Road Test – Peugeot 308 SW 1.6 Turbo Glass Roof (A)

Peugeot 308 SW

22 Jun 2010 | Text and Photos by Benjamin G. Kline

French Revolution

Taking over from the 307 SW, the latest 308 SW offers one of the best interiors we’ve seen in a Peugeot yet. Coupled with the robust twin scroll engine, it’s little wonder why the local agent is struggling to keep up with demand.

The 308 SW is the culmination of Peugeot’s efforts to improve on every aspect of the successful 307 SW. Besides a couple of nip tucks, there was really very little Peugeot had to do to improve on the very capable chassis and unique ability to fit seven seats in this station wagon.

Exterior

Like so many of its siblings and cousins, the 308 SW makes a great first impression with that familiar snout. The 308 SW takes a quantum leap in design over the 307 SW despite the subtle changes. The minor ‘lip’ protrusion just below the snout has created an entirely new expression over the older model. Mixing a fine balance of sporty aggression and elegance into the front fascia. Very German indeed…

Not only that, the designers have made a commendable effort of masking the station wagon’s girth by giving it gently raking A-pillars leading to a low roof line. Personally, I find the 308 SW’s design appealing from nearly every angle lest the rear. In an effort to incorporate the 308′s design cues into the SW, the Pug designers have literally dumped the hatchback rear onto the SW

This misplaced rump looked gorgeous on the 308 but when placed on the SW, it somehow doesn’t gel as well with the rest of the body dimensions. The SW being longer and higher has made the otherwise taut rear a little oversized. When viewed from the rear, it becomes reminiscent of a cathedral’s silhouette at dawn.

Nevertheless, despite the odd looking rear end, the 308 SW is still a marked improvement over the 307 SW.

Peugeot 308 SW

Interior

Enter into the Pug’s interior and you will find it familiar with both the 308 hatch and the 308 CC. Featuring the same sturdy build quality all around that we haven’t really seen in previous Pugs. Settle into the driver’s seat and you will immediately appreciate the proper support it applies to your body. Road trips in this Pug will be an ache-free affair.

Place your hands on the soft leather wrapped steering and you will fall in love with how it feels in your hands. I did. I loved the right amount of chunkiness in the grip and the high quality feel of it tremendously.

Beyond the lovely steering, lies the well organized instrument panel. The instrument panel is dominated by two white backed dials. Even these instruments had a premium quality to them. Reminding me of classic time pieces with their Arial font and chrome surrounds. Although the dials are mostly well sorted, it puzzles me why Peugeot didn’t fully utilize the large LCD display between the two large dials to display additional driver oriented information. That aside, the instrument panel is quite attractive at night with the dials backlit in white and the needles in red.

Moving on to the centre console, at the top sits the information display reporting the time and audio source. Followed by a trio of chrome ringed aircon vents. The controls for the audio system and climate control are backed by a light grey plastic insert. Although it compliments the general theme of the interior well, a better quality plastic here would help score full marks for the interior.

The factory sound system fitted here is really quite impressive. A six CD MP3 changer is included. Buttons for the audio system is clearly defined and well within reach of the driver. I do find the buttons a tad small but it shouldn’t bother most of the local owners too much.

Performance of the audio system is impressive. Audio aficionados will appreciate how it manages to reproduce most of the sound spectrum without any distortion. It’s truly a pity that the system doesn’t include an AUX-in jack to do it justice.

The audio system does replicate some of its controls on a steering stalk but most of it disappointingly, is nonsense. Rather than providing volume controls on the awkwardly placed stalk, it only allows you to change your source and radio stations/tracks. This rather silly feature is unfortunately replicated on most of the Peugeot models I have encountered. I guess this is what they call French eccentricity.

Just below the audio console is a small cubbyhole for your wallets and keys. Followed by the climate controls.

In the rear, the seats are comfortable even when there’s a tall driver. Legroom is comfortable for long legged passengers like myself. In the seven-seater variant, the third row of seats are better for the little ones than full-grown adults. The boot capacity is quite large at 674 litres though this would be severely impeded in the seven-seater. The second row of seats can be folded up and away if more cargo capacity is needed and can even be removed completely if preferred. Although it presents the problem of stowing the seats somewhere till they’re needed again.

In a bid to create a lifestyle oriented feel to the interior, the 308 SW comes with a large moon roof that truly adds to the sense of spaciousness when the headliner retracts at the touch of a button. It’s a real treat for the rear passengers on long journeys to take in a panoramic view of the sky during the day or night.

The Drive

The 308 SW is powered by Peugeot’s Prince (not a collaboration with Prince the singer) four-cylinder twin-scroll inline engines that were jointly developed with BMW. Thus explaining the same engine ending up in BMW’s Minis. The engine produces a max power of 140 horses supplanted with 240Nm of torque. In the SW, the engine gave addictive robust acceleration off the lights even though there was some lag time between the command from your right foot and actual acceleration.

Combined with the compliant ride, the SW was truly a joy to drive. Overtaking on the expressways was a breeze with the engine making little effort to achieve it. Even on smaller roads, the 308′s well sorted chassis and suspension setup did a great job of diverting any undulation away from the driver and passengers.

Handling in the SW is nothing short of impressive as well and once again demonstrated the hard work Peugeot’s engineers put into the chassis. Steering was beautifully weighted and communicative and combined with the soft leather wrapped steering, it was hard giving the car back at the end of the test day

Peugeot 308 SW

Conclusion

The Peugeot 308 SW would be an ideal car for young Dads who require the extra boot space and still possess some fire in their belly. The Euro NCAP five star rating together with the slew of safety features will make this a sound choice as well.

Viva la France!


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