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2017 Peugeot 308 review: First drive

The Good

  • New diesel is excellent
  • Improved infotainment system
  • Safer

The Bad

  • No 3008 interior
  • Less spacious than some rivals
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The Peugeot 308 has been given a facelift for 2017. We headed to Europe to see what the new 1.5-litre BlueHDI 130 engine is like and if enough has been done to keep the family hatchback competitive.

Unless you have the eyes of a hawk, you may struggle to see the difference between the current 308 and the one it will be replaced by. This is very much a bog-standard facelift that helps it keep up with key rivals, as opposed to knocking them down a peg or two.

But the changes you are unable to see are numerous and in all the right places. Peugeot has made the new 308 hatchback and 308 SW safer, better equipped and kinder to the environment if you pick the right engine.

We drove the 308 hatchback and 308 SW (but not the 308 GTi) in a variety of trim levels and powered by a variety of powertrains, including the new EAT8 eight-speed automatic and six-speed manual, to see if the revisions make it more tempting.

2017 Peugeot 308 review: What is new?

The 2017 Peugeot 308 is a four-door hatchback that gets a few design tweaks to enhance the look, including a front and rear bumper more akin to its 3008 crossover sibling. The claw-style rear lights are also a 3008 design nod we appreciate.

You also get a new 9.7-inch infotainment system, which has Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink built in for connecting your phone to the car. 3D navigation is another new addition that enhances getting from A to B.

Safety is another area where things have been improved, with Adaptive Cruise Control there to make motorway driving less hassle. It also gets Active Blind Spot Monitoring and Lane Keep Assist to reduce the likelihood of an accident.

The bottom of the range Access model has been removed (no one wants steel wheels, apparently), which explains why the base 308 is more expensive than before. In reality though, the like-for-like price has dropped by a few hundred squid.

The 1.5-litre BlueHDI 130bhp S&S diesel, which debuts in the 308, uses various technologies to clean up the diesel emissions as best it can before they leave through the exhaust system. This makes it Euro 6c compliant – all other engines bar the BlueHDi 180 are Euro 6b.

As for Peugeot’s i-Cockpit interior, it is the same as before, which means it is pleasing to the eye; the angular dials and anti-clockwise rev meter are nice touches that help the Frenchie stand out. It is less impressive than the 3008, but considerably nicer than a Focus.

You do, however, have access to a new coupe franche paint job (the half and half colour scheme) that mixes black and blue. We admire Peugeot for wanting to stand out, but it would take a brave soul to go for the less subtle dual-colour offerings.

2017 Peugeot 308 review: How does it drive?

Though a couple of journalists got the feeling the 308’s steering had been revised, Peugeot said it is exactly the same. This is also the case for the suspension, brakes and everything else that governs how it drives.

It is, therefore, as competent as the old 308, which means a spritely drive with relatively little body roll. It feels less planted and communicative than a Renault, but it is a touch softer and more tolerant of bad roads than a Focus without being as dry as the VW Golf.

The little steering wheel and power steering offer a lot of movement for very little effort, making it come across as sharp and keen yet there is never any need to make lots of annoying micro-adjustments at motorway speeds.

The new 1.5-litre BlueHDI 130 S&S is quieter and smoother than the 1.6-litre before it. Fast enough to cope with everyday life and torquey enough (300Nm of the stuff) to power up steep hills without issue, yet never makes too much noise, it is a versatile engine.

A downside of the 1.5-litre is that the acceleration flat-lines early on, but then if you want a sportier experience the peppy PureTech petrols are for you. We find even the lower output petrols offer enough poke to have fun, partly thanks to Peugeot’s ability to keep the kerb weight down.

Compared with the 2.0-litre BlueHDi, the 1.5-litre feels virtually as quick unless you hoof it from standing or want to reach higher speeds. For most people the smaller displacement will make a great deal of sense.

