We test the European Car of the Year, the Peugeot 308, in its most practical form - the 308 SW.
The all-new Peugeot 308 hatchback was on sale for barely a few months prior to winning the coveted European Car of the Year Award in March this year. To keep the momentum going, Peugeot followed the hatch with the 308 SW wagon variant which hit the road in May.
Like the hatch, the 308 SW uses the Peugeot EMP2 platform allowing flexible configuration for space maximization and use of different powertrains. The wheelbase of the wagon is 110mm longer than the hatch, with a 220mm longer rear overhang.
The design is less edgy than the outgoing model – more European than French, you might say – but bears a stylish and sporting appearance, particularly in high-spec trim. The wagon was designed at the same time as the hatch, and certainly looks like it was always intended to be this shape.
The new grille treatment, seen locally already on the 508, is paired with sweeping headlamps to enforce the ‘feline’ look of the Peugeot face. The rear lamps wrap around the boot and rear quarter to complete the fluid and premium look. The use of chrome trim and aluminium roof bars help with the premium feel.
The Peugeot ‘i-Cockpit’ interior is carried over from the hatch, with functions anchored around the 9.7-inch touchscreen display. The small steering wheel takes a bit of getting used to but it is comfortable to hold and doesn’t obscure any display functions as you look over it to the instruments rather than through it.
The multifunction touchscreen again adds a premium feel to the car, controlling ventilation and heating as well as audio, communication and onboard computer functions. A single function can only be accessed at one time however, meaning adjusting air temperature changes the screen away from audio or trip readout. The tested car was not fitted with navigation, but I imagine having to constantly switch back and forth between screens could become frustrating.
Interior materials are relatively consistent and high quality, with only the stack below the touchscreen betraying its quality hammered leather pattern with a hard, hollow knock.
The base level cars are still well equipped, helping Peugeot push the brand to a more up-market level. The aforementioned media screen is standard across the range as is Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, and USB connectivity. Cruise and speed limit control with memory functions are an excellent inclusion as is the ability to connect with Peugeot apps, to provide more capability applicable to the user’s needs. It is unclear as to whether the app functions will make it to the version sold in Australia.
The wheelbase extension is translated directly to interior space, giving rear seat passengers 290mm more legroom than in the hatch. The boot is an impressive 590 litres below the parcel shelf and with the rear seats folded flat there is a whopping 1600L of space.
Neat features like under-floor storage for the parcel tray, and even a guide rail for when the tray is in use, continue to reinforce the practical and premium nature of the 308 SW. But there's a notable omission - which was the standout feature of the previous generation 308 wagon - the seven-seat option, which has not yet been announced for the new car.
As with the hatch, the 308 SW has a range of petrol and diesel options. We drove the entry-level Blue HDi 1.6-litre turbo diesel with five-speed manual transmission.
While not a rocket off the line, the car responded well at urban speeds and would cruise comfortably above 100km/h at just over 2000rpm. Being a manual, gear selection is up to the driver and made a big difference to performance. Changing as per the dashboard selection light kept the revs low and response acceptable, albeit with a bit of diesel chatter.
We experienced economy around five litres per 100 kilometres for most driving conditions, and Peugeot claims the more powerful 120HP diesel with six-speed gearbox can achieve an average of 3.2L/100km – a leader in the segment.
At speed it was relatively quiet and through a mixture of cobbled urban streets, rural lanes, B-roads and freeways it handled well and was consistently comfortable. Not as sporting or direct as some rivals, the slightly softer handling did reinforce this as more of a family car than sport wagon.
Cruising at country and highway speeds it felt confident and translated the road conditions well back though the small steering wheel. Peugeot admits that the 19-inch wheels on higher-spec cars do marginally reduce the ride comfort, but they look great.
Priced in France from euro 22,450 ($32,550) the 308 SW entry point is higher than the basic Volkswagen Golf Wagon at euro 17,400 ($22,225) and Renault Megane Estate at 21,200 ($30,740), with Peugeot obviously banking on the higher specification and quality of even the most basic models.
The 308 SW is an excellent product marking a great step forward for Peugeot, and the family friendly and long distance cruising capability of the car should fit our market well.
The small wagon segment continues to be strong in Europe, contributing to 10 per cent of sales. However, Peugeot Australia is yet to confirm the 308 SW for local release, but if it were to come, we could expect it here in 2015.
What's the Peugeot 308 SW like to live with? Read our Lifestyle Review here.