New plus-sized French wagon makes a compelling upmarket SUV alternative. But does it trade sportiness too generously for efficiency?
In a motoring world that, at times, seems terminally rushing toward absolute SUV homogenisation, it’s refreshing to come across a new-gen wagon. Of any type or badge.
Case in point is the Peugeot 308 GT Premium, the plus-sized option of the renewed French small-car lineup, with promise of style, efficiency, premium equipment and SUV-rivalling space and practicality for a handsome if not quite premium outlay.
The sole 308 wagon trim grade – and a high grade at that – looks quite impressive on paper, and nearly as much parked up in metal. And let’s start with the no-brainer drawcard: size.
At 4635mm in length, it’s 27 centimetres longer than the 308 GT Premium hatchback that – spoiler alert – scored a resounding 8.5/10 in a Chasing Cars review recently.
If it was an SUV, we’d technically class this wagon as midsize. Its extra 55mm of wheelbase promises added rear passenger room, while the boot space is a whopping 608 litres, huge by standalone measure and massive 224L more than its high-spec 308 hatchback stablemate.
At $50,490 list, or a touch over $55K driveaway, the larger 308 wants for proper money, if only a modest walkup from the hatchback version ($48,990 list, circa-$53,700 driveaway).
Small wagon wise, obvious competitors include Volkswagen Golf 110TSI Life, as a significantly thriftier sub-$40K tip in, or the slightly pricier >$52K Skoda Octavia RS than some consider midsize yet, like 308, is really a stretched small-stature Golf cousin.
So the 308 GT Premium wagon brings a generously sized, sport-luxury pitch for not-quite-premium outlay.
So what gives and where exactly does it take? A cursory glance at the form guide suggests that, broadly viewed, Peugeot has opted to deliver five-star appointments with performance that’s perhaps a generous two stars at best.
There are some very tasty highlights, and a good many of them, in the GT Premium’s standard features list. And it bundled into a spec powered by a three-cylinder engine of just 1.2 litres of capacity, with power that can’t muster up triple figures.
An imbalance of goodness? Well, that depends on how the French wagon pans out in the hands-on experience.
The 308 wagon, in sole GT Premium trim, is powered by a 96kW and 230Nm 1.2-litre turbo petrol three cylinder engine, backed by an eight-speed torque converter auto and front-wheel drive, as also offered in GT and GT premium hatchback guise.
A plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version of the hatch, the GT Sport, brings 165kW and 360Nm of combined petrol-electric output.
Features wise, the stretched 308 is fulsome with kit with virtually no options – though there are plenty of dealer-fit accessories on offer. Even our example’s Avatar Blue – yes, blue not green – paintwork, a wagon exclusive, is no cost. However, five different metallics ($690) and premium effect ($1050) finishes do command extra.
Highlights? Outside, the high-grade fit-out brings matrix-type LED headlights and sexy 3D-effect LED tail-lights, as well as 18-inch wheels with 225mm Michelin rubber and neat black, grey and dark chrome accented highlights.
Front and rear parking sensors, a 360-degree camera system, a panoramic glass roof and motion sensor activated power tailgate are all par for the GT Premium course.
Inside, the 308 wagon gets full grain nappa leather trim, massage and electric lumbar front seats and eight-way electric driver’s seat adjustment.
Dual 10.0-inch 3D-effect driver’s screen and central multimedia touchscreen are standard, the infotainment system bundling in proprietary internet-connected Tom Tom sat-nav, DAB+, the 360-degree camera feed, and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring.
Elsewhere, the cabin features a paddle-shifter steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, four USB-C outlets, an inductive phone charging tray and user configurable mood lighting. Strangely, the wagon omits the 10-speaker, 690-watt Focal-branded audio system fitted as standard to the GT Premium hatchback.
There’s a clear luxo-sport pitch to the high-spec French wagon and while that blend certainly rings true to an extent in the on-road experience, sheer performance isn’t exactly high on the GT Premium’s priority list.
At just 1.2 litres, there’s not much of the Puretech turbo triple, but while its 96kW is modest by any measure – let alone in a plus-4.6-metre family hauler – its 230Nm is quite robust specific torque for the engine capacity.
Torque arrives surprisingly strong and quite low (1750rpm) in the rev range, though the Pure tech does suffer the typical small-capacity trait of burning well in a narrow band in the mid-range then falling off the boil either side of its sweet spot.
Off the mark, there’s a moment of hesitation, while chasing redline returns ample and characterful three-pot rasp – think a diesel on steroids – though actual shove feels a bit stilted.
Strangely, in the broader usability, it doesn’t feel undercooked. In fact, across balanced driving there’s a keen flexibility at play and the eight speed auto does a decent job of plucking the best from the 1.2. But at 9.48 seconds as tested for the 0-100km/h sprint – albeit almost half a second up on its advertised claim – it’s certifiably slow.
