New Skoda Octavia & Volkswagen Golf vs Peugeot 308 Comparison

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The Skoda Octavia and Volkswagen Golf family hatchbacks have just been updated with more efficient petrol engines. Let’s see how they stack up against the frugal Peugeot 308

*** Note : £1 = $1.35 (correct at time of post)

The contenders

Peugeot 308 1.2 THP 130 Allure

  • List price £20,440
  • Target Price £19,412

Facelifted 308 has a frugal little engine and is the cheapest car here, but is it any good?

Skoda Octavia 1.5 TSI 150 SE L

  • List price £21,865
  • Target Price £20,075

Octavia is back to defend its class-leading position with a new 1.5-litre engine.

Volkswagen Golf 1.5 TSI Evo 130 SE Navigation

  • List price £21,790
  • Target Price £19,902

Recently facelifted Golf, also with a new 1.5 engine, is out to steal the Octavia’s crown.

New Skoda Octavia & Volkswagen Golf vs Peugeot 308

Typical. Just as everyone was getting used to family hatchbacks and even SUVs being fitted with smaller, turbocharged, often three-cylinder engines in search of better fuel economy and CO2 emissions, the Volkswagen Group goes and bucks the trend.

We’ll explain. You see, Skoda and Volkswagen are replacing their clever turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol engine with a 1.5-litre unit that, despite being bigger, is officially both cleaner and more efficient.

In the case of the Golf, we’re testing the new 1.5 in 128bhp form. Skoda offers the new engine only in 148bhp guise, yet the Octavia is still slightly cheaper.

Completing our trio is the Peugeot 308, which has recently been refreshed with new front and rear-end styling and updated infotainment. It also offers one of the most frugal petrol engines in the class, the turbocharged petrol 1.2 we’re testing here. So, which petrol-powered family hatchback makes the most sense?

Driving – Performance, ride, handling, refinement

The Octavia’s extra 20bhp over the Golf and better pull from low revs can certainly be felt on the road, helping it drag itself up to motorway speeds more quickly in the higher gears and sprint from a standstill with more verve. That said, the Golf never feels out of its depth, whether around town or when trying to keep pace with faster-moving traffic on A-roads. Both cars rev smoothly and also stay vibration-free at high revs.

The 308’s three-cylinder engine matches the outright power of the Golf’s four-cylinder unit. Unsurprisingly, it therefore matched the Golf in a drag race from 0-60mph, but the 308 doesn’t pull as hard at very low revs, which means you need to change gear more often when driving around town. There’s also noticeably more noise and vibration from the 308’s engine under hard acceleration.

The Golf’s steering is nicely weighted and feels natural, complementing the car’s eagerness to change direction, tidy body control and strong grip. The Octavia isn’t far behind, with steering that’s almost as agreeable and just as much grip, but you can feel its larger body moving about more when you’re cornering. The 308 is some way adrift; its overly quick steering is designed to make it feel agile but, in reality, just makes it feel nervous. Unfortunately, it’s also the first to give up grip through corners, so all told, it’s the least capable and least enjoyable-handling car here.

The 308 also has the worst ride. It fails to satisfactorily deal with larger obstacles, such as speed humps, and is the most unsettled around town. The Octavia does a much better job of sponging away surface imperfections on any road at any speed, even if its rear suspension can be heard going about its business.

The Golf rides most comfortably, staying neatly composed, even along badly pockmarked roads. The Golf is the quietest car to be in, too, keeping road and wind noise at bay on the motorway better than the others.

Peugeot 308

Behind the wheel – Driving position, visibility, build quality

Both the Octavia and Golf’s driver’s seats have a generous amount of manual adjustment, including adjustable lumbar support, while both steering wheels can be manipulated to suit most drivers. Our Allure-spec 308 test car was fitted with the optional (£1500) electric, leather sports seats, but the standard seats are comfortable enough.

Less impressive is the 308’s tiny steering wheel, over which you look to see the instrument dials. Some of our testers found the top of the wheel blocked their view of the dials.

Seeing out of the front and sides of all three cars is easy enough, thanks to their thin windscreen pillars, so judging roundabouts and T-junctions is never an issue. Your over-the-shoulder view in the Octavia, and even more so the Golf, is also reassuring, but the 308’s thicker rear pillars and smaller rear screen mean there’s more guesswork involved when reversing. Thankfully, all three cars get standard rear parking sensors. Peugeot and Volkswagen also include sensors at the front, but Skoda lists them as an option.

