Car review: Peugeot 308 is excellent value

This good-looking family hatchback is a return to form for Peugeot, writes Dr Tony Rimmer.

The biggest-selling sector of the British new car market is known as the C sector: mid-sized family hatchbacks.

This accounts for a third of all UK sales and, among GP buyers, is represented most heavily by the Volkswagen Golf.

However, because this is such an important sector for all manufacturers, there is intense competition among rivals.

FAST FACTS
Peugeot 308 Active HDi 92
Body: Five-seat hatchback, five doors
Engine: 1.6L turbodiesel
Power: 92bhp
Torque: 230Nm
Acceleration: 0-62mph in 11.3 seconds
Claimed economy (combined): 74.3mpg
On the road price: £17,895

The Ford Focus, Seat Leon, Skoda Octavia, Hyundai i130 and Kia Cee'd are all in the hunt for sales in this sector, but there is a new entrant to the market from a well-established GP favourite: Peugeot.

The Peugeot 308 sits on a new modular platform and promises, among other things, a higher quality interior and greater economy than before.

Can the French firm win back the hearts of medics who miss the flair and individuality of their great drivers' cars, such as the Peugeot 205 from the 1980s?

I have been testing a 308 during a normal working week at the surgery, followed by a weekend on family duties, to see if it can impress.

Visual individuality

The Peugeot 308 certainly looks good. The proportions are stylish and although it is not ground-breaking, it has greater visual individuality than the ubiquitous Golf.

Step inside and the cabin really tries to make an impression. The main dials sit above the steering wheel, as in the smaller 208, but seem to be less visually obstructed than in the sister car. This is, no doubt, helped by the small, neat steering wheel, which also gives the 308 a sporty feel when nipping around town.

Most control functions are accessed through the clear 9.7-inch central touchscreen, which works well. It minimises the need for lots of separate switches and knobs, so keeps the dashboard looking neat, modern and tidy.

Passengers are well catered for, although rear headroom can be compromised if you opt for the Panoramic glass roof, a £500 extra. The upper cabin plastics are of a higher quality than in recent Peugeot models, but still not quite at Volkswagen level.

The boot is bigger than the Golf's, but does not have the flat floor of its German rival, which aids loading and unloading.

The current squeeze on primary care has us all worried about static or falling practice profits, so a keen eye for a family car that offers good value and excellent economy is a priority. The 308 certainly offers the potential for both.

As long as you stay with the mid-range Active or Allure models, standard equipment is adequate, with sat nav, reversing sensors and Bluetooth facilities to make life easy.

If you pick the right engine, you will save plenty of money at the pumps. Available with a range of high-tech petrol and diesel engines, with record CO2 emissions, the balance between power and economy can suit all tastes.

High economy engines

Three-cylinder petrol engines are the latest in high economy technology, and turbo and non-turbo versions are available.

The BlueHDi diesel units use cutting edge engineering know-how. My test car had the 1.6L diesel engine with only 92bhp, but a very impressive 93g/km CO2 figure.

This means zero road tax and freedom from London's congestion charge in a car that does not feel underpowered or lacking in performance in most situations. A claimed combined fuel consumption of 74.3mpg is impressive and means a real world result of about 50mpg should be easily attainable.

Historically, Peugeot always had a reputation for building cars that offered the perfect ride comfort and handling balance for UK roads. It lost this over the past decade or so, but the 308 signals a positive sign of potential recovery.

The ride is better than most rivals and although it does not handle as well as the Golf, drivers who don't really push hard won't notice this. It is best suited for motorways, but the overall impression is of comfortable, refined travel.

The new Peugeot 308 should appeal to many GPs. It is good-looking, well-equipped, drives well and provides good value for money. It has a classy cabin, rides smoothly and is economical to run.

  • Dr Rimmer is a GP in Guildford, Surrey

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