French cars have plenty of fans, but they’re still what you’d call niche players in Australia – the same applies to wagons.
That makes the 2023 Peugeot 308 GT Premium SW – ‘SW’ for Sportswagon – a pretty rare beast.
On the surface it’s hard to see why. With more boot space than mid-sized SUVs like the Toyota RAV4 in a city-friendly body, a luxurious interior that puts the Germans to shame and a keen chassis, it has plenty to offer.
After a week behind the wheel, it’s clear the 308 SW has plenty to offer… and a few quirks.
Just one version of the 308 wagon is available in Australia – the 308 GT Premium wagon with a list price of $50,490 before on-road costs, up $1500 on the equivalent hatchback.
Given the extra space you get, you could argue the wagon represents good value in the context of the broader 308 range… but there’s no getting away from the fact it’s pretty pricey in the context of its rivals.
The Volkswagen Golf 110TSI Life wagon might not be as luxurious as the Peugeot, but it’s every bit as practical and packs a more powerful four-cylinder engine to boot. Its sticker price is $39,940 before on-roads.
Over at Skoda, the Octavia Style is priced from $42,490 drive-away.
2023 Peugeot 308 pricing:
- 2023 Peugeot 308 GT Hatch: $43,990
- 2023 Peugeot 308 GT Premium Hatch: $48,990
- 2023 Peugeot 308 GT Premium Wagon: $50,490
- 2023 Peugeot 308 GT Sport Hatch Plug-In Hybrid: $64,990
All prices exclude on-road costs.
The 308 looks stunning from the second you drop behind the (tiny) steering wheel.
There’s more to it than just flashy screens, too. The materials are interesting, the design is modern, and overall vibe is luxurious. There are areas where the 308 doesn’t feel like a $50k car, but the front seats aren’t one of them.
With that said, this is a car you need to spend time driving before signing on the dotted line. The i-Cockpit setup – with an undersized, low-set steering wheel and a digital dashboard perched above it – won’t suit everyone, so it’s one to try before you buy.
Although the seats drop down nice and low, the wheel doesn’t come far enough out from the dashboard for me to set it down low. That means I’m forced to choose between having the wheel up high, where it blocks the dials, or between my knees.
It’s an issue that didn’t plague earlier versions of the unique interior setup, but it’s a real issue for me now.
If you can get comfortable behind the wheel, the rest of the cabin has plenty to offer.
Peugeot has finally polished its technology to the point it feels quick and modern, and the row of customisable shortcuts below the touchscreen are a handy inclusion that makes it easier to jump from function-to-function.
Wireless smartphone mirroring works reliably, and you’re now able to customise the home screen to feature fan and temperature controls for the air conditioning. Well done Peugeot.
There’s plenty of storage space up front, from the big bin under the central armrest, to the cupholders, to the wireless charger and wallet slot below the dashboard. The door pockets will also happily swallow a water bottle.
Also worth noting up front? It all feels really nicely screwed together.
The little transmission toggle has a positive click to it, the seats are finished in quality leather, and the centre console doesn’t shake or wobble. They’re not things you could say about some Peugeot cars.
Rear seat space is… less good. The sexy roofline means the door opening is quite tight, and once you’re back there you don’t get all that much legroom.
I realise six-seven is in the “weird tall” realm, but even if you’re average height it’s pretty tight back there.
Headroom is good, however, and the inclusion of air vents and two USB ports will be welcome if you’re carrying kids. Two ISOFIX and three top-tether points feature, but there’s no fold-down central armrest or cupholders back there.
Although the massive boot is welcome, it does feel like it’s come at the cost of rear legroom. A slightly smaller boot with slightly more space for people in the rear might have been more appropriate here.
Speaking of boot space, you get a whopping 608 litres of space with the rear seats in place, expanding to 1634 litres with the 40/20/40 bench folded flat.
It’s a massive space, and you’re able to expand it further by dropping the floor down low if a flat space is not what you need. The netted pockets off to the sides are handy for loose items, and the powered tailgate is welcome if you need to get stuff in with your arms full.
Power in the 308 SW comes from a turbocharged 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine making 96kW of power and 230Nm of torque.
It’s sent to the front wheels only through an eight-speed torque converter automatic transmission.
The more powerful plug-in hybrid powertrain on offer in the hatch isn’t available in the wagon for Australia.
Claimed fuel economy is 5.3 litres per 100km on the combined cycle, we saw closer to 7L/100km over a week behind the wheel. All petrol models have a 52L fuel tank and require a minimum of 95 RON premium unleaded.
The 308 feels most at home in the city, where its punchy little engine and light steering make it a willing companion.
The term go-kart feel is thrown around a lot, but the tiny steering wheel and quick rack make this an easy car to pilot in the cut-and-thrust of traffic.
