Road Test: Peugeot 308 SW BlueHDI 150 GT-Line
Hot hatch styling with fleet-friendly running costs, the 308 is a great user-chooser option, says Alex Grant.
SECTOR Lower Medium PRICE £25,415 FUEL 72.4mpg CO2 102g/km
The 308 was such an enormous step change that it seemed almost ironic for it to be the first new-generation Peugeot to retain its predecessor’s name. This was the start of the brand really ramping up the finish and desirability of its new range – and if anything, the pace of improvements has accelerated since.
So, hot on the heels of a new SUV line-up, Peugeot has channelled its energy into bringing the 308 up to date. It’s most noticeable in low-spec versions, which have become much more aggressive post-facelift, but those improvements encompass the sportier models too.
The good news, for those who can’t opt for the full-fat GTI, is the 308 has a couple of very appealing grey-area options for user-choosers. These comprise the GT, a warm hatch with medium-performance petrol and diesel engines, and the GT-Line, which is mostly a styling and equipment upgrade over the mid-spec Allure, and offered with an even wider selection of drivetrains. As all of them include big wheels, the same sports bodykit and LED headlights not available elsewhere, it’s quite hard to tell them apart.
The BlueHDI 150 engine, tested here, is a mildly upgraded version of the 2.0-litre engine offered before the 308’s recent cosmetic surgery. It’s the most powerful diesel offered in GT-Line spec, serving up effortless motorway and load-carrying ability with 50-55mpg fuel economy and barely any noise, if not the performance to match the styling. However, that’s also true of the 180bhp diesel engine fitted to the GT.
Its business case isn’t helped by the new 1.5-litre BlueHDI 130, which offers similar performance to the older 2.0-litre engine, and still has six gears for motorway use. There’s also a small but significant drop in CO2 emissions (from 102g/km to 96g/km) and price. Unless it’s regularly used for towing or moving heavier loads, the smaller engine is ample for most drivers, and tends to feel livelier off the mark too. Its only drawback is that it’s not offered the new eight-speed automatic transmission yet.
At a glance, little has changed inside. Which means drivers who didn’t get on with Peugeot’s unusual small steering wheel and high-mounted instruments will have the same issues this time. For those who suit the driving position, the small, thick-rimmed wheel feels surprisingly natural to use, while the GT-Line’s artificial leather and cloth sports seats will attract few complaints over long distances. Material quality isn’t quite as good as the Golf, but competitive with most rivals.
The lack of change inside also means the infotainment hasn’t changed significantly. It’s a new 9.7-inch touchscreen, but with a similar interface to the old car’s, and while it’s noticeably more responsive and now takes smartphone-style touch inputs, it’s still responsible for too much of the in-car functions. Particularly irritating for climate control settings, which are within a sub-menu and fiddly to operate on the move.
On the upside, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are now built in, the new TomTom Live traffic updates seem very accurate, and the three-dimensional buildings on the navigation are a neat touch.
The 308 is also a fine estate car, with seats that fold using switches inside the tailgate, and a metre-long, flat, wide, and low load floor. GT-Line includes a huge panoramic roof to stop the otherwise dark cabin feeling too gloomy, but there’s no way to add the digital instruments from the 3008 or 5008, which would have been an attractive option. Small steps forward for what was a giant leap four years ago.
What We Think:
GTI styling without the running costs – it’s certainly not short of car park appeal, but there are few reasons for most drivers to opt up to the 2.0-litre engine.