Vehicle Style: Small wagon
Price: $37,490 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 110kW/370Nm 2.0 turbo diesel 4cyl | 6spd automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 4.2 l/100km | tested: 6.7 l/100km
Wagons, on the other hand, are increasingly rare beasts. For most manufacturers, the mantle of family cargo-hauling duties now falls to the SUV range.
But not all. Peugeot’s fresh new 308 range offers a wagon, and one that offers the same svelte new style, inside and out, as the mega-stylish hatch.
And, when it comes to accolades, the new Peugeot 308 is quickly building an impressive trophy cabinet. Recently announced as the European Car Of The Year, it also secured a top-ten spot in TMR’s Best Buys of 2015.
Right now, just one wagon is on offer - the current range-topping Allure, equipped with a frugal 2.0 litre diesel engine and six-speed automatic.
So, with wagons falling out of favour with buyers, we wanted to know if there’s life left in the old family favourite.
- i-Cockpit driver controls: small steering wheel, high mounted gauges.
- 9.7-inch touchscreen infotainment display including navigation, audio, climate control and trip computer.
- Six-speaker sound system with AM/FM/CD player, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming and USB/Aux inputs, plus 6.9GB hard drive for music storage.
- Cloth seat trim, leather trimmed multi-function steering wheel.
- Flat-folding rear seats with ski-port and release handles in the boot.
- Boot space: 625 litres seat up, 1740 seats down - adjustable rear anchorage points in boot floor.
Take a seat inside the 308 Allure and you're greeted with clean minimalist surfaces across the dash and doors.
Borrowing a concept first seen in Tesla’s Model S, the 308 range shifts almost all interior controls to the 9.7-inch touchscreen mounted high in the dash.
The only physical controls left in the centre stack are for hazard lights, demisters, recirculated air, audio volume and CD player eject.
To control every other function of the audio system, trip computer, climate control, and navigation, the touchscreen takes charge.
There’s also the usual array of steering wheel buttons, column stalks and window buttons.
It’s lovely to see how clean and fresh and interior can look with all the clutter removed.
However, ergonomically, the system can take some adapting to, and simple functions like adjusting the temperature or scanning to the next radio station are not instantly or intuitively accessible.
One thing we really like is the high-mounted instrument cluster and small-diameter - almost go-kart like - steering wheel.
It feels a little odd at first, but it takes no time to adjust to and you’ll find yourself wondering why more cars haven’t tried this before.
But, as with many a French car before it, there are also some quirks to live with.
As a shorter driver the 308 fits fine, but after putting a long-legged 6’2” pilot at the helm we discovered that there simply isn’t enough space in the footwell to move smoothly from accelerator to brake without kneeing the steering wheel.
There’s also the ongoing issue of a glovebox that is half-occupied by a relay box.
There’s a door pocket in each door, but no bottle-holders and only one front cupholder lives in the centre console and does a poor job of holding most larger beverages.
Outside of that, there’s a surprising amount of space both front and rear, with stadium-style seating that gives rear seat passengers a clear view forward as well as generous legroom.
On long hauls the accommodation proved to be exceptionally comfortable.
Vital figures for cargo carrying see a 625 litre boot equipped with load-securing rails that can be expanded to a massive 1740 litres with the 60:40 split flat-folding rear seat stowed.
Doing so couldn’t be easier either, with release handles located in the boot walls and a one-touch folding action.
ON THE ROAD
- 110kW/370Nm 2.0 litre turbo diesel four cylinder.
- Six-speed auto, front wheel drive.
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front suspension with cross beam rear axle.
- Brakes: Ventilated front disc, solid rear disc.
- 17-inch alloy wheels, 225/45 R17 tyres.
Utilising a 2.0 litre turbo diesel engine with a stout 110kW of power at 3750rpm and 370Nm of torque at 2000rpm, the 308 Touring certainly feels more than capable of hauling whatever cargo you stack it full of.