Speaking of sporty, all cars still have a Sport mode. This turns the dials red and blasts an electronically-enhanced engine note into the cabin. It makes the 308 sound throatier, but makes the diesel sound weird and the standard petrol engine note is pleasing enough as it is.

The new eight-speed automatic makes the odd shift more noticeable than it should be. But at moderate speeds it is smooth enough to never offend.

As for the new six-speed manual, it offers a long throw and the meaty gear knob is comfortable in the hand, but the movement could be silkier.

Personally speaking, we would go with the six-speed manual as it makes the 308 more involving, but the EAT8 is more than adequate for the lazier (or less able) motorists among us.

A separate road test of the 308 GTi will take place later on in the year, if you are more interested in the sportiest offering. Which you probably are if you like the idea of a hatchback powered by the same 266bhp lump in the RCZ R.

2017 Peugeot 308 review: What about practicality?

Passengers over six-foot will find issue with the somewhat low roof and the leg room in the back, but everyone else will find it a pleasing car to ride in. The boot, meanwhile, is 470 litres so it is one of the better hatchbacks for carrying things but falls behind the cavernous Honda Civic.

A noticeable by-product of the small steering wheel is that it can obscure the rev counter and speedometer. Some drivers will never find it an issue, but the fact is that less of a gap inside the wheel means your options for movement are more limited, which can affect comfort.

On a more positive note, the neatly stitched seats hold you in place and make sitting comfortable. More of an issue is the infotainment system, which requires too much effort to adjust even the most basic of things such as the air-conditioning temperature.

2017 Peugeot 308: What about fuel economy and cost?

For those who spend less time in the city or drive a lot of miles, the 308’s diesels are the way to go ─ although who knows how hard the UK government will clamp down on them, if at all. A stronger case for the petrols can, therefore, be made.

The 120bhp BlueHDi S&S currently offers the best fuel economy of the range and CO2 emissions as little as 82g/km, which is class-leading and means it fares better under the 2017 car tax rules, which came into play in April.

But the new 130bhp BlueHDi (arriving November, 2017) is yet to be homologated, which means it could – and is likely – to be as good, if not better in both areas. Expect an update to the article once these figures are published by Peugeot.

The manual PureTech 130 S&S, meanwhile, is cleaner on CO2 (104 versus 109g/km) and better on fuel than the EAT6 auto, but not quite as good as the slower 110 PureTech, which is also only available as a five-speed manual.

Prices start from £18,570 for a PureTech 110 Active and from £20,640 for the BlueHDi 130 S&S Active. Better equipped Allure 308s are around £1,000 more expensive, while GT Line costs around £2,500 extra. A top of the range GTi costs from £28,590.

Standard features are generous on the Allure, including dual-zone air conditioning, front and rear parking sensors, 3D navigation, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, MirrorLink, 16 or 17-inch alloys (depends on the engine) and an electronic parking brake with hill-hold assist.

GT Line adds 18-inchers (the ride quality difference is neglible with them on), full LED headlights, scrolling indicators, twin-exit exhaust trim and a 180-degree reversing camera to name a few of the goodies.

2017 Peugeot 308 review: Should I buy one, then?

All the improvements make the 308 a better car and that obviously makes it easier to recommend. But a lack of handling and interior improvements keep it from making as big a dent on the opposition as we had hoped.

Then there is the fact we have seen the future of Peugeot in the brilliant 3008 and we wish more of that excellent interior styling had brushed off on the new 308, even though it is a mid-life facelift.

As things stand, the 308 remains a viable family hatchback that looks good and drives well. It’s just that most of its rivals have improved, too, and that means this particular Pug misses out on being the best of its kind. Again.

Specification

Engine1.5-litre BlueHDi 130 S&S diesel
Power130bhp at 3,750rpm
Torque221lb/ft (300Nm) at 1,750rpm
AccelerationTBC (awaiting homologation)
EmissionsTBC (awaiting homologation)
EconomyTBC (awaiting homologation)
PriceFrom £18,570

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