesel, while €40,785 buys you the 180hp Hybrid plug-in model in Active trim.
Standard equipment includes 16-inch alloys (17-inch rims on the hybrid), LED lights all round, auto lights and wipers, air conditioning, heated electric door mirrors, rear parking sensors, a 10-inch digital instrument cluster, keyless starting, a multifunction steering wheel and 10-inch central touchscreen with Bluetooth, six-speaker stereo and smartphone mirroring.
Allure trim is available with the same three engines, and standard equipment is upgraded with the addition of 17-inch wheels for all models, climate control, tinted windows, a 180-degree reversing camera as well as parking sensors front and rear, keyless entry, navigation, wireless smartphone connectivity, part synthetic leather seats, customisable interior lighting, auto main beam and additional safety functions, such as rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise and blind-spot detection.
At the top of the range is the 308 GT. This can be had with the same engines as other trims, but also the more powerful Hybrid 225 PHEV powertrain. This version is the priciest 308 hatch at €48,785, while GT trim adds matrix LED headlights, 18-inch wheels, a dark chrome grille, Alcantara and synthetic leather seat trim and a heated steering wheel.
All cars come with Peugeot's eight-speed automatic gearbox and front-wheel drive, while the distinctive Olivine Green metallic colour shown here is the standard paint option, which we would stick with, because it looks great, especially in the sun. Five-door hatchback and SW estate body styles are offered, the latter available for only €1,000 extra.
If you're looking at finance deals, Peugeot is currently offering deposit contributions to help get you behind the wheel of a 308, but go to the Peugeot Ireland website for the latest offers.
The Peugeot 308 interior
If there's one thing that Peugeot has nailed successfully with its range of current cars, it's the feeling of upmarket quality that they exude. The latest 308 takes the already high-quality cabin of the last car and cranks things up even further, with high-grade plastics, soft-touch materials and metal switchgear used throughout.
The touchscreen is fine to use, but things are made even better by the bank of 'soft' digital buttons that are added beneath it on Allure and GT models. These are switchable, too, so they light up with different functions - using them to select Apple CarPlay if you have an iPhone plugged in, for example.
As with the Peugeot's other models, the 308's high-set dials and small steering wheel layout is designed to help keep your eyes on the road for longer, but while the 'i-Cockpit' layout is better resolved here than in some other Peugeot models, it still could be a deal breaker for any potential purchase, so we'd definitely recommend trying it out before you buy.
The 308 is impressive elsewhere in the cabin. The interior design and detailing are excellent, even in this mid-spec model, with subtle green contrast stitching for the upholstery, comfortable seats and decent headroom, as well as a wide range of seat adjustment. As with the last 308, there's not quite as much rear passenger space as you'll find in the biggest rivals, but this is made up for with a decent boot measuring 412 litres.
Cabin storage is also great, with good-sized door pockets and a deep central armrest cubby, while the glovebox is actually a decent size; in the past, French cars with right-hand drive have tended to have small gloveboxes due to the location of the fuses behind, but that doesn't appear to be the case here.
The Peugeot 308 driving experience
With a wide range of seat adjustment on offer, it's simple enough to get into a position that offers a good view of your surroundings, even if you might not be able to read the digital dials properly. The addition of a small steering wheel to facilitate the i-Cockpit layout helps the 308 to feel sporty, too, while the wheel's small and unconventional shape is something that you get used to in time.
Unlike some other Peugeots that have a small steering wheel, but can't back it up with a sporty drive, the latest 308 is quite an engaging machine. There's feedback through the wheel, and the car feels agile. The suspension does a good job of tying the car down, with flat cornering reassuring the driver and passengers where some rivals bob and weave around with mid-corner bumps. This keen edge means the chassis is a fraction on the firm side, but it's not enough to spoil cruising comfort when taking things easy.
Something that might be distracting is the diesel's engine noise. It can get a bit loud if you extend it, although there is plenty of torque from low revs, so you won't have to worry too much about that in everyday driving. A decent turning circle helps with manoeuvrability, too.
In terms of efficiency, we managed around 5.5 litres/100km in the diesel 308, and that was without any longer motorway cruising during our time with the car.
Our verdict on the Peugeot 308
If you're looking for a practical hatchback that's good to drive and has an air of upmarket quality about it, then the latest Peugeot 308 easily fits the bill. The diesel version will appeal to drivers that cover longer distances, but the plug-in or petrol models might be a better bet for people mostly doing shorter trips. Whichever engine you choose, the 308's upmarket cabin (even in mid-spec Allure trim), head-turning looks and smart tech all appeal.