Peugeot's 308 SW estate is a more polished proposition in this third generation guise, with smart packaging, extra engineering options and a bit more useful technology. The result is a more desirable product than you might expect from this familiar Gallic brand. You might be surprised at how much you'd like it.
We've always struggled a little with the concept of a 'compact estate car'. After all, most people buy an estate in search of space and versatility, both tough briefs to meet if the model in question is in any way compact. Though not in this case. Not with this car - the third generation version of Peugeot's 308 SW. Here's proof positive that it isn't how big your car is that matters. It's how cleverly it's been designed for interior use of the space that it has. This 308 SW measures in at 4.64m but offers up to 1634-litres of space almost as much as the brand's larger 508 SW. The last 308 SW wasn't really a car many customers would have chosen in preference to a Golf Estate, let alone anything premium, but this MK3 version might be. Everything's different - even the front Peugeot grille badge. And the sharky looks clothe a cabin that could just be the segment's most sophisticated. Premium values with mainstream value? Is that what we've got here? Let's find out.
The SW version of the 308 obviously drives just like the hatch and in both cases, with this third generation design, Peugeot has sought a return to the reputation it enjoyed forty years ago when its humblest family five doors were marked by an engaging degree of handling excellence. Sure enough, the unusual 'i-Cockpit' dash design that sees you peering above a small, low-set steering wheel at a slick-looking virtual dial pack suggests a welcome level of potential drive engagement. Which turns out to be largely realised, thanks to well judging firm-style damping, plenty of cornering traction and decent body control. Under the bonnet, there's a mix of something old and something new. Familiarity comes with the conventional petrol unit, the brand's usual PureTech three cylinder 1.2-litre powerplant, available only with 130hp. The brand is also still offering its usual 1.5-litre BlueHDi diesel - in 130hp form. As with all 308s, all three of these conventional engines have to be had with the brand's EAT8 8-speed auto transmission, which works with three available drive modes - 'Normal', 'Eco' and 'Sport'. As for what's new, well inevitably it's electrified. There are two petrol Plug-in Hybrid units, starting with the Hybrid 180 model which combines a 150hp PureTech petrol engine with a 109hp electric motor and a 12.4kWh battery that's smaller than that in the equivalent 3008 SUV, but is still large enough to take the car up to 44 miles between charges. A similar range (up to 40 miles) is possible from the alternative Hybrid 225 variant, which combines a 180bhp petrol engine with the same 109bhp electric motor for a maximum combined power output of 225hp. The last powertrain option is the full-electric e-308 SW variant. This uses a 54kWh battery incorporating a sophisticated chemical composition which makes possible a 248 mile range figure. This battery powers a front axle-mounted 156bhp motor which will get you to 62mph from rest in about 8 seconds. There are no steering wheel paddles to alter brake regeneration, but Peugeot does provide a selectable 'Brake' button which ups energy harvesting to the point where you'll hardly ever need to use the actual brake pedal when you come off the throttle.
This third generation 308 SW is 60mm longer than its predecessor, making it 4.64-metres long; and it's been lowered by 20mm. There's a longer-looking bonnet and a lower-looking nose bearing the latest, rather different Peugeot badge on its grille. Flanking this are slimmer LED headlights complemented by Peugeot's fang-like LED daytime running lights. In profile, there's a sleeker look that's delivered a more slippery 0.27Cd drag coefficient. There's 55mm of extra wheelbase this time round, which has benefitted rear seat passengers - but not the cargo area, space in which falls by 52-litres over the previous generation model to 608-litres (though that's still very class-competitive). That figure is for the conventionally-engined models and for the e-308 SW, but capacity falls to 548-litres with the Plug-in Hybrid variant. Despite 55mm of extra wheelbase this time round, there's been no return to offering the third seating row that characterised the first generation version of this model. You can extend the cargo area to 1,634-litres with the seats retracted - they now fold in a more convenient 40:20:40-split with catches on the cargo area side walls. In this format, items up to 1.85m long can be accommodated. Again, the capacity figure is for the conventionally-engined models and for the e-308 SW; seats-down capacity falls to 1,574-litres with the Plug-in Hybrid variant. Up-front, you still get Peugeot's i-Cockpit layout with its small steering wheel, but that now sits beneath a completely new digital instrument panel, with clever 3D image tech borrowed from the brand's smaller 208 supermini. The tall, sloping dashboard features a sharp-looking 10-inch touchscreen display which has wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity and is available in two forms - basic 'i-Connect' and more sophisticated 'i-Connect plus', which offers widescreen navigation from TomTom. Beneath this monitor is a row of freely configurable touch-sensitive controls, called 'i-Toggles'. Each one offers a shortcut to a major function, such as radio, climate control or 'phone.
