With the 308 RCZ grabbing all the headlines, the new threedoor version of the mid-sized Peugeot joined the range almost unnoticed. Ian Robertson tests the most powerful of the sportier looking diesel Pugs
There doesn’t seem to be a month that goes by without a new variant of the 308 being launched by Peugeot. In the past few months, there’s been the eco-friendly HDi 90, producing a congestion charge busting 120g/km of CO2, a new more powerful 175bhp petrol turbo GT and quietly, almost slipping under the radar, the new three door 308s. As if that wasn’t enough, estate SW versions are due on sale shortly, with a CC model due early next year, and a production version of the 308 RCZ coupé available from spring 2010. This means that there truly will be a 308 for everyone.
Not wanting to rest on its laurels, Peugeot has recently reorganised the 308 range, meaning that the flagship GT HDi 136 has been axed, leaving the GT trim level the preserve of petrol power. This leaves the model tested here, the 308 Sport equipped with the 2.0-litre Ford/PSA joint venture engine, top of the diesel range. And what an absolute cracker it is too, developing 136bhp, it’s one of the smoothest four-cylinder turbodiesel units around. Mated to a six-speed manual gearbox and diesel particular filter, the unit provides punchy performance while being relatively kind to the environment. It falls into tax band C, thanks to the 146g/km of CO2 that is produced. The Focus, Megane and Astra all produce similar emissions.
Sport trim means that the 308 adopts a more sporty and distinctive nose treatment, although it could hardly be described as pretty. In addition, there are 17-inch alloy wheels, body coloured side mouldings and white dials for the instruments. Additionally, Sport versions come with cruise control, MP3 functionality on the radio/CD and ESP and traction control.
Peugeot has been criticised in the past for its quality and I’m pleased to say that the 308 has taken an enormous leap forward compared to the 307. While the 308 is still based on the same platform as the older model, the experience from behind the steering wheel both in terms of interior ambience and on-road ability is worlds apart. While the handling and ride aren’t up to Ford Focus standards, it’s comfortable and able nonetheless. The interior is pleasant with five chrome ringed air vents, and lots of soft touch materials. On the safety front, the 308 is up there with the best, achieving a five-star rating when tested by safety watchdog EuroNCAP. All 308’s come equipped with driver and passenger airbags with passenger side deactivation, together with side and curtain airbags. Rear side airbags are an option at extra cost on Sport models, while a knee bag is provided as standard.
The 308 won’t set the world on fire – it’s more purring pussy cat than roaring lion – but what it does well is offer a refined product at a reasonable price. The 2.0-litre HDi engine is a gem and provides effortless performance. While the Ford Focus is still top of the tree in terms of dynamics, the 308 is well worth a look if comfort is high on your priorities.
On sale: NOW RANGE STARTS AT: £13,595 for 308 urban HDi 90 3-door
- Price: £17,045
- Engine: 1997cc, 4 cylinder, turbodiesel
- Gearbox: 6-speed manual
- Max Power: 136bhp at 4,000rpm
- Max Torque: 240lb ft at 2,000rpm
- Max Towing Weight: 1,700kg
- Combined Consumption: 51.4mpg
- CO 2 Emissions (taxband): 146g/km (C)
- 0-62mph: 10.1secs
- Max speed: 129mph
- Insurance group: 5
Smooth, flexible engine. Refinement
Rear visibility poor, styling not to all tastes