Some work has clearly gone into smoothing out the powertrain, too. Previous small-engined Peugeots could feel a bit jerky at low speeds, but the 1.2-litre engine in the 308 combines nicely with the automatic transmission at low speeds.
It shuffles unobtrusively from gear-to-gear, but is smart enough to hang onto gears and tap into what’s a reasonably generous mid-range when you put your foot down. The engine makes a typically determined three-cylinder noise if you’re in a hurry, although it’s not what you’d call fast.
Although there’s adequate performance, you really need to flatten your foot if you’re side-by-side with another car at the lights, and it needs to kick down one, two, or even three gears to get rolling when you demand lots of go after cruising.
It can feel a little breathless at highway speeds if you want to overtake with one person on board, let alone four and their luggage. In a $50,000 compact wagon, that probably isn’t good enough.
It’s a shame, because so much of what the 308 does is good. The ride is excellent in the city, with potholes and expansion joints floating nicely beneath its 18-inch wheels, and the fact it weighs just 1300kg means there’s not too much mass to keep in check when the road gets twisty.
Refinement is also a strong suit. Some European cars can get noisy, quickly on Australian highways but the 308 is reasonably quiet at 100km/h.
Wind noise from the pillars and mirrors is non-existent, although you do get some tyre roar in the cabin on rural roads. It’s better than in a Mercedes-Benz A-Class or BMW 1 Series, although the Mazda 3 could still teach it a thing or two.
Peugeot’s driver assists are generally very smart. The adaptive cruise neatly keeps a gap to the car in front, and the active lane-centring system is confident enough to make you feel comfortable – but without being overbearing in how it wrangles the steering wheel.
308 GT highlights:
- Matrix LED headlights
- LED tail lights incl. 3D claw effect
- 18-inch Kamakura alloy wheels
- Peugeot 3D i-Cockpit
- 10-inch 3D digital instrument cluster
- 10-inch HD touchscreen infotainment system
- Wireless Apple CarPlay, Android Auto
- AM/FM/DAB radio
- Alcantara seats with leather-effect bolsters
- Adamite Green top stitching
- Leather multifunction steering wheel
- 8-colour ambient lighting
- Frameless electrochromatic rear-view mirror
- Auto climate control with clean air function
- Electric, heated, power folding mirrors
- One-touch electric windows front, rear
- Acoustic tinted windscreen
- Keyless entry, push-button start
- Wireless phone charger
- 6-speaker audio
- 2 x USB front (1 x USB-A, 1 x USB-C)
- 2 x USB rear (1 x USB-A, 1 x USB-C)
- Front, rear parking sensors
- Visio Park 180-degree reversing camera
308 GT Premium adds:
- 18-inch Portland matte black alloys
- Panoramic opening glass sunroof
- Hands-free electric tailgate (GT Premium Wagon)
- Nappa leather with charcoal grey top stitch
- Electric driver’s seat
- Heated front seats
- Massage function for front seats
- 2-position adjustable boot floor (GT Premium Wagon)
- Active Lane Positioning Assist (centring)
- 360-degree HD cameras (front, rear)
- Focal 10-speaker premium audio (GT Premium Hatch)
The Peugeot 308 has a four-star ANCAP safety rating based on testing conducted by Euro NCAP.
It received a score of 79 per cent for adult occupant protection, 86 per cent for child occupant protection, 68 per cent for vulnerable road user protection, and 82 per cent for safety assist.
Standard safety features include:
- 6 airbags
- Autonomous emergency braking (AEB)
- Low-light Pedestrian, Cyclist detection
- Auto post-collision braking
- Adaptive cruise control incl. stop/go function
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Rear cross-traffic alert
- Driver attention warning
- Lane keep assist
- Reversing camera
- Speed sign recognition, recommendation
- Tyre pressure monitoring
308 GT Premium adds:
Peugeot backs its cars in Australia with a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.
Logbook servicing is required every 12 months or 15,000 kilometres.
The company also offers three- and five-year servicing plans for the petrol 308 range, priced at $1000 and $1800 respectively.
Good to look at, good to drive, and good for carrying bulky things around in, the Peugeot 308 SW has plenty to offer.
It reminds me of the mid-2000s Subaru Liberty wagon, given it’s a slightly underpowered, compact-ish wagon with a handsome body and luxury-adjacent interior.
It’s likely to be consigned to niche status by a few factors, though.
Australians are allergic to buying wagons, but even beyond that it’s hard to see many people beyond the current crop of Francophiles keeping Peugeot and Citroen afloat being keen on a $50,000 wagon with less than 100kW of power and a cabin that only suits certain body shapes.
The 308 GT SW so close to being a really excellent little wagon, and it’s incredibly likeable, but it just falls short of ticking the boxes required to appeal to a mainstream audience.
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MORE: Everything Peugeot 308