Practical, Well Designed, Versatile.
Is It A Bird, A Plane, An Estate Car, An MPV?
Pricey And Likely To Get Pricier.
**** out of 5
I admire cars like the Peugeot 308 SW. This car was designed from the ground up to do a job, with no pandering to frivolities. If the possibility of making it look cute clashed with the need to carry a bit more stuff, or add seating for a seventh person, the designers insisted that utility should win at all costs.
The design of the 308 saloon always struck me as a bit of a let down, with the aesthetics of the rear end taking precedence over its ability to do the job. And the aesthetics weren’t even all that good. Yes, the rear end of the car looks nicer by leaning forwards, but I always felt that this made it a less practical car to use. If it had a fuller rear end, like say the Honda Jazz, the car would have been much more useful.
No such problem with the 308 SW.
It is bigger in almost every way than the saloon. The wheelbase is 100 mm (almost 4 inches) bigger, the overall it is 224 mm (about 8-1/2 inches) longer. It’s a bit higher, and the boot has 50 per cent more capacity. If you fold all the rear seats flat and fold the passenger seat forward you have an area even white-van man would get excited about. The rear seats are cleverly designed too. You can fold them flat or whip all of them or some of them out. You can even opt for a couple of child seats in the third row making this into a 7-seater.
Interior quality is very impressive with stylish materials and neat design. As you would expect from a Peugeot, the drive is terrific with sharp steering and comfortable suspension. I drove the SW Sport HDi 110 diesel version, which has a 1.6 litre diesel engine and a 6-speed gearbox. No complaints about the quietness of the drive, the acceleration, or the ability to gobble up the miles relentlessly on the motorway. Peugeot claims this version will return an average 53.2 miles per gallon (5.3 litres per 100 km).
There is a bewildering maze of engine and transmission options with 6 petrol engines from 1.4 to 1.6 litres with varying power outputs and 5 and 6 speed manuals and 4-speed automatics. There are three diesel engines (1.6-90 bhp, 1.6 110 bhp, 2.0-136 bhp). The 2.0 litre diesel has a 6-speed automatic gearbox. I like the sound of that one.
Peugeot has also developed a new EGC (electronic gearbox control) – semi-automatic gearbox without a clutch which allows you to change up and down with the gear lever if you feel energetic, or it will electronically change the gears for you. This is a bit like the semi-automatic on the Mercedes Smart car. Thankfully it doesn’t take a long, deep breath between changes like the Smart and moves up and down briskly and neatly. A nice touch was the dashboard readout which told you exactly which gear you were in. You can also change up and down using levers behind the steering wheel. I drove this on a 308 SE HDi 110 and it worked a treat.
The 308 SW (station wagon, silly) is available in three trim levels, S, Sport and SE. The base S model has a traditional steel roof and black roof rails with air-conditioning, a CD player, remote central locking and electric front windows. The Sport and SE have panoramic glass roofs with metallic roof rails. Sport also adds things like bigger wheels, opening tailgate glass, rear electric windows, and cruise control. SE adds stuff like a snazzy instrument panel, dual zone air-conditioning, a third row of two seats, tyre pressure sensors and a Comfort Pack.
Prices start at £14,395-€18,100 for the 1.4 litre, 95 bhp petrol.
The SW Sport HDi 110 costs £17,995-€22,600, but options including metallic paint, multi-media sat nav, and the 3rd row of seats take it through £20,000.
If you think that’s pricey, things might get worse because Peugeot, like other mainland European car makers, is under huge pressure from the weakness of sterling against the euro. According to Deutsche Bank, Renault faced a foreign exchange hit to its bottom line from its British business of £150 million-€188 million for 2007, and Peugeot-Citroen will have been worse off by £250 million-€315 million. This is likely to get worse in 2008, and is applying massive pressure for the companies to make up the difference by raising prices.
Neil Winton – May 30, 2008
|Peugeot 308 SW Sport HDi 110|
|Engine:||1,560 cc 4-cylinder diesel|
|Power:||110 bhp @ 4,000 rpm|
|Torque:||180 lb ft @ 1,750|
|Gearbox:||six speed manual|
|Acceleration:||0-62 mph-100 km/h 12.5 seconds|
|Top Speed:||115 mph-185 km/h|
|Fuel Consumption:||claimed combined – 53.2 mpg-5.3 l/km|
|Service Intervals:||2 years or 12,500 miles|
|Warranty:||two years unlimited plus one year if serviced properly|
|Boot capacity:||430/1,398 litres|
|Competition:||Ford Focus C-Max, VW Touran, Renault Megane Scenic, Nissan Qashqai, Toyota Verso, Seat Altea|
|Price:||£17,995-€22,600 – on sale across Europe now|
|For:||practical, well designed, versatile|
|Against:||pricey and likely to get pricier|