After the new Peugeot 308’s shock European Car of the Year award, we’re expecting good things from its large derrière’d estate spin-off: the 308 SW. Peugeot’s new wagon follows the same smart but subdued styling template as the regular 308, but carries a generous helping of extra bodywork behind the rear wheels to house a properly spacious load area.
Is there anything genuinely innovative about the new Peugeot 308 SW?
It’s also a significant car because it’s the first Pug to get the company’s new ‘PureTech’ three-cylinder turbo petrol engine. It’s offered across all four spec levels – in ascending order, Access, Active, Allure and Feline – with 109bhp in all models apart from the flagship Feline we’re testing here, which has 129bhp.
There’s a new range of low-emissions diesels too, the thriftiest of which offers CO2 emissions of 85g/km – a figure that’s sure to have fleet managers rubbing their hands with glee.
First things first: how practical is the 308 SW?
The SW’s wheelbase is 11cm longer than the hatch, allowing wider openings for the rear doors and a fraction more knee room in the back. However, the bulk of the SW’s extra length has been concentrated on the rear overhang.
There’s an extra 22cm of bodywork aft of the rear wheels, which makes for a genuinely huge boot – bigger, in fact, than the 3-series-sized 508 SW from the class above. There’s up to 1775 litres with the rear seats folded flat, or 660 litres with them up, and although this makes it the most spacious in its class on paper, rivals such as the Skoda Octavia wagon feel roomier despite less room (1740/610L).
There’s also the issue of packaging. While there’s a removable parcel shelf under the boot floor, the Honda Civic Tourer boasts a more thoroughly though-out execution of its lower deck. The 308 SW does score points for its 60/40-split rear seats that fold flat and have a handy ski-port for more flexibility when they’re up. The boot lip is handily low, too, and there are rails along either side of the floor with sliding anchor points.
It ticks all the right boxes then, but although the Peugeot’s the roomiest estate in its class, that’s not to say it’s the de facto leader in practicality.
This new PureTech engine, then – any good?
Yes. Although there’ll be a 1.0-litre version available elsewhere in the Peugeot range, the 308 SW gets the PureTech in 1.2-litre form for both of its 109bhp and 129bhp outputs.
The 129bhp Feline we drove also gets an extra gear for its standard six-speed manual gearbox (a new six-speed torque converter auto is also available – no jerky EGC semi-auto to sully the range this time), and it’s an impressive little powerplant.
While a 10.6sec 0-62mph claim is nothing to boast about, the 1.2 offers a reasonable amount of poke for its small capacity. Peak torque of 170lb ft is available from 1750-3500rpm so it’s a flexible unit, equally happy to lug along in a high gear or rev-out, Parisian taxi driver-style. It’s far less coarse than most three-cylinder engines too, with no lumpiness at low revs and an impressively hushed engine note in town and on dual carriageways. Put your foot down and a muted three-cylinder growl creeps in that’s not unpleasant to listen to.
Our test car was fitted with the optional Sport mode (£395), which pipes a digitally amplified facsimile of the engine note through the cabin’s speakers. It sounds suitably racy but it’s overly loud and frankly feels weirdly out of place in a sensible estate car. Apart from the noise, Sport mode also sharpens the throttle response, turns the instrument cluster an angry shade of red and makes the power steering needlessly heavier – the perkier throttle response is the only worthwhile bit.
On the running costs front, Peugeot claims a 60.1mpg and with the smallest 15in wheels in the entry-level Access trim, it chucks out a tax-friendly 109g/km of CO2. Our test car, which runs 18in alloys, emits 115g/km.
Engine aside, what’s the 308 SW like to drive?
Like the hatch, it’s smooth-riding and refined rather than exciting. The ride strikes a reasonable compromise between being soft enough to be comfortable but taut enough for the car to avoid feeling wallowy. With its accurate yet hardly feelsome electric steering, it’s a neutral, safe-handling car and although you wouldn’t go out of your way to seek out a good road in it, it’s just about willing to play along if you’re in the mood. Peugeot claims that the new 308 SW is up to 140kg lighter than its predecessor, depending on equipment, thanks to its new, trick 'EMP2' platform.
Inside there’s the same minimalistic dash as the hatchback with its titchy steering wheel, raised instrument cluster and large touchscreen to take care of most of the controls, including the air-con – unless you go for the base-spec Access trim which gets old-fashioned buttons and dials.
Interior quality is genuinely impressive with top-notch fit, finish and materials. There’s no getting away from the fact that the touchscreen interface is fiddly at times and will be a stumbling block for some, though. It needs a good firm stab with your finger, and an accurate one too, to hit the function you’re after. Not ideal for when you’re say, driving.
Given time you’d no doubt get used to it, though. Ditto that for the petite steering wheel, which remains a divisive subject although this particular tester comes down on the side of novel and interesting rather than ergonomically flawed and gimmicky.
The mid-sized estate market is occupied by some pretty stellar products at the moment – there’s the predictably excellent VW Golf Estate, the not quite as roomy but cheaper Seat Leon ST and the longer wheelbase Skoda Octavia Estate, arguably the most practical of the lot. Outside the VW MQB-platform triumvirate there’s also the surprisingly versatile (but surprisingly expensive) Honda Civic Tourer plus the usual Focus and Astra suspects… the list goes on.
The 308 SW can compete with the best of them. Cheaper and nicer to look at and sit in than the Civic, less vanilla than the Octavia and a credible alternative for those who’d rather not drive a Golf – it’s a very competent bit of kit. Another step in the right direction for Peugeot then.