I applaud a manufacturer who still puts an effort to offer station wagons in the Philippines. With crossovers and SUV offerings cropping up left and right, save for a few examples, the station wagon has all but disappeared in the local market; not that there were much to begin with.
Despite the odds, Peugeot brought in the 308 SW, the wagon variant of the impressive 308 hatch we tested a week ago.
Typically, a French car review revolves around its quirks and perhaps a few French catchphrases such as joie de virve but not this time. I'll be assessing the 308 SW as a station wagon and see if it can lure some shoppers with this body style.
Let's start with the looks. By French standards, the 308 SW is on the conservative side. No bizarre styling touches here like the 3008 and 5008. It's still a handsome looking car though with its upswept headlights, subtle body creases and the unique tail light arrangement. One will also notice that the wheelbase has been extended, perhaps to avoid the excessive rear overhang look some station wagons suffer from. Peugeot did a good job transforming the hatch into a wagon by giving it a downswept roofline, adding some flair in an otherwise upright and square segment. Overall, the styling is well balanced and neat. I believe it will stand out in the carpark for two reasons: it's a Peugeot and it's a station wagon.
It's on the inside where things get a little more interesting and it's either you like it or you won't. As much as I want to avoid the use of the word quirky, it is. First is Peugeot's i-Cockpit layout which, in theory, gives you a better view of the road ahead by setting the steering wheel low and the gauges a little higher. It does work to an extent, but taller drivers noted that, adjusted to their driving position, part of the steering wheel covers the lower half of the dials. For drivers less gifted with height however, it works perfectly fine. Believe me.
Another thing you'll notice is the lack of aircon controls. It's housed in the infotainment system, and while it gives the dash a minimalist look, it does mean you have to shuffle between screens to adjust the temperature. Ergonomics therefore is a bit of a mixed bag if you're unaccustomed to European cars. Still, the cabin is well screwed together, there's a lot of soft touch materials, a decent amount of space and you can feel a solid air of quality.
For me, the main highlight of this wagon is the cargo area. Lift the tailgate and you're greeted by a long and wide loading bay, rivaling (perhaps even surpassing), some crossovers. During a photo shoot, it easily ate up camera gear and several bags. A folding bike was also no match for the 308 SW's cargo area, and a month's worth of groceries didn't even fill it up. If you need even more space, simply tumble the second row seats via a lever in the loading bay and the 308 SW can double as a mini delivery van. When it comes to practicality, the 308 SW is an impressive piece of kit. This alone can probably sway a crossover shopper towards this wagon.
Under the (aluminum) hood of the 308 SW is a 1.6 liter turbodiesel engine with BlueHDi technology. To keep emissions low, it also comes equipped with a Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) system and a Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF), or as the French would call it, Filtre a Particule (FAP). Output is rated at 120 PS and 300 Nm of torque and is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.
Starting up this wagon, there is a hint of diesel grumble when it's cold. Inside, it lets off a faint hum, just to let you know you're not running on unleaded. The small, flat-bottom steering wheel adds a little feel in the steering which is nice for those who miss the days of hydraulic steering assist. With a longer wheelbase, I would rate comfort in the 308 SW high, soaking up bumps without upsetting the chassis and the passengers inside. Only a muffled thump lets you know you ran over some rough bit of road.
Sitting in traffic, the seats provided good lumbar support plus the bases stayed supportive as I sat idle for hours on end. I also have to give high marks for its air-conditioning system with its lowest setting at 14 degrees. Even as the car registered 38 degrees outside, the air-conditioning was cold enough to fog up the windows in the heat.
The 1.6 liter diesel was a treat around the city, with a healthy slug of torque at low RPMs, setting off from traffic lights quickly with little stress. If there is one thing I found a bit of hindrance in the city, it would be the stop-start system. While it does greatly aid fuel economy, it was a little too keen on shutting off the engine. Simply rolling to a stop would sometimes disengage the engine, which may come as a surprise in stop and go traffic. The stop-start system however is a huge help in traffic lights which stay red for over 100 seconds. I would recommend turning off the system in stop and go traffic and turning it on when you approach traffic lights or long lines at the mall. Also, the system automatically pauses when the outside air temp registers 35 degrees to keep the air-con running.
Drive it on the highway and the 308 SW has all the makings of a long distance cruiser, staying quiet and composed even with strong crosswinds. Overtaking can be done with confidence, although there is a hint of lag with the initial step on the throttle. Turn off Eco mode and the 308 SW sprints a little faster, handy when merging on to the highway. 120 PS may sound humble, but 300 Nm of torque takes it to cruising speeds with ease. Turn on Eco mode and the 308 SW's engine is practicality idling when you're cruising.
Despite it being a family car, the 308 SW was a fun wagon to steer around winding roads. Turn in felt sharp, even a little sporty, when you drive it in a spirited manner. There was a lot of confidence in braking too, offering a lot of bite to scrub off speed. Remember a good handling car is a safe car.
Another forte of the 308 SW is fuel economy. Crawling at just 11 km/h, the wagon returned an efficient 11.1 kilometers per liter in the city with minimal assistance from the stop-start system. On the highway, it read 18.1 kilometers per liter and it could have better had there not been a bike rack on the roof. Over 500 kilometers on a single tank would be no problem for the 308 SW.
It goes without saying that the Peugeot 308 SW is a good car, even with some ergonomic quirks. It's fun to drive, versatile, efficient and well equipped. At Php 1,740,000 however, the 308 SW is priced among PPVs and crossovers. Those cars offer loads more ground clearance and seat more, but the (not so) little Peugeot has more character, more soul and a personality that gets under your skin. It's not all about the quirks for this car, what you end up with is a wagon that does family duties well and more.