The debate on what type of car the Peugeot 308 SW is will never end.
In my mind, it is an attempt by Peugeot to plug a gap in its product range by introducing something in between a station wagon and a proper multi-purpose vehicle.
To me, it is not a true seven-seater but a 5+2; the third-row seats are really suitable only for children.
In any case, the new 308 is an interesting car, both in appearance and execution.
The front half is similar to the 308 hatchback but everything aft of the B-pillars is unique.
A bulbous rear end is a consequence of the need to increase space for people or luggage.
The reverse curvature of the C-pillars is reminiscent of the first-generation Toyota Picnic, but the Pug has a far more appealing design than Toyota’s early attempt.
Whatever reservations one has of the bulky nature of its hindquarters are quickly dispelled the moment one enters the cabin.
The build quality of the 308 is a quantum leap forward over previous Pugs.
Gone are the brittle plastics and low-rent fixtures. Soft-touch plastics abound, with all trim properly fitted.
Leather upholstered seats have neat off-white inserts, the two-tone effect being both chic and classy.
As expected, seats are comfy and supportive.
There are seven separate seats, three of them in the second row.
The seat backs of this row have airline type flip-down trays. In addition, the chairs slide over a length of 90mm.
As befitting a “proper” multi-purpose vehicle, multiple compositions of seat combinations are possible, depending on load and passenger needs.
All the seats in the second and third rows can be removed to free up cargo space.
This is not as easy as it sounds, since the chairs are heavy and great care has to be taken to avoid injury to your back.
To expand the storage space behind the middle row, the rearmost seats can be flipped forward and secured by means of some flimsy-looking rubber straps.
It is inexpensive but clearly not the most elegant of solutions.
With this row rubber-strapped, boot space is decent.
Golfers will be pleased to know that there is space for a golf bag to be carried transversely.
A large panoramic glass roof comes standard.
This important bit of kit adds to the cheery ambience of the car and gives greater communication with nature.
The cover is an electrically operated hard board – a far better solution than the netting material used in many Continental cars.
As netting goes, the shelter on the 308 lets in far too much heat and glare on hot, sunny days, to the detriment of the climate control system.
Power for the 308 is the direct fuel-injected 1.6-litre co-developed with BMW.
Turbocharged power output is capped at 140bhp.
Though this may not sound like much, the 308 feels lively, with excellent low-end response and a free-revving nature.
The engine is paired to a 4-speed automatic gearbox, which seems a bit short in a time when 5- and even 6-speeders are becoming commonplace.
In fairness, latest software development of this less-than-nubile transmission has resulted in gear changes that are smoother than before.
Also, automatic downchanges are less pronounced when braking to a halt.
Throttle response is decent and “Tiptronic System Porsche” manual override is standard.
The car claims to do 0-100km/h in just 9.3 seconds and a top speed of 202km/h, all respectable numbers for a people mover.
The advantage of the station wagon-like body becomes apparent during fast cornering.
Unlike a tall MPV with a high(er) centre of gravity, the 308 handles more like a hatchback.
It’s reasonably agile and body roll is kept well in check. Ride is firm but comfortable, with good bump absorption.
As you would expect in a European family car, the 308 is packed to its wing mirrors with safety equipment.
Electronic Stability Program comes standard, as do the four airbags, all-round three-point seat belts, three Isofix child seat mountings and hazard lights that come on automatically during emergency braking.
With its solid build quality, quiet engine and low levels of road and wind noise, the 308 gives a refined and upmarket feel.
It is an interesting alternative but a rather pricey one.
At $91,900 with COE, it runs smack into territory jealously guarded by the class-leading Honda Odyssey.
The latter is a proper seven-seater and also drives rather well for an MPV. Other alternatives are the Citroen Grand Picasso and the Ford S-Max.
Yes, the new Peugeot 308 SW does face formidable opposition.
But, in the end, its major selling point may well be its unique configuration.
Being neither here nor there may not be a bad thing after all.
Peugeot 308 SW 1.6 (A)
Type 16-valves, inline-4, turbocharged
Bore x stroke 77mm x 85.8mm
Compression ratio 10.5:1
Max power 140bhp at 5800rpm
Max torque 240Nm at 1400rpm
Power to weight 88.7bhp per tonne
Gearbox 4-speed automatic with manual select
Driven wheels Front
0-100km/h 9.3 seconds
Top speed 202km/h
Consumption 12.7km/L (combined)
Front MacPherson struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar
Rear Torsion beam, coil springs, anti-roll bar
Front / Rear Ventilated discs / Discs
Type Continental Premium Contact 2
Size 225/45 R17
Traction aids ABS, ESP
Kerb weight 1577kg
Turning circle 10.8m
Price incl. COE $91,900
Warranty 3 years/100,000km
+ Refinement and quality, smooth and free-revving engine, high equipment level
– Gearbox only has four forward ratios, bulbous rear end styling, premium pricing