Everyone loves a hot Peugeot hatchback, so it’s been a pity the French firm’s family-size car hasn’t had a spicy version for nearly 15 years – the last one was the 306 GTi-6.
The 308 has been a bit of a return to form though. We loved the 130hp 1.2 version we drove last year and it seems that Peugeot has finally relented. Launched this week, the 308 GT represents a proper performance step on the 308 ladder and we’ve been driving it around the hills of Portugal to find out what it’s like.
It’s fair to say the regular 308 is just about handsome enough to stand out from the hatchback crowd, but the GT takes things on a little further. On the not-so-good front is the absence of front fog lights. These have gone to make way for air intakes for additional cooling for the engine, but they have rather swish sequentially operated indicator lights above them, which sweep to the outside of the car as they flash – first seen on an Audi R8. The Lion symbol has been moved from the bonnet into the grill, sitting between a pair of LED headlights.
Heading around the side, Peugeot’s added bits of plastic to the flanks below the doors – we’re not wholly sure about them – but we do like the special “Diamant” 18-inch wheels, with fluted spokes. At the back there’s a black lacquered diffuser, with a pair of trapezoidal exhaust exits, although beware – these are decorative and only one seems to have an exhaust in it.
Peugeot’s done very little to the interior, which is a good job because we quite like it. Technophobes will still be baffled by the largely touchscreen-operated audio and navigation system, but everyone will love the fact that the screen is angled towards the driver.
There’s still room for a bit of polish though. Perforated leather trim abounds, with red stitching anywhere there’s room to stick a needle. Just about anything that can be polished metal in the cabin is polished metal, with aluminium panel finishers and stainless steel kickplates and pedals. The dials gain a chequered flag motif and turn red with a push of the Sport button – more on which later. Anthracite pillar and roof linings top off the more aggressive look.
You have a choice of petrol or diesel in your 308 GT hatchback and both are pretty capable units. The former is a 205hp version of the 1.6 THP engine which, allied to a nicely snicky six-speed manual, will dispatch the 0-60mph sprint in 7.5 seconds. Peak torque of 210lb ft is available from just 1,750rpm right through to 4,500rpm, so you should never find yourself in the wrong gear. 130g/km CO2 makes for £105 a year in vehicle excise duty (VED/road tax).
The diesel option is a 180hp 2.0 BlueHDI offering and, unlike the petrol, is available in either hatchback or estate body styles. It’s exclusively paired with an automatic gearbox which you can operate with paddle shifters if you desire, helping it along to an official combined fuel economy of 70.6mpg and £20 a year in road tax.
We tested both the diesel estate and the petrol hatchback on a mixed route up through the Portuguese countryside above Lisbon and found both to be pretty relaxing companions that could lift their skirts and make for the horizon with good pace.
Peugeot has lowered both cars compared to the normal 308, but not by much (7mm front, 10mm rear) and stiffened matters up a little by the same sort of margins; enough to spice things up but not to make the ride uncomfortable, even on those 18 inch wheels. A 308 GT will happily potter about town or manage stereotypically tight and winding Iberian village alleyways without much complaint. We dragged both cars over hideously unsurfaced roads with no more discomfort than a regular model.
A new standard feature on the 308 GT is the Driver Sport Pack, which adds large, friendly “Sport” button behind the gearstick. A firm press results in a number of things: the dials turn red, you get a digital boost gauge in the middle of the dash, the steering weights up, the accelerator map changes and the engine note gains a pretty nice snarl (even with the diesel engine). There seems to be no detriment to ride, but the change in responsiveness of the driving experience is quite apparent, and you almost wonder why this isn’t the default setting.
A word of caution on the growling engine note though. While it’s nice enough in the cabin it is a bit of sleight of ear and every bit as artificial as the exhaust tips themselves. Outside the car the bark is absent, so this is one to please the driver’s inner child rather than for attention seekers.
Value for Money
The 308 GT starts at £24,095 for the petrol hatchback, with the diesel hatch coming in at £25,945 and the estate topping the tree at £26,845.
There are really very few options available for either car, so complete is the specification list. Heated seats are a £1,200 extra, DAB digital radio will cost £300 and if you want any colour other than grey you’ll need at least £525 more, but beyond that just about anything you could want is already there.
At these prices you’re looking at undercutting a mainstream rival like the Golf GTI and GTD by around five thousand pounds – it even slithers in underneath the price of the Ford Focus ST TDCi. The 308 has the measure of both for fuel economy too…
A decade ago, a 200hp hatchback was the pinnacle of performance, but these days you need nearly 300hp to bring sweat to the brows of other hot hatch manufacturers. The 308 GT is thus a warm hatch like the Golf GTI (or GTD) and it’s good news. The 308 manages an all round performance that should leave anyone seriously questioning why they should throw more money at just about any other warm hatch.
If you want outright pace, you’ll want to wait for the more potent 308 R to hit production (if indeed it does), but if you just want a really good jack-of-all-trades that also happens to go at the horizon like a terrier goes at a rabbit hole, then the 308 GT is well worth a look.