The Golf just edges the Octavia for interior quality. The Golf’s dashboard and doors feature soft-touch plastics, and these continue further down in the interior, although the general fit and finish of both cars, as well as the substantial feel of both sets of buttons and switches, are very closely matched. Perceived material quality in the 308 is decent enough, but start to prod and press and it becomes clear that there are more brittle plastics and the switches aren’t as nicely damped.

Talking of switches, the Golf’s manual air conditioning (optional climate control is pictured) is easy to use and the Octavia’s standard climate control system is similarly intuitive. Less so is Peugeot’s decision to incorporate the 308’s climate controls within the menus of its touchscreen, making it a real faff to adjust the temperature while you’re driving.

Infotainment systems

Peugeot 308

Allure trim is well equipped, with a 9.7in touchscreen featuring Bluetooth, a DAB radio, a USB port, sat-nav and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring. However, the screen isn’t particularly responsive when you touch it, requiring the odd double prod to select menus, while some of the icons are too small to hit with any confidence. Furthermore, some of the graphics look a bit old-hat.

Skoda Octavia

The Octavia’s standard 8.0in touchscreen (optional 9.2in Columbus screen is pictured) is far more responsive than the 308’s, is quicker to process requests and has easier-to-work menus. It, too, has sat-nav as standard, as well as smartphone mirroring, a USB port, a DAB radio, Bluetooth and controls on the steering wheel. However, we do miss the pre-facelifted Octavia’s physical shortcut buttons.

Volkswagen Golf

The Golf’s infotainment system is the same basic 8.0in touchscreen found in the Octavia and features sat-nav, Bluetooth, a DAB radio, a USB port and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Its menus are similarly easy to follow and it’s every bit as responsive. Like the Octavia’s standard system, it features a couple of rotary dials; the one on the left controls volume and the one on the right scrolls through the menus.

Peugeot 308 rear seats

Space and practicality – Front space, rear space, seating flexibility, boot

Space and practicality are the Octavia’s fortes; it frankly destroys the Golf and 308 here. Its rivals come closest to matching it in their front seats – a couple of tall adults will enjoy good head and leg room in all three cars – but the Octavia still offers the most.

In the rear, there really is no contest. The Octavia has by far the most leg room and marginally the most head room, too, allowing another pair of tall adults to stretch out behind similar-sized people in front. The Golf isn’t far behind on rear head room and actually offers decent rear leg room by wider class standards, but it still seems stingy next to the Octavia. Trailing in third place is the 308, which not only looks comparatively cramped in the back but feels it, too. In fact, it has less knee room than many cars from the class below.

The main reason for the 308’s tight rear quarters is that space has been given over to its generous-sized boot, which is larger than the Golf’s and a consistent square shape inside. Still, the Octavia’s boot easily outguns both its rivals’ for space and access. Indeed, in our carry-on suitcase test, it swallowed a staggering 11 cases – more than many large SUVs – versus the six we managed to squeeze in the 308 and the five that fitted in the Golf.

However, it’s worth pointing out that while all three cars get 60/40 split-folding rear seats as standard, only the Golf gets a standard height-adjustable boot floor. This means it’s the only car that has a near-fl at extended load bay from the boot entrance right through to the front seatbacks when the rear seats are folded down.

Peugeot 308

There’s more than enough room for a couple of tall adults in the front seats, but rear space is tight, having been traded for a generous boot. And even then it’s small compared with the Octavia’s.

  • Boot 470-1309 litres
  • Suitcases 6

Skoda Octavia

The Octavia is simply huge in every area. Front and rear space are class-leading, while its boot can take 11 carry-on suitcases; that’s more than we could cram into the Audi Q7 luxury SUV.

  • Boot 590-1580 litres
  • Suitcases 11

Volkswagen Golf

The Golf’s boot is beaten on size, but it is at least a practical shape. Rear seat space is better than the 308’s but can’t match the Octavia’s, while a couple of tall adults can stretch out in the front.

  • Boot 380-1270 litres
  • Suitcases 5

Peugeot 308

Buying and owning – Costs, equipment, reliability, safety and security

The Octavia and Golf are closely matched on list price, with less than a hundred pounds separating them, while the 308 is around £1000 cheaper than either. However, if you’re paying in cash, it’s worth haggling at all three dealers, because discounts are available if you do. There’s around £1800 to be had off both the Octavia and Golf, while roughly £1000 can be bartered off the 308, bringing the Target Prices of our trio much closer together.

