Test drive: Peugeot 308 1.6 e-HDi 112 Allure Hatch

The TotallyMotor Verdict


Phew, it’s been a busy time of late for Peugeot with launches of the 3008 crossover, 5008 MPV, the iOn all-electric car , cheeky RCZ coupe, full-size 508, and now the facelifted 308 small family hatch, SW (estate) or CC (convertible). And hold the front page; they’ve still got the ultra-frugal 3008 HYbrid4 diesel / electric hybrid to come later in the year. It seems we’ll have to get up pretty early to catch this lion napping!

We’ve test-driven most of Peugeot’s latest offerings, and across the board we can say that interiors are more refined, styling is flamboyant but likeable and, all-importantly; the range of engines is wide, potentially quick and economical; depending on what you’re looking for. Economical for most of us, I’m guessing. And, after this facelift tweak, the 308 gets a satisfying range of powerplants; from the sub-100g/km up to 200bhp of THP (turbo high pressure) blown-petrol punch. 

But, it’s all about our TotallyMotor test drive review of the freshly facially-enhanced and engine upgraded 308 today, and we sampled the hatch, SW and CC models, and three engine types: e-HDi 112, HDi 163 and THP 200.

The first 308 came to the UK four years ago, and with very nearly 90,000 sold in that time, Peugeot are happy with sales. But, they’ll be the first to admit that competition with cars of this footprint size is much hotter than it was in 2007, with crossovers and MPVs now nibbling at regular hatchback sales. And Peugeot want even more sales from the new 308 once the dealers take delivery later this month.

So, they’ll be offering all three 308 body styles right from the off; hatch, SW and CC, as well as bringing the range of engines bang up to date with all of their latest tech. There are other little refresh bits and bobs to note, but it’s the new engines and a styling tweak that now arm the facelifted 308 in the face of stiff competition from the likes of the all-new Ford Focus. Has Peugeot done enough to keep in touch with that ever-raising, new-car-bar? 

Test drive: Peugeot 308 1.6 e-HDi 112 Allure Hatch

First impressions:

It was the hatchback that made up the bulk of sales for the first 308, so we’ll kick off our review of the next 308 with a 5-door topped-off with a tin roof. There will be no 3-door 308 hatchbacks by the way; much like there’ll be no 3-door Ford Focus. But, mix in different trims levels, engine choices and options and you’ll have your pick of twenty-seven 308 hatchback versions. 

Looks-wise, the new car greets its TotallyMotor test drive with a shorter nose, smaller, 508-esque “floating” front grille, smaller headlights, a higher numberplate position, a more compact front bumper, LED driving lights, a new, dual-material Lion logo, and some chrome-trim-tinkering. We’ve gone from perhaps a little too striking with the previous 308, to a more quietly confident expression from the new car. It’s still 308 but it’s not so shouty about it. 

In my opinion, the facelift is certainly an improvement, with the older, nose-heavy front-end a little too beak-like for my taste. The new frontal look is quieter and correctly modernised but not too quiet as to be overlooked, and there’s a pronounced, diagonal-running crease-line etched from tip-to-tip of the new car; breaking up any feelings of slab-sidedness. 

There are less changes of note at the rump of the 308, but it was always quite a pleasing rump. The new Lion badge is there, as is a little more chrome detailing; but it was clearly the pointed front-end that needed, and received, most of the surgeon’s attention. 

Into the interior: 
Not much has changed inside the 308 hatchback but that’s a good thing in terms of light, air and space, and while six different trims levels may sound like a bit of a brain-blower initially; choice is always on a consumer’s wish list.

Entry-level starts with Access and then we move up the equipment scale through SR (aimed at company car drivers), Active, Oxygo (the sub-100g/km CO2 offering coming in July), Allure, and stopping at the top with the GT; fast and leathery. 

Our first 308 TotallyMotor test drive comes from behind the wheel of the 1.6 e-HDi 112 Allure hatch; a very nearly full-spec 308 that’s packing Peugeot’s proud, higher-mpg-moment; the e-HDi engine. 

308 hatch is up there with the best in terms of passenger seating space, luggage space (508 litres seats up and 1398 litres seats down), and this well over 6-feet-tall tester found an agreeable driving position once all adjusting handles and knobs had been pulled and turned. 

The windscreen is wide and deep letting the outside light flood in, but while the dashboard itself is pleasantly tactile – and a little fun-bendy in places – you will find the odd hard and hollow-sounding surface dotted through the cabin.

