The latest Peugeot 308 is a hugely important car for the company, as this all-new model, complete with a radical design overhaul inside and out, aims to tackle family hatchback heavyweights like the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf head-on.

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• Full Peugeot 308 review

It’s armed with a raft of new tech and a sculpted shape, while this 1.6-litre e-HDi diesel makes a stronger case than the petrol car. It hits the magic 100g/km CO2 barrier and claims 74.3mpg fuel economy, partly because the new EMP2 platform has made it 140kg lighter than before.

Our model was fitted with hip-hugging leather seats – a £1,200 option – that make it easy to get comfortable. But the panoramic glass roof standard on top-spec Feline models impacts on rear headroom. And while legroom is decent, Peugeot seems to have sacrificed some knee room to allow for a large 470-litre boot – that’s 90 litres bigger than in a Golf.

The company has repositioned the dials, too, in a bid to prevent them from being obscured by the small steering wheel, as they are in the smaller 208 supermini. But while they’re now better placed, some of our testers struggled to get a comfortable driving position where they could see them.

Press the silver starter button and the 1.6-litre diesel clatters into life, although it’s smooth and refined when you pull away. The HDi engine’s 115bhp output doesn’t sound like much, but as this 308 weighs only 1,395kg, and all 270Nm of torque is available from 1,750rpm, it pulls strongly through the six-speed manual box’s ratios. Changes themselves are a little long and clunky, but the gearlever is perfectly placed.

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The Peugeot 308 is at its best on the motorway. It’s clearly been set up for comfort and refinement, rather than outright agility. Even on larger 18-inch alloys, the ride is surprisingly supple and it’s very quiet inside, even at high speed.

Dominating the all-new cabin is an Apple iPad-like 9.7-inch touchscreen, which replaces a whole host of buttons and dials. This updated system is much more responsive than the one in the 2008 crossover, and adjusting the radio or heater is a simple two-touch process.

Better still, in flagship Feline trim, the 308 costs over £3,000 less than a similarly specced Golf with all the trimmings – that may be enough to entice many buyers.

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