REVIEW DATE: 21 Oct 2008
Jonathan Crouch and his family have been getting to know a compact seven seater car that's practical - but not too practical. Peugeot's 308SW
Rather curiously, Peugeot doesn't have a proper mini-MPV, unless you count the van-based Partner Tepee. Which is surprising given that their PSA partners Citroen have quite a history with the things. But not perhaps illogical. Peugeot insists that there's a strong market amongst buyers who want most of the benefits of mini-MPV motoring combined with the style of a small estate. And they're probably right.
The marque first experimented with this with the 307SW, an estate version of their family hatchback that featured a full-length panoramic glass roof and a couple of extra seats that fitted in the rear luggage compartment, good for kids or, on short journeys, non-rugby-playing adults. Presumably it sold reasonably well because the same idea has been repeated and refined with this car, the bigger and better looking 308SW. My family and I have been trying one over an extended long term test.
I've now driven several 308SW models and I've certainly found it hard to fault the range of engines. The entry-level petrol contingent employs Peugeot's VTi technology using variable valve timing and lift to adapt the combustion process according to the demands being placed on the engine by the driver. Range highlights include the 1.4-litre entry level unit that produces 95bhp and at the other end of the petrol roster, the 1.6-litre THP, good for 175bhp. In between, there's a 1.6 VTi with 120bhp and the 1.6 THP engine with 150bhp that's fitted to our long term test car.
"Several times, the children have been able to have friends home from school when previously with our old car, we'd simply have had to say no.."
The diesel range consists of Peugeot's excellent HDi common-rail diesel engines. There's a 1.6-litre unit offered in 90 or 110bhp form and a 2.0-litre 136bhp option topping the range that will get from a standstill to 60mph in 10.1s.
While the engines are top notch, this 308 wouldn't qualify is what you'd call a 'driver's car', though it's a step forward from the old 307SW in that regard. The extra safety equipment and strengthening that makes the car feel more rigid has added around 62kgs of extra weight too, so that can tend to blunt the performance somewhat. But then, you don't buy a car like this to hare round the lanes. More important are things like refinement and ride quality, both areas in which the 308 excels. Roll is well contained too - which is useful if you don't want to send the kids green around the gills when you're running late for the school play.
This might be a compact estate - but in three months of use, we've found it to be less compact than most. Peugeot has insisted that the SW needs to be able to seat seven with two occasional seats which can be fitted into the rear but these are really only any good for small children. As a seven-seat MPV, I reckon that the 308 SW trails the pack but as a five-seat estate with some extra kids' space, it's very competitive. Several times, the children have been able to have friends home from school when previously with our old car, we'd simply have had to say no.
With the main second row of back seats in place, there's 674 litres under the rear load cover, while with all the seats flat, there's a massive 2,149 litres up to roof level. Let's put those figures into perspective. Audi's latest A4 Avant claims to be the biggest estate in its sector, yet can swallow a mere 490 litres behind its back seats.
The 308SW isn't just a 308 hatch with a glasshouse tacked to its boot either. The wheelbase is 100mm longer than the hatchback car, which allows rear seat passengers to enjoy some space. The rear overhang has been increased by 124mm to get that headline luggage bay size while the panoramic glass roof that gives the interior such a light and airy feel has been increased in size by 27 per cent. It now extends beyond the heads of second row passengers. Access to the rear is aided by separately opening tailgate glass.
308SW prices range mainly in the £17,000 to £22,000 bracket, so there's no real saving over buying a mini-MPV, despite the fact that, in theory at least, you're getting a slightly smaller. You are getting a more stylish one though and one without too many obvious direct rivals. Of course, there are comparably sized estate versions of cars like Volkswagen's Golf, Ford's Focus, Vauxhall's Astra and Renault's Megane - but none of them come with the option of seven seats.
Prices represent a premium over the standard five-door hatch of only £500-£600 in entry-level S models, though you'll need to budget on an extra premium of £1000 or more if you go for a higher spec version. Equipment on all variants runs to power steering, remote control central locking with deadlocks, electric front windows, a steering column adjustable for reach and rake, a CD player, passenger / driver seat height adjustment, a trip computer and electrically operated door mirrors.
Seven airbags are included and SW buyers can add to this count with rear side airbags if they want to. There's also ABS with EBFD and EBA (or anti-lock brakes with brakeforce distribution and brake assistance in laymans' language).
Choosing a new car is never easy. After the decision to have a kid and to buy a house, it's the next biggest financial decision you're likely to make and the consequences of getting it wrong can be costly. The Peugeot 308 has established itself as a safe, if rather unspectacular choice, chosen by those who appreciate a stylish cabin and great engines. The SW estate version adds some serious practicality to that mix and is by far the most class-competitive 308 variant it's possible to buy. In short, it puts one over on its key rivals with its sheer versatility.
Choosing the right Peugeot 308 SW isn't that easy. With some very good petrol and diesel engines on offer, at least it's hard to make a bad choice. Our selection would probably be an HDi 136 engine if you're looking at diesel or the 1.6-litre THP 150 we've been driving if you're planning on petrol power. For mini-MPV owners who very rarely use mini-MPV versatility but would like to have it in some form at least, just in case, this car's a sensible pick. We'll be sorry to see it go.
The results below show the top 308 deals on buyacar
|Peugeot 308 1.6 VTi S 5dr sw estate|
|Peugeot 308 1.6 HDI 90 S 5dr diesel sw estate|
|Peugeot 308 1.6 e-HDi 115 Allure 5dr [Sat Nav] diesel hatchback|
|Price £14,177||Save £5,688|
|Peugeot 308 1.6 e-HDi 115 Active 5dr [Sat Nav] diesel hatchback|
|Price £13,387||Save £5,478|
|Peugeot 308 2.0 HDi 150 Allure 5dr [Sat Nav] diesel hatchback|
|Price £14,707||Save £5,888|
|VIEW MORE DISCOUNT 308 DEALS|
|For 308 SW FAMILY VIEW|
|OVERALL||7.6 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||8|
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