And while, at the time of its original launch, the 308’s interior looked nicely up to date, recent all-new cars like the Citroen C4 and Ford Focus have since moved the interior game on a little further (to almost match the Audis, and for a good price), and it’s these most recent competitor advances that may start to leave the 308 interior in the shade for some consumers, even with its new clocks and extra interior finishes. It’s solid and well-screwed together, but it’s not a breath-taker. The top-level red leather we later see in the CC is very pleasant, however.

But, Peugeot prompt that the new 308 will be cheaper than the old one – around £800 – and with a huge choice of trim and engine options, there might be much more to appeal to consumers than purely all-out interior haute couture. Practicality and durability, for example. 

The panoramic sunroof in this Allure-spec 308 hatch is an interior-lighting delight however, bringing a dash of sky-filled motoring but without sacrificing any of the safety cocoon-feel of a fixed-roof car.

The drive:
This e-HDi 308 is all about the latest in Peugeot’s pure diesel eco-tech, and with the competition in mind, the 308 is at the current leading edge of mpg-extension. 

At 112bhp, the 1.6-litre turbo-diesel engine will quite happily puff its way around town and through the traffic with performance about right for the power it makes. It’s not meant to be fast; it’s meant to be frugal, but there’s enough of a torquey thrum to get you on the move without the hard ‘n’ fast use of every single rpm of engine power. And when you do rev it it’s respectably refined for a diesel. 

A big part of the e-HDi system is Peugeot’s second-gen stop/start system that’s there to stop and start the engine hopefully without the driver really noticing; saving fuel as it goes. 

Previous customer complaints with stop/start - not necessarily with Peugeot systems – has been systems that are keen to shut down quickly when they think the driver doesn’t need them, but then fail to fire up quick enough when engine power is once again called upon; when coasting to a junction and finding a quick go-gap, for example.

Well this new system from Peugeot does everything quicker – stopping and starting - and as far as I could tell on a short, hour-long test drive, it pretty much irons-out much of that stop/start intrusion, and for Peugeot this will be a big 308 selling point. In fact, the French brand expects 1 million e-HDi vehicles to be sold by 2012; a return on their 300 million euro investment into the system. Give it a try; work with it, and it’s pretty quick to get used to. 

The core of the new stop/start is an alternator and starter motor as a single unit; no separate starter and alternator here. The unit very quickly fires-up the engine on request and then immediately flips to alternator mode to replenish the heavy-duty battery. But, most importantly, the engine wakes from its forced slumber almost instantly. And to prove that you’ve been a good eco-driver there’s a counter in the dash that tells you how long the engine has been off during your drive. In one hour I found the engine had been stopped for a surprising 10 minutes. 

Real-world, Peugeot think that this new system will save up to 15 per cent in fuel during urban driving, and perhaps as much as 25 per cent in very heavy urban use. The longer you’re parked in that traffic jam, the better! 

As a driving package this 308 e-HDi was fluid, comfortable and easy to drive around town with Peugeot’s usual hard-hauling brakes and smooth to operate driver controls all in attendance. However, that smooth suspension comfort did come at the cost of body stability through the harder corners, with this 308 feeling a little too softly sprung for my firmer tastes – a slightly uninvolving feel that also translated to the steering. 

And while Peugeot are clearly on the ball in terms of smooth and refined diesel-power-delivery, the tailpipe-price for this Allure hatch, quoted at 118g/km of CO2 and 62.8mpg, is good but not great. If you are looking for super-low CO2, the sub-100g/km 308 Oxygo comes to dealers to July. 

Ten second sum up:
The styling refresh is on the money and the choice of frugal or fast engines is as good as you’ll get anywhere else, and while the drive is certainly comfortable, it might be a little soft-edged for some. Interior-wise and the quality and finish are where they should be, however, it is starting to get a little too familiar in places when compared to later-launched competitors. 

Prices and availability: 
Prices for the new 308 hatch start at £15,245 for the Access 1.4 VTi 98 petrol 5-speed manual, rising to £18,865 for the low-CO2 Oxygo, up to £21,645 for the GT THP 200 6-speed manual. Price as tested £19,565 for the Allure e-HDi 112 Stop and Start 6-speed manual. Available now. 


Next up: Peugeot 308 2.0 HDi 163 Allure SW (estate) test drive

By Daniel Anslow

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