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Peugeot 308 SR e-HDI EGC
Price: £18,945 Fuel: 74.3mpg CO2: 98g/km
In Europe’s most hotly contested, and biggest-selling, segment it pays to put every effort into having the best offering possible. So last year’s refresh of the 308 hatchback was timely for Peugeot, not only stylistically but in introducing the essential sub-100g/km model into the range.
Peugeot’s styling is going through a bit of a renaissance at the moment, led by the classy 508 and chic 208 hatchback, so with the similar-looking 207 on the chopping block the mouthy front end of the original 308 was just starting to outstay its welcome.
In its place, Peugeot has introduced a much calmer looking snout, neatly outlined in aluminium trim that’s also found across the tailgate, just like the 508 saloon. This isn’t a substantial update, but it’s stopped the 308 looking quite so shouty.
Peugeot’s double-digit CO2 emissions are a result of e-HDI micro-hybrid technology, destined for 30% of UK-bound diesel 308s. This is a keener-than-most start/stop system and package of weight saving, low resistance-reducing measures, helped here by PSA’s electronically controlled manual gearbox.
For the driver, at least, this functions rather like an automatic and brings the peppy 1.6-litre HDI 112 engine down from the manual’s 113g/km to 98g/km, while efficiency is up 10.1mpg to 74.3mpg.
This is a good engine, too. Refined, responsive and genuinely efficient, able to offer realistic low to mid 60s to the gallon even driven by an unaccomplished eco driver and a more pleasurable unit to live with than the sometimes breathless 1.6 diesels found in low-CO2 Volkswagen Group vehicles.
But the gearbox is less so. It adds a menial £580 to the manual e-HDI but the price paid is in terms of driveability. Gear changes are slow and notchy unless the driver anticipates them and backs off, and it’s prone to upshifting at the wrong moment then taking a second or two to find the right gear.
For the efficiency on offer this would be a relatively easy pill to swallow, especially for drivers living in congested urban areas. But it’s a niggle which could put drivers off at the test drive.
The EGC’s notchy gearchanges aren’t a reason to overlook the 308 altogether, with the added efficiency and tax savings making this a worthwhile rational purchase. But it’s a system which could be smoother, and with this very good small diesel would be a rather appealing low-carbon C-segment contender.