First Drive: Peugeot 308

Peugeot has refreshed and revised its 308 hatchback and estate models, but is the latest round of changes enough to give the French manufacturer a boost in sales? AOL Cars puts the new 308 to the test in Germany to see how it fared.

What is it?

We're really rather fond of the 308 hatchback and estate here at AOL Cars. It's proved to be a fairly popular model from the French manufacturer here in the UK, although it hasn't quite experienced the same levels of success as it has in its homeland – where it's the most popular model in its segment.

Back in Blighty, however, it does crack the top 10 – although Peugeot admits it's "closer to the 10 than the one". Company bosses will no doubt be crossing their fingers that this refreshed model with its lower asking price will get the 308 on the right track.

Sleeker styling, as well as a range of Peugeot's efficient new engines and touchscreen technology are the headline changes on the new model. The front end has a new grille design, as well as LED daytime running lights. The cabin features the new i-Cockpit Peugeot is becoming known for – which incorporates a 9.7-inch touchscreen with 3D sat nav and sharp graphics. On the whole, it's a tidy place to sit.

What's under the bonnet?

The new range of engines are all compliant with strict Euro 6 regulations. The award winning three-cylinder PureTech petrol engine has been upgraded and is coupled with a new six-speed manual gearbox for improved efficiency and control. At-exhaust emission controls on the engine are designed for efficient pollution reduction, while high-precision injection control on the 1.2-litre PureTech 130 Stop&Start engine enhances combustion efficiency.

The 308 is the first PSA Group model to feature the company's new 1.5-litre BlueHDi 130 S&S diesel engine, which is a four-cylinder unit that also implements at-source and at-exhaust emission control. The new eight-speed automatic transmission coupled with the 2.0-litre BlueHDi 180 Stop&Start completes the new engine range, while the New Peugeot 308 GTi by Peugeot Sport is powered by a 266bhp 1.6-litre unit, enabling 0-60mph in just 5.8 seconds.

What's the spec like?

Peugeot has reduced the price of the 308 by an average of £650 compared with the outgoing equivalent models. In fact, certain models are now as much as £1,000 cheaper than they once were – which will certainly prove to be an effective draw card.

These lower prices may have been introduced as a response to the fact that the earlier model didn't sell as well as the French manufacturer may have liked. Standard equipment levels are generous across the range, with Peugeot placing a strong emphasis on safety and connectivity with the latest 308, which family buyers will certainly appreciate.

Any rivals?

The Peugeot 308 finds itself in a crowded segment. There's the Ford Focus, which is arguably the king of the family hatchback market, as well as the excellent – if a little dull – Volkswagen Golf. The VW Group has a number of other contenders in this segment, too. There's the Audi A3 towards the more premium end of the market, while the incredibly competent Seat Leon represents a more affordable alternative. Away from the VW Group, there's the stylish Renault Megane, as well as the brilliant new Honda Civic.

What's it like to drive?

We put the 308 GT to the test out on the high-speed German autobahns, as well as in the challenging mountain roads that lie on the border with Austria.

Credit where credit's due, the Peugeot dealt with everything we threw at it incredibly well. The drive was involving, the i-Cockpit was intuitive – even with its smaller steering wheel – the manual gearbox was satisfying in its action and you never felt like the car was going to do anything unexpected through the corners. This was certainly a welcome characteristic, considering the seemingly infinite cyclists and hikers we were sharing the mountain roads with.

AOL Cars verdict

We like the 308 a lot and it deserves to do well. Chatting to the Peugeot people at the launch of the car, they seem a tad disappointed that it hasn't quite taken off in the way they think it deserves to since the first version was launched a while ago. Could it be that Peugeot has something of a historical image problem? We think that might be the case – but really, if you're in the market for a family hatchback or estate that is crammed with kit, as safe as houses and looks the business, check it out. You won't be disappointed.

The Knowledge

Model: Peugeot 308 GT
Base price: £18,570
Price as tested: £25,010
Engine tested: 1.6L THP 205 S&S manual
Power: 205bhp
Torque: 285Nm
Max speed: 146mph
0-60mph: 7.3 seconds
MPG: 50mpg
Emissions (g/km): 130

First Drive: Peugeot 308
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First Drive: Peugeot 308

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