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It's one of the rare small wagons on the market. And it does not disappoint.

Peter Anderson road tests and reviews the new Peugeot 308 Touring HDi with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.

There aren’t many small wagons left. Hyundai’s i30 Tourer, a fine car, shuffled off our shores in 2016, leaving in its wake a VW, a Renault and a Peugeot. Then the Renault went, leaving just two.

All four cars have something in common – they’re built in Europe – so it seems clear that a small load-lugger is a continental thing.

The new 308 has been with us for a while now and was a revelation on its release – gone was the fusty interior, dodgy styling and ordinary dynamics, replaced by a better looking car with an interesting interior and excellent chassis. The 308 Touring followed shortly after for those who like to lug a little more fromage et crudités than the average individuel.

We spent a week with the French wagon and pondered the obvious question – why choose it over the multitude of SUVs on offer?

Price and features

Late in 2016, Peugeot rationalised the 308 range, with most attention lavished (if you can lavish attention with an axe) on the five-door hatchback range. The Touring lost just one version, the petrol Allure Premium. So now you’ve got a choice between the Allure in petrol or diesel versions, both with 110kW engines.

The 308 Touring is very much a long 308 hatch. There’s nothing startling about the 308, just subdued good looks.

We had the pricier diesel version, aka BlueHDi, priced at $39,940. Parked on your drive will be a car with active cruise (part of the standard Driver Assist Pack), keyless entry and start, blind spot monitoring, front and rear parking sensors, reversing camera, auto parking (entry and exit), electric windows and mirrors, auto-headlights and wipers, LED headlights, sat nav, dual-zone climate control, leather and Alcantara trim and 17-inch alloys.

Our car was optioned with 18-inch alloys ($700), a whopping great full-length sunroof ($1000) and metallic paint ($990), bringing the total to $41,180 before on-roads.

peugeot 308 touring 2017 review
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Practicality

The 308 is quite close to being a true five seater (as in five seats for five adults) but in the end, the middle passenger really does need to be short. Four passengers will be quite happy, though, with good leg and headroom, even with the gigantic sunroof. Irritatingly, the electric blind that covers the glass is perforated and white so when the sun is out it manages to be quite glarey in the cabin and, of course, it doesn't do the job of blocking out the sun the way a proper cover should. It's probably fine in Europe, not great in Australia.

The Touring is a decent 30cm longer than the hatch so cargo space, which is not bad in the hatch, is significantly improved. With the seats up, you've got a chunky 625 litres of space and when you drop the seats that figure swells to 1740 litres. A removable cargo blind is along for the ride.

In the cabin, you've got a deep centre console which houses a solitary cupholder. This can be slid out of the way for larger items to fit. Rear seat passengers score cupholders in the fold-down centre armrest, taking the total for the car to three. The doors will take bits and pieces in their stowage bins, but not much, certainly not a bottle larger than 500 or 600ml.

Design

The 308 Touring is very much a long 308 hatch. There's nothing startling about the 308, just subdued good looks. The extra foot of length sits well on the wheelbase, with the body tightly drawn down over the wheels, so it looks low and long, with nice proportions.

One of the standout features in the interior is kind of the interior itself. Peugeot's designers have reimagined the way a dashboard is laid out and the results are... mixed. Peugeot calls it 'iCockpit.'

Not only is the 308 very good, it might even be slightly better - as an all-rounder - than the Golf.

For the driver, things are very different. A tiny, hotted-up Gemini-sized steering wheel is supposed to sit low enough for you to see over it and to the dash. The instrument pack itself is conventional enough but it takes forever to find the right spot for the wheel and seat relationship. There's plenty of adjustment, no question there, just takes a while. We've also found that when sharing a car with this arrangement, it's more than a couple of clicks forward or back - my beloved needed a completely different seating position to mine. That got a bit tiresome.

Engine and transmission

The BlueHDi is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel, putting out 110kW/370Nm. The petrol has the same kW figure but the diesel has an impressive torque jump of 130Nm. The diesel is also Euro VI emissions compliant whereas the petrol is Euro V.

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The diesel has stop-start and is mated with Peugeot's excellent six-speed automatic, pushing the 1420kg  Touring to from 0-100km/h in 8.9 seconds.

peugeot 308 touring 2017 review

Fuel consumption

Peugeot claims a combined consumption figure of 4.2L/100km. We missed that by a long way, returning 7.8L/100km in hot, humid Sydney traffic and some 80km/h running. You'll still get about 700km between fills on that number.

Driving

In a world where the Volkswagen Golf exists, it's very difficult to convince anyone that there's a car that does the job just as well. I'm here to tell you that not only is the 308 very good, it might even be slightly better - as an all-rounder - than the Golf.

There's something about almost every car Peugeot has put on the road since the company woke up and realised it could make cars people not only wanted to buy but wanted to drive. Like, you know the old days.

The Tourer takes all of the best bits of the hatch, and despite lugging quite a few more kilos than the 1.2-litre turbo, still feels beautifully fluid out on the road.

It's supremely comfortable and the front seats are surely among the best in any car on the road.

The ride and handling balance is almost as good as the hatch - again, that 1.2 is far more fun than it should be - and the torquey diesel provides plenty of go. The tiny steering wheel adds a bit of boy racer feel to the front end and assistance has been tuned just right to offset the smaller diameter. If Peugeot had got that wrong, things would be very bad indeed.

It's supremely comfortable and the front seats are surely among the best in any car on the road. The Alcantara trim of the diesel is worth the price of admission alone and everything you touch feels good. It's just maddening that the touchscreen is so slow and everything has to go through it - climate control, stereo, even the trip computer. Once that's fixed and some ergonomic thinking has been applied to the shortcut buttons, iCockpit will feel a lot more natural and intuitive. We'll have to wait for the 3008 before we find out, though.

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Safety

Part of the significant price difference between petrol and diesel can be explained by the latter's longer list of safety equipment. In addition to six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, brake assist and tyre pressure monitoring (five star ANCAP rating included), the diesel picks up blind spot monitoring and the 'Driver Assistance Pack.' The DAP includes active cruise, forward collision warning and auto emergency braking.

Ownership

Peugeot offers a three-year/100,000km warranty along with three years roadside assist. Capped price servicing runs for five years or 75,000km, whichever comes first. It's probably more accurate to say it covers five services as visits to the dealer are spaced out at 15,000km.

Service pricing is a little on the stiff side, running from $567 up to $922, for an average of $740 per service or $3700 all up. The 1.6 petrol's average is $200 less).

Having said that, the cost covers parts, labour, fluids, lubricants and 'sundries' which is more than some (Mazda, for example, lists oil and brake fluid separately).

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Verdict

The 308 hatch is a terrific but underrated car, and so it is with the Tourer. Sometimes underrated is a nice way of saying it's a bit flawed and many will view the iCockpit as a flaw at first glance. It isn't really, but some people just can't get past it.

The Tourer is an excellent extension to the hatch and it's a shame there aren't more similar wagons around. Part of that is down to buyer appeal (nobody is buying small wagons anymore) and price (the diesel 308 Tourer is a bit on the pricey side). But if you're in the market for one of these types of car - and there's still a good argument for their ongoing existence - you're not going to be disappointed with the Peugeot.

Are you a small wagon fan, or is a compact SUV the sweeter option? Let us know in the comments below.

This story originally appeared on CarsGuide

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