David Motton

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It is time to find out if bigger means better for this French estate as Practical Caravan's tow car expert David Motton reviews the new Peugeot 308 SW

The new Peugeot 308 SW is the estate version of the 308 hatchback. So, you might reasonably expect it to be much the same car as the hatch, only with an increase in luggage space. In fact there's rather more to it than that, which suggests the 308 SW has more potential as a tow car than the hatchback.

For one thing, the wheelbase has been extended, giving an extra 11cm between the two sets of wheels. And during our Peugeot 308 SW review, I discovered that the first and most obvious benefit is to rear legroom. This is a weakness in the 308 hatchback, but the SW is now competitive on passenger space with the likes of the Volkswagen Golf Estate.

A longer wheelbase generally makes for a more stable tow car, too. We had a couple of nervous moments towing with the 308 hatchback at this year's Tow Car Awards, so the extra length is a welcome benefit for caravanners.

The rear overhang is also longer, by 22cm. The hatch has a useful 470-litre boot, but in the SW that increases to a massive 660 litres (including 70 litres of underfloor storage). That makes the 308 a roomier load carrier than the Honda Civic Tourer (624 litres), the Skoda Octavia Estate (610 litres) or the Volkswagen Golf Estate (605 litres) – great news when you're packing for your caravan holidays. 

It's not just a big load space. Peugeot has made it very usable, too. The lip is low to the ground and the opening is wide, making it easy to lift bags and other items into the back. Levers either side of the boot lower the back seats with no need to move the seat squabs first, leaving a long and flat load area with a 1775-litre capacity.

There's also space under the boot floor for the luggage cover when it's not in use. The 308 SW isn't unique in this respect, but it is a very handy feature which I'm always pleased to see.

Despite being such a practical estate, Peugeot hasn't spoiled the 308's looks. These things are very subjective of course, but to my eyes it's the best-looking of the current crop of family estates. Peugeot's designers have been very clever in lengthening the car by more than 30cm without making it look unwieldy.

It looks good on the inside, too. The Peugeot 308 SW's dashboard is free of clutter and made from quality materials, although the touchscreen takes a bit of getting used to.

The pick of the engine range for towing should be the 2.0-litre BlueHDi 150 diesel – its 277lb ft of torque from 1750rpm means it has plentiful pulling power. With a kerbweight of 1390kg (including 75kg for the driver not included in Peugeot's published kerbweight), it has an 85% match figure of 1182kg. The legal towing limit is 1500kg and the maximum download on the towball is 71kg.

With this engine the 308 SW is quick, refined and easy to drive. The ride is mostly comfortable (although the larger alloys fitted to high-spec models do make the car ride more firmly), and although it rolls more in corners than some rivals, it handles neatly enough.

As part of my Peugeot 308 SW review, I also had a brief test drive in the 1.6-litre BlueHDi 120. This has a healthy 225lb ft of torque, yet returns a scarcely believable 85.6-88.3mpg on the combined cycle, depending on the size of alloy wheels fitted. That's a worthwhile improvement over the BlueHDi 150's 70.6-74.3mpg, assuming the real-world difference matches the gap in the official figures. The engine felt strong enough to comfortably pull a suitably matched caravan, with a 1375kg kerbweight (including 75kg for the driver) giving an 85% match figure of 1169kg. The legal towing limit is 1300kg.

Peugeot is planning to push its new PureTech petrol engines hard, although with even lower kerbweights and legal maximums than the diesels, they look to be of limited interest to caravanners.

The diesels are definitely worth a look if you want a car that drives well, looks good and offers plenty of space. I've already booked a BlueHDi 150 for a tow test in September, so keep an eye out for a Peugeot 308 SW video review to discover what tow car potential this model really has.

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