The same award-winning design team that penned the reigning European Car of the Year is responsible for the station wagon version of 308. 308SW is smart and well-formed on the outside, and, like the 308 hatch, clutter-free and elegant inside.

308SW has grown over its predecessor to 4.58 metres long (+8cm). SW sits on Peugeot's new EMP2 platform, but unlike the 308 hatch the estate's wheelbase is stretched by a further 11cm. Overall, SW is a full 22cm longer than the hatch. The rear seats have been moved back to improve legroom by 3cm. This increase, combined with wider opening doors, makes access to the rear effortless. 

The cargo area also sees a big increase with 660 litres of boot space (up to the parcel shelf). When the 'Magic Flat' rear seats are folded down with the pull of a lever, you get a whopping 1,660 litres available for luggage.

New 308SW sits lower on the road, too (-6cm), and has a lower centre of gravity. Aerodynamic drag is reduced significantly, and when you couple this to the car's lightweight construction (-140kg!) there is a big improvement in CO2 emissions.

Peugeot is very confident that 308SW will be the class leader for fuel economy, quoting just 3.2 l/100km (88mpg) for the combined cycle for the 120hp 'BlueHDI' diesel (85g/CO2). The engine range features Euro6-compliant diesels and the latest petrol units, including the lively and very frugal 'e-THP' 1.2-litre 'PureTech' three-cylinder turbo with 130hp.

We drove three engine variants, including an automatic (EAT-6) two-litre HDi that, as you can imagine, pulled well and was ideal for use in heavy traffic. But the 130hp three-cylinder was the real star engine.

Ford, with its Ecoboost three-cylinder, has already shown us how peppy and powerful you can make a three-pot machine, but Peugeot's latest pint-sized, turbocharged petrol engine is a revelation. It pulls like a train and zips the 308SW along with real gusto. The engine note is less like a demented sewing machine and more like a blend of a five- and eight-cylinder unit.

There is an optional sport button near the gear lever that, when pressed, pipes a louder and meatier engine sound through the car's speakers - brilliant! From the outside there is no change in sound: this is perfect for the inner boy racer as it doesn't annoy anyone outside the car. In fact, let's demand that this device becomes mandatory in all cars - without telling the owners, of course! 

308SW will come in three trims with the mid-level specification expected to be the preferred choice. 308SW is available with all the toys from the hatchback such as the excellent Driving Assistance Pack (radar dynamic cruise control, emergency collision alert, emergency auto braking). Enthusiastic drivers will enjoy the Drivers' Sport Pack that adds the sporty sound, firmer and more responsive steering and a sportier 'red' instrument display.

Peugeot has a proud tradition of small estate cars dating back to the Sixties. The French firm expects to grow this segment even further with 308SW. In Ireland, SW should make up about 15% of 308 sales.

Michael Sheridan