Few classes are as closely contested as that of family hatchback, and some of its most popular models are overall UK best sellers. It’s therefore vital that manufacturers make a decent job of it.It’s up against some of the best all-rounders on sale, such as the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra, Volkswagen Golf and, most notably, Skoda Octavia. All of these rivals excel in areas such as space, practicality and running costs – exactly the sort of areas families are interested in when buying a new car.

Our favourite diesel engine is the 128bhp 1.5-litre engine, which was recently introduced to replace the ageing 118bhp 1.6 – a unit that had been available since the car’s launch. The 1.5 is flexible, so you rarely have to rev it hard, and it makes the 308 feel reasonably brisk. It’s also more efficient and economical than the previous unit, despite having more grunt.

Unsurprisingly, you have to work the entry-level 99bhp 1.6 diesel pretty hard at times, but it doesn’t feel significantly slower than the higher-powered version when you do. The 2.0-litre diesels are the quickest but, given the 1.5 isn’t far behind them, we’d stick with that and save some money up front.

Sadly, the 308’s ride is a mixed bag. Not only do you hear the suspension thudding over bumps in town driving, but hit a ridge with both front wheels and you’ll feel the car thump, too, and certainly more than in the more sophisticated Volkswagen Golf. As usual, the bigger the alloy wheels, the worse the 308 rides.

On the motorway, the 308 tends to fidget around as well if the road isn’t dead smooth. There are occasions when it impresses, though; potholes that would set the Skoda Octavia crashing and banging are dealt with reasonably ably by the 308.

A couple of tall adults will have no problem with the space available around the 308’s front seats – both head room and leg room are very generous. There’s also plenty of width, so there’s no danger of the driver and front passenger rubbing shoulders.

Each front door benefits from a good-sized pocket, while a cubby at the base of the dashboard, in front of the gearlever, will take a smartphone, wallet and keys. Behind the gearlever sits a cupholder and beneath the central armrest is another large cubby.

One of the 308’s worst features is its rear space. It’s poor next to almost all of its rivals, including the Volkswagen Golf and Vauxhall Astra, but especially huge rivals such as the Skoda Octavia.

Essentially, adults will have a hard time staying comfortable on a long journey. Head room isn’t too bad, but there’s precious leg room, so their knees will be forced against the front seatbacks. At least each rear door comes with a generous cubby

Overall,the Peugeot 308 has some frugal engines, but it falls way short of its best rivals to drive and rear space is tight.

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