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The Peugeot 308 has never been a car to set pulses racing, but don't be fooled by its understated looks. Peugeot's sold over 84,000 since the 308 was released in 2007, making it the company's second most popular car on these shores in recent times. Clearly, our French chums are onto a good thing, so it's no surprise to see the comany has released three brand new 308 models for 2011 -- the five-door hatchback, the SW estate and the CC coupe convertible.
We went hands-on with the £19,295, five-door, e-HDi hatchback model, which promises high economy and low CO2 emissions, to see what all the fuss is about. The range starts at around £15,245.
Fix your face
The 308 e-HDi has received a facelift for 2011. While it's hardly breathtaking, it's a fairly handsome car from some angles. This latest model boasts a range of tweaks to its front end, including slightly modified headlight clusters, boomerang-shaped LED day-running headlights, and a less pointed bonnet snout than we saw on the previous car. It holds its own alongside new rivals, such as the 2011.
Peugeot has applied a range of tweaks beneath the surface, too. The company has put the 308 on a diet, reducing the weight of all models in the range by a fairly significant 25kg, in a bid to improve fuel economy and reduce CO2 emissions.
In the e-HDi model, the company's also fitted low-rolling-resistance tyres that travel across the road surface with less drag than standard rubber, and a new 1.6-litre HDi FAP 112 Euro 5 diesel engine.
Sadly, the car's eco credentials aren't quite up there with the very best in its class. The car emits CO2 at a rate of 119g/km and has a combined economy of 60.1mpg, which isn't quite as good as the market-leading. That car spits out 99g/km and returns 74.3mpg. That said, Peugeot also has a special edition 308 Oxygo up its sleeve, promising numbers that are more in line with its most Earth-friendly rivals.
Stop starting on me
The 308 e-HDi sports a 'micro hybrid' system. This is a fancy term for stop-start technology. It switches the 308 e-HDi's engine off when the vehicle reaches a standstill and reactivates it again when the driver pulls away -- all in the name of burning less fuel.
We've seen this sort of tech before on family econoboxes, but Peugeot's implementation is memorable for several good -- and not-so-good -- reasons. Peugeot's solution only shuts down the engine if the driver engages neutral when the vehicle is at a standstill -- the engine will continue to run if you merely dip the clutch. This can be slightly annoying if you're in stop-start traffic, as it means you physically have to move the gear lever into the neutral position and back into gear each time, rather than merely dipping the clutch temporarily while you wait for traffic to start rolling.
Thankfully, the restart is quick and relatively judder-free. The system even comes with a counter, mounted adjacent to the speedometer, that records the amount of time the 308 e-HDi has spent not burning fossil fuels. It's something of a gimmick -- we'd have preferred the counter to show how much fuel we'd saved, or how much CO2 we'd prevented escaping into the environment -- but it serves as a reminder that switching the engine off instead of idling is worthwhile in the long term.