The Peugeot 308 Touring rolled into the CarAdvice garage on a metaphorical red carpet – granted the VIP treatment after its hatchback sibling proved itself a wonderfully complete small car in our first Australian drive late last month.
The 308 Touring shares the five-door’s new lightweight platform, major mechanicals, premium interior and elegant exterior design. It is arguably enhanced by its sexy wagon body, while also benefitting from the extra versatility and load-lugging ability inherent of its shapely rear.
The Peugeot 308 Touring (the SW badge has been canned for this generation) is a different proposition to the hatch, however. Where the latter is available in three specification levels with the choice of petrol and diesel engines and priced from $21,990, the wagon is available singularly in high-grade Allure diesel automatic trim for $37,490.
An Allure petrol wagon is coming in March, though it’s still likely to cost around $35,000, making Peugeot’s offering considerably more expensive than fellow small wagon rivals, including the Hyundai i30 (from $24,990), Volkswagen Golf (from $25,540) and the Renault Megane (from $26,990).
As it is, the Peugeot 308 Touring Allure competes with the i30 Elite ($33,330), Megane GT-Line Premium ($34,990) and the Golf 110TDI Highline ($36,340) – all top-spec diesel autos in their respective ranges.
The Golf is the only one to match the 308’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel for size, but even it is humbled by what is one of the best Peugeot engines of recent years.
Both produce 110kW of power, yet the Peugeot makes an extra 50Nm of torque for 370Nm in total (at 2000rpm). And while both claim to accelerate from standstill to 100km/h in 8.9 seconds, the 308 is 10 per cent more fuel efficient, rated at 4.2 litres per 100 kilometres on the combined cycle – bettering even the smaller-engined Renault and Hyundai.
The engine hauls the Touring’s 1420kg frame with ease, pulling prodigiously both down low and higher in its rev range. It’s nicely refined too, with few grumbles and vibrations felt inside the cabin whether sitting stationary or at speed on the highway.
Its stop-start system isn’t the cleanest, however, killing the engine before the car comes to a complete stop, and requiring the driver to take their foot fully off the brake pedal to restart – allowing the car to roll backwards when facing uphill then jerking the car as it kicks over, for example. Fortunately, it can be switched off.
The standard six-speed automatic transmission at times clunks into and out of second gear at low speeds under light throttle, but is otherwise a smooth and confident shifter.
It’s highly efficiency focused in standard ‘D’ mode and its partiality for higher gears can leave you feeling momentarily stranded after sinking the boot in and waiting for it to file back down the ratios. ‘S’ mode counters this neatly, holding the engine at higher revs, hanging onto gears for longer and downshifting more aggressively under braking.
As with the hatch, the Peugeot 308 Touring encourages and rewards a sporting attitude behind the wheel – which itself is chunky, thick-rimmed, wrapped in buttery leather, and feels excellent in your hands. The steering is quick, light and accurate, an excellent trifecta for a driver-focused small car.
Comparing a car’s ride quality to the Golf’s is one of the greatest compliments you can give, and the 308 is deserving of such high praise. Across patchwork and potholed urban streets it delivers near-benchmark levels of compliance and control, remaining expertly settled, and even exceeding its German rival in terms of noise suppression.
The Golf still has the edge in more dynamic conditions, however, where notably the 308’s rear end shimmies over mid-corner bumps.
The Allure wagon’s 17-inch alloy wheels and 45-aspect tyres also add a sharpness to bumps that was less pronounced in our hatch that rode on 16s shod with taller 55-aspect rubber. Its Michelin Pilot Sport 3 tyres aren’t found wanting for grip, however, and, thanks to the 308’s intrinsic balance, aren’t forced to fight against it when turned in to corners. Who said wagons are just for boring sales reps?
The 308 Touring matches the hatch’s class-leading status for cargo carrying capacity. It boasts 625 litres behind its rear seats, pipping the Golf (605L) and smashing the i30 (528L) and Megane (524L), while also offering 190L more than the five-door. Clever latches in the boot allow you to fold the 60:40 split rear seats completely flat with almost zero effort, expanding the load space to 1740L.
Other nifty features include: the centre ski port that doubles as an armrest with twin cupholders for rear-riders; the low loading lip that makes packing heavy items easier; the rails along the boot floor to help slide items in and out; and a dedicated stowage section beneath the boot floor for storing the cargo cover when not in use.
Another benefit of the wagon is excellent rear visibility thanks to its large rear windows, which reduce the stress of reverse parking and manoeuvring its almost-4.6-metre body in tight spaces. A standard reverse-view camera and front and rear sensors also help here.
The camera displays through a 7.0-inch touchscreen, which houses all major infotainment systems, including satellite navigation, dual-zone climate control, and phone, audio and media functions. Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming, a USB port, CD player and 6.9Gb storage are all standard.
Its neat integration at the top of the dashboard makes for a clean and elegant cabin with very few physical buttons and dials. Its operation is refreshingly logical for a French car, though tapping your way through multiple menus and settings is more time- and attention-consuming than hitting a button or turning a tactile knob.
Sophistication oozes throughout the cabin, from the slimline, white-lit instrument cluster positioned above the steering wheel, to the brushed metal trim highlights and the spongy soft-touch plastic that lines the dashboard and front and rear door sills. The stylishly stitched leather in our test car is a $3100 option, however.
The front seats are comfortable and supportive, holding up well on one two-hour-plus drive. Adults up to 180cm won’t be found wanting for headroom in the rear, though a flat seat base and minimal toe room beneath the front seats will leave them riding in a knees-up position. Legroom is adequate without breaking any records, but disappointingly there are no rear vents.
There’s also only one front cupholder hidden in the centre bin, while the door bins lack bottle holders and the glovebox is tiny.
Other standard features not already mentioned include full auto LED headlights with LED daytime running lights, auto wipers and folding side mirrors, aluminium roof rails, and cruise control, as well as electronic stability control and six airbags (dual front, side and curtains).
Peugeot offers only the minimum three-year/100,000km warranty, trailing most rivals, while the 308’s five-year/75,000km capped-price servicing program (due at 12-month/15,000km intervals) costs $2546 ($1473 to three years/45,000km, $2144 to four year/60,000km).
Seven days after its celebrated arrival, the Peugeot 308 Touring left CA HQ with its stature not only intact, but enhanced.
The biggest hurdle is undoubtedly its entry price, which will force many prospective buyers behind the wheel of cheaper competitors, or tempt them into the size-larger Mazda 6 or Skoda Octavia RS.
If you can stump up the $37,490 asking price, however, the 308 Touring delivers performance, engagement, efficiency, space and style that few small wagons – and no compact SUVs – can touch.