Despite the growing sales of SUVs, there is still plenty of interest in conventional estate cars. There has been a rash of new launches recently, and the latest to enter the fray is the Peugeot 308 SW. Based on the existing hatchback, it’s the second version of the 308 family to go on sale, but also the first Peugeot to benefit from the company’s new Puretech petrol engines that will eventually appear across its full range.
With prices starting at £16,845, the SW costs about £1,100 more than the equivalent hatchback, and comes with the same choice of engines and trims. Among its rivals will be the recently launched estate versions of the Seat Leon, Honda Civic, Toyota Auris and Volkswagen Golf, as well as the long-established Vauxhall Astra and Ford Focus.
In terms of practicality, at least, the 308 SW is up with the best of them. There’s plenty of space in the front, and the boot capacity of 660 litres (which expands to 1,775 with the rear seats folded down) puts it ahead of its most obvious rivals. Best of all, it could hardly be easier to swap between the two configurations, as the rear seats drop down with the use of just one lever to leave a perfectly flat floor; and, they’re easy to raise back to the upright position again. It’s also neat that the luggage cover can be stowed under the floor when not needed, and that the sill is nice and low, making it easy to load and unload.
The quality inside is impressive, too, and if there are a couple of criticisms, they’re that the dashboard design – with a small steering wheel that you look over to see the dials – takes some getting used to, and space in the rear seats is a little tight if there’s a pair of six-footers in the front seats. However, as long the front seats aren’t pushed the whole way back, there’s enough room for a couple of adults in the back.
We’ve already been impressed by how the 308 hatchback drives, and if anything, the new SW is even better, as the longer wheelbase of the SW gives it a little more composure. It provides a fine blend of ride and handling, with enough firmness to keep the car well balanced and body roll well controlled through the bends, but not so much as to leave the car feeling uncomfortable over poor surfaces. On the contrary, on our test route in France, it was only over the worst bumps that the car felt at all uncomfortable.
Overall, the 308 SW is a good all-rounder, easy to manoeuvre around town, enjoyable once you’re beyond the city limits and composed on the motorway. Our only real criticism is that there’s a little more wind noise from around the windscreen pillars than we’d like at the motorway limit.
One of the car’s most impressive features is the new three-cylinder Puretech petrol engine. Although the 1.2-litre units may sound too small to power a car as big as this, the 128bhp version we tried proved very refined and gave more than acceptable performance. Its average economy of 60.1mpg and CO2 emissions of just 109g/km will keep its running costs down, too, and will doubtless appeal to tax-conscious company car drivers, especially as it is cheaper to buy than the equivalent diesel.
That said, the diesel engines are also very impressive, with the 1.6 BlueHDi good enough to make you question the need for anything more powerful or expensive – especially when it has average economy of more than 85mpg and CO2 emissions of just 85g/km. It has plenty of power for everyday use, and the only real stumbling block is that it costs over £1,000 more than the equivalent car with the 128bhp Puretech engine.
Throw in decent equipment – every model has Bluetooth, DAB radio, air-con and cruise control, with all but the base Access also having alloys, a colour touch-screen, sat-nav and an electric handbrake – and prices that compare very favourably with even the latest rivals’, and the 308 SW looks as attractive a buy as it is a practical one.
All the new launches recently mean buyers looking for a compact estate car have never had it so good; and, if you are in the market, the 308 SW could just be the pick of the bunch.