Peugeot’s sparky 308 gets hybrid power and handsome lines

The Peugeot 308 proves that mass-market design needn’t be dull, blending hybrid power with sharp lines and excellent detailing

Peugeot 308
(Image credit: press)

Car design ebbs and flows. Companies that find themselves class leaders one year might lose the lustre of innovation the next, just a few models down the line. We’ve got a special soft spot for Peugeot’s current design direction. After a decade in the doldrums, the iconic French company had something of a revelation. 

Peugeot 308

(Image credit: press)

Under the design direction of Gilles Vidal (who joined Peugeot in 2010 and left for Renault in 2020), it corrected course back towards the stylish, well-proportioned design it had been renowned for in the 1970s and 1980s. Cars like the 208 and 508 took fine proportions and (mostly) excellent detailing, giving the brand a reason to stand out amongst its rivals, many of whom were entering their fallow period at about the same time.

This is the Peugeot 308, a quotidian name that has its origins all the way back to the Peugeot 301 of 1932. As you’d expect, it replaces the rather doughy 307, which in turn replaced the elegant, Pininfarina-designed 306 (another example of that ebbing and flowing). This model is actually the third iteration of the 308 (with the 308 Mk1 representing the absolute nadir of Peugeot design). 

Peugeot 308 SW

(Image credit: press)

The model was given a thorough design refresh in 2021 and recently became the first model to bear the all-new Peugeot logo. A pure electric version is planned for 2023. The 308 is available as a regular hatchback and as an SW (estate). It’ll soon be joined by a handsome 408 sibling, designed in the increasingly popular fastback/crossover-style. 

It's hard to put a finger on exactly why the 308 is so likeable. Tested in ‘GT Premium Hybrid 225 e-EAT8’ trim, it comes with a turbo-charged 1.6 litre petrol engine bolstered by electric motors. Relatively small and light for a modern car, the hybrid set-up gives the GT zippy performance, a modest but still useful all-electric range of 37 miles, and excellent fuel economy. 

Peugeot 308 dashboard and interior

(Image credit: press)

The proportions work well for both regular and SW models, although the signature deep grille has probably (hopefully) reached its maximum size. There are other little leonine design touches, like the claw-slash rear lights and the cat-like countenance of the front end – a quality shared by all the best Peugeots over the last few decades. 

The steering wheel is small by modern standards, but the asymmetric dash doesn’t come across as too fussy. The surfaces and touchpoints all have a quality and feel that belie this car’s middle-market status; it’ll take a bold manufacturer to finally end the status quo of leather, piano black and chrome in contemporary interiors. The Peugeot 308 drives as well as it looks, which is to say with zest and spirit when required, as well as offering a ride that’s quiet, refined and cossetting. 

Peugeot e-308

Coming soon: the Peugeot e-308

(Image credit: press)

All-in-all, the 308 is characterful, clean-living, and practical. It joins the Peugeot 508 (opens in new tab) and 5008 (opens in new tab) in a line-up of handsome cars that offer a sober, thoughtful counterpoint to sister brand Citroën’s more avant-garde leanings (see the Citroën My Ami Buggy, for example).

The imminent arrival of the e-308 should move the game on even further. With a promised range of over 240 miles, it’ll be a worthy opponent to the challenger brands. Peugeot, founded way back in 1810, still has a long life ahead of it. 

INFORMATION

Peugeot 308 1.6 Hybrid 225 GT, from £37,235

peugeot.co.uk (opens in new tab)

Jonathan Bell has written for Wallpaper* magazine since 1999, covering everything from architecture and transport design to books, tech and graphic design. He is now the magazine’s Transport and Technology Editor. Jonathan has written and edited 15 books, including Concept Car Design, 21st Century House, and The New Modern House. He is also the host of Wallpaper’s first podcast.