Considerably more buyers will opt to sign up to a finance agreement, though, and on a PCP deal over three years – limited to 10,000 miles annually and fronted by a £3000 deposit – the 308 is the cheapest option (if you give it back at the end of the term), setting you back £252 per month. That said, the Octavia and Golf aren’t far behind, costing £270 and £284 per month respectively.

That order remains if you’re a company car driver. The 308’s lower list price and CO2 emissions make its monthly benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax bills around £20 cheaper than the Octavia and Golf’s.

However, look at three-year ownership costs and the tables turn, with the 308’s considerable depreciation and higher servicing costs making it the priciest by some margin. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to run our True MPG fuel tests on the 308, but the Golf returned a slightly better figure than the Octavia.

The Octavia’s standard kit list stands out with its leather and Alcantara seats and LED headlights, which are expensive options on the other two cars. The 308 counters by being the only car with a standard panoramic roof, while the Golf’s standard adaptive cruise control (the other cars get regular cruise control) is a welcome luxury. However, its lack of climate control seems remiss and is worth adding at £415.

There’s a bigger elephant in the room when it comes to safety: automatic emergency braking isn’t standard on the 308 but a £400 option. That’s very disappointing, given that Skoda and Volkswagen include it as standard. The 308 also has the least impressive Euro NCAP safety rating (although it still achieved five stars), scoring the lowest marks for adult occupant, child occupant and pedestrian protection.

New Skoda Octavia & Volkswagen Golf vs Peugeot 308


If you’re buying on finance or you’re a company car driver, the 308 is the cheapest option here. Unfortunately, nervous handling, an unsettled ride and decidedly cramped rear seats all count against it. If you’re buying outright, you’ll also have to suffer heavy depreciation, so all told, it finishes well behind.

In contrast, the Golf’s new 128bhp 1.5-litre petrol is now our pick of the range and worthy of a five-star rating. The Golf is the most agile and has the comfiest ride, too. That it’s also the quietest and has the highest-quality interior makes it a hugely compelling buy.

But all things considered, the Octavia has to be our winner. It’s fractionally behind the Golf on ride, handling and interior quality, yes, but it has a punchier engine, the most standard kit and unrivalled space and practicality in this class. Plus, while it isn’t quite as cheap to own privately as the Golf, it is cheaper if you’re buying on finance or leasing.

1st – Skoda Octavia

  • For Limo-like rear seat space; lots of standard equipment; colossal boot
  • Against Suspension noise; ride isn’t as comfy as the Golf’s
  • Recommended options Metallic paint (£555)
Specifications: Skoda Octavia 1.5 TSI 150 SE L
  • Engine size 4cyl, 1495cc, petrol
  • List price £21,865
  • Target Price £20,075
  • Power 148bhp @ 5000rpm
  • Torque 184Ib ft @ 1500-3500rpm
  • Gearbox 6-spd manual
  • 0-60mph 8.6sec
  • Top speed 136mph
  • Gov’t fuel economy 56.5mpg
  • True MPG 40.2mpg
  • CO2 emissions 114g/km
2nd – Volkswagen Golf

  • For Classiest interior; most comfortable ride; assured handling
  • Against Most expensive monthly PCP payments; not nearly as roomy as the Octavia
  • Recommended options Climate control (£415)
Specifications: Volkswagen Golf 1.5 TSI Evo 130 SE Navigation
  • Engine size 4cyl, 1495cc, petrol
  • List price £21,790
  • Target Price £19,902
  • Power 128bhp @ 5000rpm
  • Torque 148Ib ft @ 1400rpm
  • 0-60mph 9.7sec
  • Top speed 131mph
  • Gov’t fuel economy 58.9mpg
  • True MPG 38.3mpg
  • CO2 emissions 113g/km
3rd – Peugeot 308

  • For Cheapest PCP payments; lowest CO2 emissions; decent boot
  • Against Brittle ride; fiddly infotainment system; automatic emergency braking not standard
  • Recommended options Drive Assist Pack (£400)
Specifications: Peugeot 308 1.2 THP 130 Allure
  • Engine size 3cyl, 1199cc, petrol
  • List price £20,440
  • Target Price £19,412
  • Power 129bhp @ 5500rpm
  • Torque 125Ib ft @ 1750rpm
  • Gearbox 6-spd manual
  • 0-60mph 9.7sec
  • Top speed 129mph
  • Gov’t fuel economy 61.4mpg
  • True MPG n/a
  • CO2 emissions 107g/km




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