Diesels tend to be more economical in terms of fuel use, emit lower tax gathering CO2 emissions and despite their higher purchase price, the dearer cost of diesel fuel over petrol and the 3% higher Benefit-in-Kind tax levy for business car users over petrol models, they have made up slightly more than half of UK new car sales.
That looks to be changing with EU and UK Government plans to levy a new tax on diesel cars to reduce NOx (nitrogen oxide) emissions that are harmful to health and the exhaust particulates of soot pollute our lungs and discolour town and city buildings.
From January 2015 the new Euro 6 regulations come into force for petrol and diesel engines so buyers will hope that any new emissions tax will not affect their investment.
Peugeot with their new 308 range of Hatchbacks and SW estates, the 2014 European Car-of-the Year, are well placed with their Euro 6 range of engine options. The headline unit is the new 1.6-litre BlueHDI 120hp turbodiesel with CO2 emissions of just 82g/km, NOx reduced by 90% and a 99.9% almost total elimination of diesel particulates. In addition fuel economy improves by 4% over Euro 5 engines with a Combined Cycle figure (depending on the model and its specification) of 91.1mpg.
Other BlueHDI Euro 6 engines of varying capacities are fitted to other models in the overall Peugeot (and Citroen) ranges and offer similar improvements.
What is BlueHDI technology? To keep it simple this is a three stage catalyser system within the exhaust. In the first stage the oxidation catalytic converter eliminates unburned hydrocarbons and CO2 and these are transformed into water and carbon dioxide. The second stage is selective catalytic reduction which transforms the NOx into water and nitrogen which is the main constituent of air using an AdBlue mixture (urea and water) injected into the catalyser. AdBlue has its own container which is topped up at normal service intervals. There is a warning light when the level is low and should the AdBlue run out the engine will not start. The third stage of the system is a particulate emission filter which eliminates nearly all particulates. Unlike exhaust trap filters, which can become blocked during continuous short journeys, the Peugeot additive system has a regeneration performance which is claimed to be four times faster than trap filters.
To try the BlueHDI technology I have recently had a spell in the 308 five door Hatchback with the 1.6-litre, four cylinder 120hp BlueHDI turbodiesel unit with Active spec which of course also has a stop-start function and has a headline fuel consumption figure of an impressive 91.1mpg for the Combined Cycle. The move up from the Euro 5, 1.6 eHDI 115hp power output of the non BlueHDI unit, provides 5hp more power, 30Nm more torque, 14.8 better mpg in the Combined Cycle and 13g/km less CO2 emissions and with the Active vehicle specification and equipment it only costs £400 more to buy at £19,495.
On the tax front both engines are currently free of VED road tax for every year with the BlueHDI engine for company car drivers being rated at 14% for Benefit-in-Kind tax and the eHDI unit users will pay 15% BIK tax, but these tax levels might widen considerably in the future under the proposed tax changes. The only downside apart from costing £400 more to buy looks to be the insurance group rating with the 1.6 BlueHDI model being rated in Group 22E and the lesser powered 1.6 eHDI version in group 18E.
So we have the figures but how does the 1.6 BlueHDI unit perform? It’s a little faster, it’s more responsive due to the extra power and torque and my real-life road test fuel consumption figure was an impressive 71.4mpg. This was not close to the 90.1mpg official figure but better than the 55-60mpg I have seen in the past from the 1.6 eHDI engine. My test drive over a week of work-travel using all types of roads from motorways to Cotswold lanes and the usual crawl through commuter traffic was no economy run. It was meant to be realistic driving and the test 308 Hatchback was driven that way.
The engine has strong power delivery with maximum torque of 300Nm (221lb ft) delivered from 1,750rpm. Mated with a six-speed gearbox, the fifth and sixth gear ratios are fairly ‘tall’ to help with the fuel economy so occasionally a change from fifth to fourth gear was needed to accelerate past slower traffic rather than just letting the engine use its torque to get the job done. Top speed is 122mph and the zero to 62mph acceleration time is 11.6 seconds. I could find no negative issues by choosing this engine and with new tax legislation planned for diesels it is the sensible way to go for many high mileage drivers.
For those drivers who cover less mileage and who might be concerned about higher tax levels for diesel powered models, even Euro 6 models, there is another option. Peugeot has just added a very good Euro 6 PureTech 1.2-litre, e-THP 110hp turbocharged petrol engine with stop-start. It has CO2 emissions of 105g/km and returns 61.4mpg in the Combined Cycle. With the same Active specification this 308 Hatchback costs £17,595. VED road tax is £0 for the First Year and then £20 for Year Two onwards so it is a viable option for those not wishing to go the diesel route and encounter the uncertain tax implications for diesel fuelled vehicles next year. It is also a cheaper vehicle to buy but a little more expensive to run.
Both Euro 6 BlueHDI diesel and PureTech petrol engines of various capacities and power outputs are available throughout the 308 Hatchback and SW line-ups. Engines range from 1.2 petrol to 2.0-litre diesel with automatic gearbox options available with 130hp petrol and 150hp turbodiesel power units.
As for the 308 five door Hatchback the vehicle has the same new Peugeot family face, on the bland side for styling but not off-putting. Inside the quality is high but it has their new uncluttered design for the fascia where most of the controls for the heater, air con and radio and sat-nav are operated via the 9.7-inch multifunction colour touchscreen. They are fiddly to use and require the driver to take their eyes off the road when driving.
The ride comfort is good, a little soft perhaps at the front end and the rear suspension units work hard to absorb the impacts from potholes. The Active specification is appealing with 16-inch alloy wheels, dual zone air conditioning, electric handbrake, rear parking sensors, automatic lights and wipers and leather covered steering wheel and gearlever. Carried over from the base Access specification are LED daytime running lights, electric windows and door mirrors, cruise control, DAB radio and Bluetooth.
Above Active are Allure and Feline levels of specification and prices for the 308 Hatchback range start at £14,895 and go up to £24,445.
The driving dynamics of the new Peugeot 308 models will not trouble the likes of the Ford Focus or VW Golf but the introduction of their latest low emission engines like the BlueHDI offer stronger class-leading competition.
MILESTONES: Peugeot 308 BlueHDI 1.6-litre, 120hp, Active, 5-door Hatchback. Price: £19,495. Engine/transmission: 1.6-litre, 4-cylinder, Euro 6, turbodiesel with stop-start, 120hp, 300Nm (221lb ft) of torque from 1,750rpm, 6-speed manual. Performance: 122mph, 0-62mph 11.6 seconds, 91.1mpg Combined Cycle (71.4mpg on test), CO2 82g/km, VED road tax £0 every year, BIK company car tax 14%. Insurance group: 22E. Warranty: 3-years/unlimited mileage. Boot/load space: 470- 1,309-litres. For: Euro 6 turbodiesel BlueHDI engine with very low CO2 and NOx emissions, impressive fuel economy, low running costs and taxes, comfortable ride. Against: Bland styling, not as sharp in the handling department as the Focus or Golf, too many main controls operated via the touchscreen. Miles better news agency