New 2021 Peugeot 308 shows off dramatic design overhaul
9 March 2021 - autocar
Largely unwrapped hatchback prototype adopts Peugeot's new styling language and retro logo
New spy shots show the next-generation Peugeot 308 hatchback unwrapped ahead of its official unveiling in the coming weeks.
With its camouflage partly removed, the 308 reveals a bold new front end design that brings it into line with its 208, 2008 and 508 siblings, featuring Peugeot's fang-style daytime running lights and narrow LED headlights. As promised, it is also wearing the brand's retro-inspired new emblem, revealed two weeks ago ahead of its first production appearance on the Ford Focus rival.
The 308 also swaps its protruding lower bumper for a rounded front end that incorporates Peugeot's new frameless grille. The roofline also appears to curve more steeply towards the rear than on the current car, which makes the hatchback appear longer and lower, while details including new wing mirrors, a subtle rear spoiler and a sharkfin-style aerial will round off the transformation.
Recently departed Peugeot boss Jean-Philippe Imparato previously hinted that the 308 will build on the bold look of all other recent Peugeots: “We put the design first,” he said when describing why the brand's comeback has been so successful. “On top of all the investment choices, I protected the design. Then the brand image recovers.”
When it was launched in 2014, the current 308 kick-started the transformation of the entire Peugeot range with a more confident design approach. The successful, more daringly styled 3008 followed, along with the 5008, 208 and 2008.
The next 308 is set to play that role again by laying the groundwork for a new era of Peugeots when it goes on sale in 2022, most likely after a public debut towards the end of 2021. It will be built on an updated version of the EMP2 platform that underpins more than a dozen PSA Group models and was originally introduced on today’s 308.
PSA’s strategy so far has been for EMP2 models to be offered with plug-in hybrid technology and for smaller CMP models to come with dedicated electric versions, both offered alongside existing petrol and diesel variants.
The 308 is set to get a plug-in hybrid drivetrain, mixing a 1.6-litre petrol engine with an electric motor to drive the front wheels in a mainstream variant. However, it’s a proposed second plug-in hybrid model that will interest enthusiasts.
This model, developed by the brand’s new PSE performance arm, would gain an additional electric motor on the rear axle – a set-up already used on the 3008 PHEV – to give the 308 four-wheel drive and create a new 300bhp-plus hot hatch version that would also receive a host of sporty chassis and styling upgrades to challenge the likes of the Volkswagen Golf R.
The PSE badge is set to appear first on a range-topping performance version of the 508. Should the 508 PSE be a success, Imparato told Autocar the PSE formula could be applied “on the 3008 and other cars”, a comment that alludes to the desire to extend it to the 308.
Success won't be judged on sales, either, but instead on the reputation and acclaim the PSE models receive. To that end, the PSE project is as much about “transforming electric cars” and the perception of them, because Imparato sees “a big opportunity for a line-up of sporty cars” in this mould.
The GTi badge won't be used on the 308 or any other Peugeots apart from the 208. Even then, it might be limited to the UK only and be based on the electric version as part of the company’s plans to switch PSE's involvement in its models to electrified powertrains only.
The next 308 range will again include five-door hatchback and estate versions, with still no return for the likes of the 308 CC coupé-convertible seen in previous generations, due to the lack of profitability with such cars. “I love these cars but today there are three other topics first,” said Imparato, naming 5G connectivity and autonomous vehicle development alongside electrified models.
However, a crossover version of the 308 is a strong possibility for Peugeot. It has noted the success of the Mercedes-Benz GLA, effectively a raised version of the A-Class hatchback. In addition, fellow PSA brand DS is planning both hatchback and crossover versions of its own new A-Class/GLA rival, which is due later this year with a shared body-in-white. There’s enough of a gap between the 308 and larger 3008 SUV to make such a car a reality.
Updated petrol and diesel engines will continue to be offered alongside the plug-in hybrids. Peugeot is still committed to diesel and is even offering it in its new 208 and 2008 models at a time when many rivals are abandoning the fuel at this end of the market.
An electric version of the 308 may be on the cards too, as Imparato hinted late last year in an interview with Automotive News Europe: “It [the 308] will be a plug-in hybrid first but could perhaps later have a full-electric drivetrain. Our compact and mid-size cars will have plug-in hybrid drivetrains, because it’s a smoother way to switch from internal combustion to electric.”
Inside, the style-led formula will continue with an updated version of Peugeot’s i-Cockpit design, adapted from that of the newer 3008 and 508.
Peugeot will be hoping for much greater sales success for the 308 in the UK, though, where it has struggled. “This car was Car of the Year in 2014 and has been a huge sales success in Europe,” said Imparato. “It’s not as strong in the UK, where it deserves more than a 2.5% market share.”