Peugeot's third generation 308 offers an interesting but pricey alternative in plug-in HYBRID form. Jonathan Crouch drives it.
Ten Second Review
Peugeot's 308 family hatch looks pricey but appealing in this plug-in HYBRID form. You can also have a full-EV version, but the PHEV variant probably makes more sense as an all-round proposition with its 37 mile EV range capability, claimed three-figure fuel cycle reading and notably efficient CO2 return, which offers low BiK tax status. Other brands offer this kind of capability too, but this 308 delivers it with a bit more flair.
There's quite a premium to pay if you want your next family hatch equipped with Plug-in Hybrid technology. Is it worth it? That's a difficult question to answer and a lot will depend on the type of driving you do and how frequently you're going to remember the plug your car in.
What we do know is that the Stellantis Group of brands offer some of the best PHEV options in this segment, the same technology used with Vauxhall's latest Astra and with this car, Peugeot's third generation 308. We tried the top HYBRID 225 variant to find out where PHEV power really adds up with this Gallic contender.
You might wonder what you're going to get here. After all, the light, agile handling of the standard 308 has to be affected by adding an extra 344kgs of weight brought about by the Hybrid system - doesn't it? If you don't feel the need to weigh your 308 down with the weight of three baby Asian elephants, we'd understand completely; you can certainly feel the difference all that bulk makes when turning into tight corners at speed. But the attraction of being able to drive your 308 for up to 37 miles without troubling fossil fuel is certainly strong, providing you can stomach the substantial price premium the brand wants for its PHEV tech. As usual with the company's Plug-in models, there's the curious combination of frugal electrification tinselled around a 180hp 1.6-litre petrol turbo PureTech engine dropped from mainstream use because it wasn't economic enough.
Here, it's embellished by a 109hp electric motor powered by a 12.4kWh battery and depending on model choice, two system outputs are available: 180hp or, for quite a bit more, the 225hp version we tried, a largely pointless extra spend because it has exactly the same torque output and only improves the lesser version's 7.6s 0-62mph sprint time by a tenth of a second. PHEV 308 motoring comes with its own three district driving modes, but in reality, you'll almost always use only one of them - 'Hybrid', which optimises alternation of electric and internal combustion power. The other two options are 'Electric' (which allows for 100% electric driving but uses up your EV range pretty quickly); and 'Sport' (which uses only engine power for maximum performance, but will nullify the reason why you paid so much for this variant in the first place).
Design and Build
Apart from specific badgework and an extra charging flap, there are no obvious styling cues that set this HYBRID version apart. This third generation 308 certainly makes a pavement statement. There are hatch and estate body styles, both of which have plenty of overtaking presence. There's a long bonnet and a low nose bearing the latest, rather different Peugeot badge on its grille. Flanking this are slim LED headlights complemented by Peugeot's fang-like LED daytime running lights. At the rear, there are tail lights with three 'claw' style lighting elements.
Inside, there's Peugeot's i-Cockpit layout with its small steering wheel, which sits beneath a 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 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.
Back seat space (just about enough for two adults) is about average for the class. And, as usual with PHEVs, you'll have to accept a reduction in boot capacity because of the larger battery beneath the floor. The conventional model's 412-litre capacity falls to 368-litres here (it's 548-litres in the SW estate version). With the seats folded, there's 1,271-litres (1,574-litres with the SW).
Market and Model
There's a big price step up to get yourself a 308 Plug-in Hybrid derivative. From launch and at the time of this test in late Summer 2022, the least you could pay for a 308 PHEV was around £34,000, 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. At the time of testing, the top 'HYBRID 225' 'GT Premium' model listed at just under £40,000. Yes, you heard that right. At the time of this test, we didn't yet have a guide price for the alternative full-electric e-308 model, but if you were to budget a fraction above the figures that Peugeot's asking for the PHEV versions, you probably wouldn't be too far out. For the HYBRID variants, there are four trim levels: 'Allure', 'Allure Premium', 'GT' and 'GT Premium'.
As for the value proposition, well the identically-engineered Vauxhall Astra Plug-in HYBRID-e would save you around £700 over a base 308 HYBRID 180 variant: but a comparable Skoda Octavia 1.4 TSI iV would cost around £1,000 more and a comparable Volkswagen Golf e-Hybrid would cost you about £1,600 more. Even if you're shopping at the very top of the range with the HYBRID 225 'GT Premium' model we're trying here, you won't pay very much more than you'd need for an equivalent Volkswagen Golf GTE - and you'd be getting heaps more standard equipment.
Cost of Ownership
The petrol HYBRID 308 derivatives quote three-figure combined cycle figures (up to 281.1mpg for the HYBRID 180 and up to 266.2mpg for the HYBRID 225 variant), but the reality is that the 1.6-litre turbo petrol unit that features in these derivatives won't be especially economic once the 36-37 mile EV range in either case is used up. Which means in reality that you can probably expect running cost returns somewhere between the conventional PureTech and BlueHDi 308 model versions. Where the HYBRID models do hold a cost advantage is with their low 8% Benefit-in-Kind tax exposure, made possible by a CO2 return that can be as low as 23g/km for the HYBRID 180 variant (the lowest is 24g/km for the HYBRID 225 version). A Hybrid meter gauge on the dash helps you drive economically (stay out of the 'Power' section and keep the needle in 'Eco' for best results). And you can monitor your Zero emissions running via a neat Cyan LED 'Zero Emissions Driving' indicator light in the frameless rear view mirror.
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 with that fitted you're your 308 HYBRID is plugged into a wallbox, the battery will take one hour and 55 minutes to be topped up. The plug-in hybrid 308 variants offer a thermal pre-conditioning function too. Via the 'MyPeugeot' smartphone app or by using the vehicle's touchscreen, owners can schedule a wake-up time for the battery. This means that the cells can be at the optimal temperature for efficiency from the time you start up, plus of course the interior can also be pre-cooled or pre-heated too.
So where does all that leave us? The answer will depend on whether you buy into the pricey Plug-in Hybrid concept. And whether you're equally convinced by the way that this third generation 308 serves it up. You may not like the sharky looks. And the unusual 'i-Cockpit' dash design is certainly divisive - try before you buy. Those used to the previous generation model might find the ride a little firm. And, especially with the HYBRID models, the pricing certainly pushes this car uncomfortably close to what's being charged for premium brand compact hatchbacks of similar size.
Overall though, what's on offer here is a car that's continuing to restore Peugeot's reputation for building elegant, comfortable and technologically advanced models. And a car that gives the brand a shot at making good on its upmarket aspirations.