PEUGEOT 308 (2013 - 2017

By Jonathan Crouch

Models Covered

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5dr hatch / 5dr SW estate (Petrol - 1.2 THP 82bhp, 1.2 THP 110bhp, 1.6 THP 125bhp, 1.6 THP 156bhp, 1.6 THP 205bhp, 1.6 THP 250bhp, 1.6 THP 250 & 270bhp / Diesel - 1.6 HDi 90bhp, 1.6 HDi 115bhp, 1.6 BlueHDi 120bhp, 2.0 BlueHDi 150bhp, 2.0 BlueHDi 180bhp)

Introduction

The Peugeot 308 evolved significantly in the second generation form launched in 2013. At first glance, the Focus-sized family hatchback formula might seem much the same as that of the first generation version, but the execution was miles better in this MK2 model, with a focus on refinement, interior quality and efficiency that put this car right up alongside the Ford and Volkswagen class leaders from its era. It's that good. There’s a level of self-confidence and, yes, desirability here that we’ve not seen from Peugeot in a very long time.

The History

What do you look for in a used Astra-sized family hatchback? If it’s driving excitement, you’ll find it in a Ford Focus. If it’s sheer value, then you’re more likely to be drawn towards cars like Hyundai’s i30 or Kia’s cee’d. But what if your priorities are a bit more relaxed? You want an expensive feel. An absorbent ride. A laid back demeanour. And a car that makes you feel you’re in something much nicer. Perhaps, just perhaps, you want one of these, Peugeot’s second generation 308.

Mid-sized compact Peugeots with a ‘3’ designation go all the way back to the 301 of 1932, progressing through the pre-war 302 and the post-war 304 to the 305 and 306 models of the Eighties and Nineties. By then, the French brand had become less aspirational in the family hatchback segment as volume sales were chased with the forgettable 307 of 2001, the underpinnings of which also formed the basis for its less popular successor, the first generation 308 of 2007. By 2013 though, the market was changing, primarily with the continuing emergence of cheap Chinese and Korean rivals. Brands like Peugeot were feeling the need to move up-market, a small but significant premium shift that this model aimed to showcase to potential buyers who wanted a compact car from one of the smarter makers but couldn’t quite stretch to one.

Shouldn’t it be called the ‘309’? Perhaps – but then, Peugeot sold a family hatchback of that name back in the late Eighties that was anything but up-market and moving a digit further on would have removed the distinctive ‘middle O’ prefix that the company seems to like so much. On top of that, ‘8’ is a lucky number in China, which is this car’s most important overseas market. So, 308 it is, which means that for the first time in this Gallic brand’s history, an existing model name was carried over into an all-new design.

And this MK2 308 was all-new in every sense thanks to its hi-tech EMP2 (‘Efficient Modular Platform 2’) underpinnings that support a smart, classy body powered by some engines that are pretty cutting edge. The result ought to be a car that used market family hatch buyers must take very seriously indeed if they’re looking for a contender from his era. Peugeot introduced more frugal BlueHDi diesel engines to the range in 2014, plus a pokier ‘GT’ version, while the ‘GTi’ hot hatch variant launched in 2015. This 308 design was significantly upgraded in the Summer of 2017, but it’s the earlier version we focus on here.

What To Look For

We came across plenty of very satisfied 308 buyers in our ownership survey but inevitably, there were a few issues. One buyer noticed early signs of surface rust on some areas of the panelwork. Another found that dash warning lights were intermittently illuminating, one for the particulate filer and one of engine management; that particular car needed an ECU update and forced regeneration to fix the problem. Another owner had to fit a new condenser as the original had quickly corroded and lost all its gas. Another complained of a squeaking throttle pedal. And still another owner commented that the radiator needed frequent topping up. Look out for all these things on your test drive.

On The Road

This Peugeot delivers an impressive balance of handling and supple ride quality. As for engines, well the majority of early sales were of diesel variants. For the first few years of this model’s life, Peugeot continued to offer its old-tech 1.6-litre e-HDi unit, in 92 and 115bhp guises. In 2014 however, the brand introduced its much cleaner and more modern 120bhp 1.6-litre BlueHDi engine. There was also a 150bhp 2.0 BlueHDi unit, additionally available in 180bhp form in the pokier GT model.

On to petrol power. To be frank, it’s refreshing to find a car in this class from this era that can offer a truly credible and realistically-priced petrol-engined option - but you’ll find one here. Not, it must be said, at either the top or the bottom of the range. The baseline 82bhp 1.2 VTi unit is really better suited to the smaller 208 model, while the 1.6-litre THP petrol turbo unit (available in 125, 156, 205, 250 and 270bhp guises) is relatively inefficient. We’d council mainstream buyers to ignore all of these green pump options and instead focus on one of the best petrol powerplants you can buy – not only in this car but, we’d suggest, in this entire segment of the market. The 1.2 THP unit may only offer three cylinders but it punches well above its weight, whether you choose it in 5-speed 110bhp or 6-speed 130bhp guise.

Overall

Peugeot wasn't just building a car with this MK2 model 308. It was re-building a reputation. For too long, this much-loved brand lost sight of what made people want its products. Starting with this second generation 308 range, it set out to build desirable machines once more, models not simply playing catch up or trying to copy the big sellers. Sure enough, this is vehicle with a definite feel of its own. It's not going to appeal to everybody but it is a car that the company can rightly feel proud of – a contender good enough to worry the best in the business.

Overall though, what’s on offer here is a car that has restored Peugeot's reputation for building elegant, comfortable and understated vehicles. A car that finally makes good on the brand’s upmarket aspirations. It's been a long time coming.