The 308 SW's tiny turbo-charged petrol engine will hit 50mpg on high-speed motorway runs


PRICE From £22,095 (e-THP 130 model tested)
ENGINE CAPACITY 1.2 litre 3 cylinder petrol
POWER OUTPUT (bhp @rpm) 126 @ 3500
CO2 EMISSIONS (g/km) 109

What's the most important thing a car buyer should check out when investing in a new run-around? Forget fuel economy or acceleration; one old-school car tester recently told me that the most important test he carried out was to lower the windows, head for the nearest tunnel and hammer along at high speed. Apparently he thinks it's vital to listen to the engine revs and blips as you accelerate, downshift and generally behave like a hooligan.

It's not an approach I've taken, preferring to focus on the more practical matters and I'm pretty sure how a car sounds is fairly subjective. That said, I do occasionally succumb to temptation. It certainly wasn't a test that came to mind when I took delivery of the new Peugeot 308 SW, a spacious estate spin-off from the French firm's standard 308 hatchback.

Car makers must be wising up to this test. I can think of little other reason to add the option of a "sport mode" to more and more normal cars, such as the Peugeot 308 SW. The basic principle is the same on everything from the Peugeot to the latest Hyundai and Kia model, with many new cars getting a button that turns the rev counter and speedometer a nasty shade of red and makes the steering heavier.

On the Peugeot this unnecessary feature costs an extra £395, but comes with an added trick. It pipes pipes a digitally amplified version of the engine note through the speakers. Presumably so you can pretend you are driving a Formula One car, not a family estate. It's a little odd. I'm not sure a car like the 308 SW needs this sort of audio enhancement. And it makes the tunnel test something a of a sham, as you no longer need to drop the windows.

Sport mode aside, the 308 SW's tiny turbo-charged petrol engine is very impressive in the economy stakes. It will hit 50mpg on high-speed motorway runs, while the mid-30s is easily achievable in town.

The engine is partly why the hatchback model shocked our earlier road tester and most of the motoring world by winning the European Car of the Year 2014 award early this year. It's a good car then, worthy of praise. But save yourself £395 and just lower the windows in a tunnel if you really must behave like Lewis Hamilton.

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