01/03/2017
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Towcar of the Month: Peugeot 308 SW Active Blue HDi 120

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I’m a confirmed European, so why is it that, ever since the 205GTi, I’ve always had such low expectations for this French brand? Seriously, what are the chances of an Peugeot 308 SW (station wagon) impressing?

Written by John Sootheran

First Impressions?

We’re testing at Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire, which has enough dastardly track options to highlight the weaknesses in any tow car. However, from the moment I whip through the tight ‘starter’ chicane at 30mph, this Pug begins to grow on me, and not like a malevolent mole.

With a Bailey Pursuit 400-2 in tow, acceleration is perfectly adequate, not even 12-volt electrifying, but it’ll never leave you in the lurch. That said, it’s the tightness of the drive that really impresses, even with 1090kg of caravan behind.

Peugeot 308 SW Tow car

Smooth and confident towing

The leather steering wheel is small, slightly flat-bottomed, slim and sporty. Combined with the firm seats and just-a-smidgeon-too-hard suspension, it does feel like a driver's car.

Out on the two-mile, high-speed bowl in blustery conditions the stability of the SW is flawless. The longer wheelbase (110mm more than the hatchback) probably helps, but this is proving a very smooth and confident tow below and above 60mph.

Cockpit design

Peugeot 308 SW cockpit

Ergonomics, from a driver's perspective, are ‘very good' too. The cockpit feels spacious and the switchgear is very neatly laid out.

“You try to change the touch-screen air-con and end up tuning into super-chirpy Chris Evans by mistake.”

Peugeot's interior designers apparently thought: ‘Why have 20 controls when one control can do 20 jobs?’. The control looks great until you try to change the touch-screen air-con and end up tuning into super-chirpy Chris Evans by mistake. Understandable, I guess, as they both produce a lot of hot air.

You view the dials over the top of the titchy wheel and visibility is great all-round. Meanwhile, the panoramic sunroof (a £500 option) adds an extra dose of light and luxury.

How is it on the hills?

the engine in the Peugeot 308 SW

We move onto the twisting hill circuit, where the frog's great chassis comes into its own. I noted down ‘tight, accurate and fun!"… yes, it's a towing pleasure. At least until we got to the 'extreme hill-start', that is. Here, we pull half-way up a 17% (1-in-6) hill, stop and apply the handbrake. Then we do a hill-start.

The electric handbrake is really good, but the car's electronics conspire to sap any power, to stop wheelspin. As the power disappears from under your right foot, the car starts to stall, so you have to dip the clutch again.

Quite a few of the test cars do this, so, where possible, I turn off the traction control. With the 308, it's just a case of persevering and ‘giving it beans’. It doesn’t sound pretty, but it’s the only way up in this extreme situation. The clutch was mildly ‘French fried’.

The SW’s gearbox is good, with just a slight slackness, while the brakes delivered some severe retardation from 60mph.

Verdict

In my hastily etched test notes, I described the 308SW as a ‘ positive surprise’. It's nimble and engaging to drive, and the leather interior is a rather lovely and sophisticated place to be. The materials look and feel better than in some cars that are twice the price.

It tugs a ballasted one-tonne caravan with ease, in all but the most extreme conditions. Best of all, it's a fun car to drive when not towing too, so, you get all the practicality and versatility of a spacious estate car, combined with excellent manners when you press on.

At a tad over £21,000, this is a great option for those that tow, but enjoy solo driving too.

N.B.: We did all the testing on private test tracks.

Price £21,265
Tax Band A
CO2 85 g/km
Insurance group 20e
Kerbweight 1295 kg
85% match 110 kg
Noseweight 71 kg
Engine 4-cylinder diesel
Capacity 1560cc
Torque 221lb/ft @1750
Gears 6-speed manual
Towing acceleration

30-60mph 15.2sec

40-60mph 12.2sec

 

Press ratings

  • Parkers 4.5 stars
  • AutoCar 4 stars
  • Auto Express 4 stars
  • Top Gear 3.5 stars
     

hpi valuations

 

 

The £21,265 Peugeot 308SW is expected to have the following retail prices at dealers during its first five years, assuming the condition is ‘good’.

1 year (12,000 miles) £11,250

3 years (36,000 miles £6,925

5 years (60,000 miles) £4,350
 

Witter Towbar prices (based on 2014 308 SW)

  • Fixed Swan with 13-pin electrics - £493.62
  • Detachable Swan with 13-pin electrics - £577.62
  • Fixed Swan with 13-pin electrics - £493.62

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