One up in the lightweight hatchback back version, perhaps backed by the manual gearbox offered overseas, the little triple might be a hoot.
But in a (still lightweight) larger wagon tasked with loading up and transporting family and loved ones (now not so lightweight) the modest powertrain isn’t, I suspect, nearly as well suited as perhaps the 165kW/360Nm PHEV format might otherwise be.
The powertrain can get a little grumpy at low speed, the engine jittery under load at idle, while the peak-hour crawl is further frustrated by abrupt low-speed braking action.
The lack of sheer muscle also means that exit side street, highway merging and overtaking demands more patience than you might experience in wagon rivals such as Volkswagen Golf or Skoda Octavia, both offering stronger heartbeats.
That all said, the 308 GT Premium wagon is a decent and satisfying thing to drive. It is, for its size and format, incredibly lightweight (1314kg tare) and underpinned by the tried and tested EMP2 chassis that serves so well in the hatch version.
The wagon does sit on (55mm) longer wheelbase but if there’s a dynamic penalty in nimbleness to the frisky 308 hatch it’s really in shades.
From the get-go, the 308 wagon’s steering is sharp and enthusiastic without nervousness, bringing a real sense of engagement that the rest of the chassis obediently back-up with confidence. There’s a nice crisp edge to the chassis, with taut body control and assertive grip from the Michelin rubber.
The ride and handling balance is nicely struck, the suspension tuning slightly firm with strong body control while offering well-judged compliance across most road surfaces.
It fits a torsion beam rear end, though really not to any perceivable detriment, bar perhaps some slight rear-end pitchiness when negotiating speed humps.
Further, its chassis really is its strongest suit on road, making for quite an enjoyable drive and a penance of sorts for some of the shortcomings of the powertrain. There’s genuine sportiness in the wagon’s step, even if, perhaps, the handling package deserves a fair bit more gusto plied through the driven wheels.
Because you do need to lean into the engine to smooth out some rough patches, fuel isn’t nearly as rosy as is claimed: a combined cycle of 5.3L/100kms. Even against its 6.1L/100km urban claim, our test car returned figures well into the eights for what was generally, across a week of driving, fairly sedate mixed driving.
In short, it’s probably no more frugal than a larger, higher-output engine working more leisurely to return a similar clip of forward momentum.
The 308 GT Premium wagon fronts up as upmarket, lavish, reasonably evocative and, in places, a little oddball in a typical French motoring manner that’s either endearing or confounding, depending on personal taste.
And that applies inside as much as it does outside (where the svelte proportions and techy lighting jewelry are at odds with its old-school overhangs and seemingly undersized rolling stock).
Peugeot really wants to be considered a premium brand and, in the experience, the 308 makes its most convincing premium pitch with its interior execution.
The angular theme is certainly flamboyant and there’s a real flair in the cabin execution. It’s really the rich and downright sumptuous material choice, and how the materials blend together, that’s a real 308 GT Premium highlight. There’s a real suppleness to the fine grain nappa leather seat trim and the lion’s share of touchpoints are nicely tactile.
The front seats, for their part, are some of the most comfy and supportive of any vehicle anywhere near this wagon’s price point, with the aforementioned massage functionality a real treat…if you can actually find the controls seemingly hidden in the multimedia system.
Seat (and wheel) heating is nice, though the pews aren’t cooled and the passenger seat has mechanical-only adjustment.
Personally, Peugeot’s i-Cockpit is a sore point at best, a deal-breaker at worst. It amalgamates an uncomfortably small, almost egg-shaped wheel that mostly obscures the new-look instrumentation in what I consider a natural wheel position.
The driver is supposed to view the display above, rather than through, the wheel. It simply doesn’t work.
The caveat, though, is that it doesn’t work for me. Nobody else in the Chasing Cars team has a problem with Peugeot’s novel take on driver interface design. Our advice is, well, try it for yourself rather than taking my written word for its worth…or lack thereof.
If you can actually view it, the new whiz-bang 3D-effect instrumentation is proper eye candy, even if the digital numeric-scrolling tachometer is a bit twee.
For its part, the revised multimedia format with completely new software is slicker and quicker than the old 308 technology, customisable right down to the rather cool secondary digital i-Toggle panel, where you can configure your own choice of shortcut buttons.
The low mark of the cabin is row two. For a vehicle of its length and stretched wheelbase, real occupancy offers precious little adult legroom and feels quite claustrophobic.
This is exacerbated by the so-called panoramic glass roof that only exposed the sky above the first seating row. I don’t need direct comparison to surmise that Golf and Octavia have measurably roomier rear accommodations.
It seems designers traded row two legroom for boot space, as the rear seatback is set well forward, returning a monstrous 608L of luggage capacity (the GT Premium hatch is just 384L).
Unlike the 308 hatchback, the wagon offers 40:20:40 rear seat split-folding that returns an almost flat load space converted to a two-seater, yielding a volume of 1634L (while the top-spec hatch is just 1295L).