To reflect all the fresh technology, prices have risen a little. Expect a starting point for this SW model of around £29,000 (£1,200 more than the hatch), with the brand's usual 'Active Premium', 'Allure', 'Allure Premium' and 'GT' trim levels. It's a big step up to get yourself a Plug-in Hybrid 308 SW derivative. At the time of our test, the least you could pay for a 308 SW PHEV was around £39,000, which gets you the lesser 'HYBRID 180' variant. Further up the range, you'll have the option of finding around £1,500 more for the quicker 'HYBRID 225' version we tried, but by the time you've budgeted for that, you'll be paying plenty - probably at about the level Peugeot requires for its full-electric e-308 SW model. As for rivals, well the obvious class alternative is the identically-engineered Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer, which costs only a fraction less. But potential customers here will also be looking at estate versions of the Volkswagen Golf, the Ford Focus, the Toyota Corolla and the SEAT Leon.
As you'd expect, the efficiency figures for this SW estate body style are pretty much identical to those of the 308 hatch. And the PureTech and BlueHDi diesel petrol engines deliver very similar WLTP efficiency figures to those of the same units in the previous generation version of this car. Think up to 52.1mpg on the combined cycle and up to 122g/km of CO2 for the PureTech 130 engine; those stats are very competitive (and in some cases better) than those of mild hybrid-engined rivals in this segment. If you're interested in the black pump-fuelled model, you're looking at up to 65.3mpg and up to 113g/km of CO2 for the 1.5-litre BlueHDi 130 diesel. What about the two Plug-in Hybrid variants, the Hybrid 180 and the Hybrid 225? Well, as we mentioned in our 'Driving Experience' section, up to 44 miles of WLTP-rated battery running is claimed for the Hybrid 180 and up to 40 miles for this Hybrid 225 variant. The Hybrid 180 is combined cycle fuel-rated at up to 281.1mpg and 23g/km of CO2; for the Hybrid 225, the figure's up to 266.2mpg and 24g/km. From a household plug, both PHEV variants will be replenished in just over seven hours. You'll find 3.7kW single-phase charging supported as standard, which means recharges will take three hours and 50 minutes. A 7.4kW on-board charger is available as an option and plugged into a wallbox, the battery will take one hour and 50 minutes to be topped up. What about the e-308 SW full-electric model? That has a 54kWh battery (51kWh usable) which offers a 248 mile driving range. The brand claims a recharge rate from 20 to 80% in under 25 minutes using a 100kW charger.
The Peugeot 308 SW is that rarest of things; a compact estate with genuine style. All too often cars in this class are horribly compromised, offer little in the way of genuine practicality over their hatchback siblings and look gawky and ill-proportioned. The 308 SW is sleek and stylish and in this third generation guise, there's a reassuring aura of quality both inside and out. The asking prices are a little higher than we'd like, but aside from that, there aren't too many caveats, apart from the fact that luggage space has fallen, a victim of those more swept-back looks. This SW is still quite a spacious thing though. And residual values look to be firming up nicely for this third generation 308 too. You have to spend premium brand money to get the really premium brand feel we have here, but if you can, the end result feels very nice indeed. You might call it a classy estatement of intent on Peugeot's part. And we wouldn't disagree.