There is no doubt that the Peugeot 308 SW is an appealing family car. With a spacious boot and a fuel-efficient engine, it is safe to say it’s been constructed for a family from one end to the other. Practical and pretty in an understated kind of way, the SW is a symbol of a certain age bracket; an age bracket associated with mortgages, school runs and family trips to the beach.
With as much boot space as a loft conversion, the 308 SW’s trunk space rivals that of both the Ford Focus Estate and the Volkswagen Golf Estate with several clever ideas built in that prove the designers must have been involved in many a beach run with their families. The rear seats fold flat automatically when you pull handles in the boot and there is even a convenient space to store the luggage cover beneath the boot floor so that it doesn’t end up being damaged and forgotten in the garage or rattling around in the car.
Peugeot has never really liked very tall people or people with big feet, so at 6ft 5, I was hitting my head on everything stored in the space above the headspace of most people. Additionally, I found the pedals quite cramped and my feet kept overlapping which made me regret getting the manual. In the back there is also limited legroom for the over six footers too, but we’re used to being cramped in what other people would consider to be luxuriously spacious cars so we can’t fret. If I wanted space, I’d buy a bus.
In the front though it’s clear that in an effort to simplify the controls and systems, Peugeot has removed many of those convenient cubbyholes and pockets that drivers and front seat passengers always find a use for.
Adjustable lumbar support in the seats is a welcome relief to long-drive backache and the comfort of the drive is emphasised by the suspension, which is outstanding at soaking up bumps, cat eyes and potholes. The new PureTech 130 3-cylinder engine was quiet and gave the car a decent amount of torque and acceleration when it was needed.
There is also plenty of sunlight thanks to the spacious sun roof that goes all the way to the back of the car, allowing for daylight without having to worry about digging insects out of your hair.
The steering wheel is small so that you can look over it at the instruments, but it does give you less feeling of control and stability. Also, there aren’t any buttons on the dashboard, with a touch-screen panel set up instead, which is frankly annoying. Toggles, knobs and buttons are useful when you’re driving but not wanting to take your eyes off the road. Instead, if you want to adjust anything on the dash you have to pull over.
This may sound like a move towards safety and it certainly looks very plush and sophisticated when you first see it, but it doesn’t take into consideration driving conditions and seems more like a designer thought, “Let’s try this out and see what they think?”
The Volvo XC60 and the Skoda Octavia have a safer layout that altogether feels a bit better thought out.
FUN TO DRIVE?
Once you get accustomed to the small eccentricities of the car it is pleasant enough to drive, responding quickly to steering inputs and all in all the steering and the engine strength work well together and there aren’t any major blind spots that could make reversing difficult, although I was grateful for the rear-view cam that came up on the dash.
Let’s face facts; the SW isn’t meant to be a fun car. I was continuously reminded about the small size of the steering wheel and how my feet were too big for the pedals; but the Peugeot 308 is a solid, affordable and fuel-efficient family car that would be perfect for day-to-day school runs. It is aimed at a different market, one dealing with small grubby handprints on the windows and daily shopping bags.
The most efficient version of the 308 SW is the 1.6 BlueHDi 120 diesel, which returns an official average of almost 90mpg, while even the least efficient model in the range manages more than 55mpg.
True, you’ll struggle to match these figures in the real-world due to the unrealistic nature of the Government test, but the 308 SW should still cost you less in fuel than equivalent versions of the Ford Focus and VW Golf estates.
EASY ON THE POCKET
The 308 SW is competitively priced, whether you’re planning to purchase it outright or pay in monthly instalments and the diesel models have low CO2 emissions that make them cheap to run as company cars.
Peugeot’s three-year Just Add Fuel package is worth considering, because this covers all lease, insurance and servicing costs, meaning you can predict exactly how much a 308 SW will cost you to own.
Naturally for a family car this has to be safe and the Peugeot 308 SW is not that far behind the class leaders. In a recent press release it was revealed that the crash-test specialists Euro NCAP haven’t assessed the 308 SW, but the hatchback version of the car earned the maximum five stars. Like its rivals, the 308 also comes with a stability control system that can help you regain control if the car starts to slide, but while it has six airbags, some rivals offer an extra one that protects the driver’s knees, which are things that people miss when they’re not there anymore.
The range-topping Feline version of the car comes with an Emergency Collision Braking System, which automatically applies the brakes if it senses that a crash is imminent. This system is an option on the Allure model, but it isn’t available on cheaper 308s.
Even the cheapest version of the 308, the Access, comes with air-conditioning, cruise control and a Bluetooth hands-free phone connection. What’s more, there’s a digital radio for you to listen to and a USB socket that lets you play the music on your iPod through the car’s stereo.
The Peugeot 308 SW has a huge boot and is well-priced and equipped, just bear in mind that it isn’t as fun to drive or as spacious in the back as the Ford Focus Estate or VW Golf Estate. If you’re about to become a father, maybe it’s time to lose the motorcycle and look at one of these.