With peak torque arriving just a fraction higher in the rev-range than many modern diesel engines, the 308 also feels more secure in the wet, and not so likely to scrabble for grip, or lurch forward, every time the throttle is applied.
Peugeot claims 4.2 l/100km, but we scored 6.7 l/100km - that’s still a worthwhile figure, but we’d like to see a car with a few more kilometres on the clock, to see how it frees up over time.
Tied to the standard six-speed automatic, the Peugeot is smooth and calm in its progress on-road.
Being a traditional torque converter auto, instead of the dual-clutch units favoured by Volkswagen and Ford, means that stop-start driving and close-quarters parking are smooth and simple, without any jerking or nervousness.
Wind and road noise are well isolated, but sections of more cantankerous Aussie bitumen still cause a bit of tyre roar.
At idle, or when slowing to a stop the diesel powerplant stirs up a notable racket, sounding more like the clatter of a light truck than a family wagon.
Smooth and swift engagement of the start-stop system was impressive, lift off the brake and the engine springs back to life instantly, ready to deliver power to the front wheels immediately.
Only once or twice did we catch it engaging gruffly.
While it may not be something you’d expect of a wagon, the handling package is quite sharp too. The suspension is set up to deliver a soft and compliant ride over imperfections, and blotted out most of what we threw at it.
Offer it a string of corners though, and the 308 Touring is happy to hold on tight and faithfully follow your intended course.
The smaller than average steering wheel also contributes to the nimble feel, but the electric power steering system itself provides immediacy and feel that is just right.
ANCAP rating: 5/5 Stars - the 308 range scored 35.82 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: 308 models feature six airbags (dual front, front seat thorax and full-length curtain airbags) as well as stability control, traction control, ABS, EBD, brake assist. Front seatbelts are fitted with load-limiting pretensioners, outboard rear seats carry load limiters and ISOFIX child seat anchorage points are fitted.
Allure grade vehicle also come with front and rear park sensors, and the Touring additionally comes equipped with a reverse camera.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Need a wagon and need it to be small? Your options are fairly limited, Volkswagen offers the Golf, Holden provides a long-roof Cruze and Hyundai has the i30 wagon.
Those who don’t mind stepping up a size might also find the Skoda Octavia and Mazda6 worth a look as well.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Peugeot’s new 308 range has the style, features and performance to intimidate established class leaders like the Volkswagen Golf and Mazda3.
Ditto for the 308 Touring. From an interior dripping with quality materials and design innovation, to a smart, balanced exterior, the 308 Touring impresses.
Delve a little deeper, and the smooth turbo-diesel and massive, easily-accessed load space should answer the needs of growing families and small businesses alike.
Be aware that there are a few quirks to live with - owners of French cars will already be aware of the perils of a small glovebox and pointless cup holders - and the do-everything touchscreen is lovely to look at, but occasionally cumbersome to use.
Overall, though, the positives outweigh these small detractions. To innovate, when the rest of the market opts for carbon-copy products is rare.
We think that's something that Peugeot should be applauded for.
It is also something that makes the 308 Touring a vehicle that you really must inspect if a small wagon or SUV is on your mind.
Pricing (excludes on-road costs)
- 308 Access Hatch - 1.2 petrol manual - $21,990
- 308 Access Hatch - 1.2 petrol auto - $23,990
- 308 Active Hatch - 1.2 petrol auto - $27,340
- 308 Allure Hatch - 1.2 petrol auto - $30,490
- 308 Allure Hatch - 2.0 diesel auto - $34,790
- 308 Allure Touring - 2.0 diesel auto - $37,490
Due end Q1 2015:
- 308 Allure Hatch 1.6 petrol auto - TBC
- 308 Allure Touring 1.6 petrol auto - TBC
- 308 Allure Premium Hatch 1.6 petrol auto - TBC
- 308 GT Hatch 1.6 petrol manual - TBC
- 308 GT Hatch 2.0 diesel auto - TBC