The 308 wagon’s packaging is a bit of a head-scratcher. It’s humongous boot space even outsizes the larger 508 Sportswagon (at 530L), so why not simply reposition the rear bench more rearward for a more proportionally balanced passenger and luggage space?
Also strange is that there’s ample space in a cavity under the boot floor for a space saver spare wheel, though the 308, despite its premium positioning, fits an inflator kit instead.
Standard safety features include AEB with pedestrian and cyclist detection, active lane keeping, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, speed sign recognition and adaptive cruise control with stop and go.
Safety wise, all of the safety systems demonstrated transparent functionality, with no odd behaviour or signs of false positive activation. The 360-degree camera system, too, is impressively crisp and clear, and a nice premium addition to the GT Premium package.
Peugeot was as big a culprit as any in charging excessively for servicing, though the French brand – and a good many Euro contemporaries – have recently moved to more competitively-priced pre-paid packages to ease costs of running.
For the 308 wagon, servicing costs are a reasonable $1000 for a three-year bundle or $1800 for a five-year package, bringing decent savings against individual visits, which are required at 12 month or 15,000km intervals.
Peugeot’s warranty covers five years of unlimited-kilometre running.
As mentioned, the 308’s 1.2L three-pot engine isn’t nearly as frugal – nor therefore cheap on fuel expenditure – as its advertised 5.3L combined claim, our time with the test car returning figures regularly in the eights. It also requires 95RON fuel in its 52L tank.
The sole wagon of the 308 lineup piles on the upmarket vibe and flair, and it’s mostly convincing in much of the experience. Its mid-fifties price on road is starting to get up there though its semi-premium vibe and lavish features set do go a good way to justify it.
That said, the barrier to entry at its pricing tier is largely down to its modest 1.2-litre power unit, particularly when logical wagon rivals from Volkswagen and Skoda offer larger and lustier heartbeats.
A more fitting and competitive powertrain in the PHEV system offered in the hatchback would be, in so many ways, better suited to family hauling.
The polarising i-Cockpit format is, for some tastes, a compromise, though for others it’s a fetching and funky drawcard as a key point of difference.
The slightly unorthodox packaging – tight row two, ginormous boot – will certainly appeal to small families with young kids. However, the older and pricier – if certifiably quicker – 508 Sportswagon does present Peugeot family hauling with more resolved packaging.
Its wagon format certainly makes the stretched 308 more of a unique offering, as it doesn’t really play against the likes of Audi A3, BMW 1 Series or Mercedes-Benz A-Class like its hatchback sibling does.
It’s also much plusher and more opulent as a luxury offering against key Volkswagen and Skoda rivals on a similar budget – in other words, not Golf R Wagon.
Bundle that into a somewhat practical alternative to the me-too SUV and there’s a lot to like and be drawn to in the 308 GT Premium wagon.
Peugeot’s renewed 308 small car arrives in Australia with a radically improved and more premium cabin – plus the same fun-to-drive character as the old car
Variant tested GT PREMIUM
Key specs (as tested)
About Chasing cars
Chasing Cars reviews are 100% independent.
Because we are powered by Budget Direct Insurance, we don’t receive advertising or sales revenue from car manufacturers.
We’re truly independent – giving you Australia’s best car reviews.
Peugeot to release electric models in Australia in 2023: LCV first, e-208, e-2008 e-308 all possible
The estimate provided does not take into account your personal circumstances but is intended to give a general indication of the cost of insurance, in order to obtain a complete quote, please visit www.budgetdirect.com.au. Estimate includes 15%^ online discount.
Budget Direct Insurance arranged by Auto & General Services Pty Ltd ACN 003 617 909(AGS) AFSL 241 411, for and on behalf of the insurer, Auto & General Insurance Company Limited(ABN 42 111 586 353, AFSL 285 571).Because we don’t know your financial needs, we can’t advise you if this insurance will suit you. You should consider your needs and the Product Disclosure Statement before making a decision to buy insurance. Terms and conditions apply.
Indicative quote based on assumptions including postcode , 40 year old male with no offences, licence suspensions or claims in the last 5 years, a NCD Rating 1 and no younger drivers listed. White car, driven up to 10,000kms a year, unfinanced, with no modifications, factory options and/or non-standard accessories, private use only and garaged at night.
^Online Discounts Terms & Conditions
1. Discounts apply to the premium paid for a new Budget Direct Gold Comprehensive Car Insurance, Third Party Property Only or Third Party Property, Fire & Theft Insurance policy initiated online on or after 29 March 2017. Discounts do not apply to optional Roadside Assistance.
2. Discounts do not apply to any renewal offer of insurance.
3. Discounts only apply to the insurance portion of the premium. Discounts are applied before government charges, taxes, levies and fees, including instalment processing fees (as applicable). The full extent of discounts may therefore be impacted.
4. We reserve the right to change the offer without notice.