What’s Hot: Stand-out interior design, quality feel throughout, comfortable ride, plenty of punch for a 1.6 litre.
What’s Not: Swift, but not really a performance car, axle tramp (from soft front end).
X-FACTOR: The flagship of the 308 range may not be the hot-hatch you were expecting, but it excels in other areas.
Vehicle Style: 5-door small hatchback
Price: $41,990 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 151kW/285Nm 1.6 turbo petro 4cyl | 6sp manual
Fuel Economy claimed: 5.6 l/100km | tested: 8.2 l/100km
Have a gander at the 308 GT from the back. Looks pretty smart doesn’t it?
The small Pug’s rump is a wonderfully clean design, and in GT guise it’s gussied up with a discreet ‘GT’ badge and a pair of rectangular chrome exhaust tips on a unique rear bumper.
But take a closer look. In fact, get on all fours and peek under that rear.
Those exhaust tips are frauds. Not only do they not connect to the exhaust itself, but those two chrome rectangles are blocked off. No air can flow through them, and the real exhaust doesn’t come close to either.
And those faux outlets hold the clues to the 308 GT’s real character: it’s more about dress-up than performance car.
Despite the big wheels, appropriation of the “GT” initials, sporty styling cues and big “SPORTS” button on the centre console, it’s just a pretender.
Is that a problem? To be fair to Peugeot, the French automaker doesn’t make any explicit claims about the 308 GT’s chops as a performance hatch. In the marketing material for the GT, it’s described as “sporty”, “sports styled” or having “sports heritage”.
It’s no GTi successor, and Peugeot knows it.
But what’s in it for you? Is it worth your money, given the wide array of enticing hatchbacks around the 308 GT’s price?
We took the entry-level petrol model for an extended spin to find out.
- Standard equipment: Power windows, dual-zone climate control, active cruise control/speed limiter, keyless entry/ignition, front massaging seats, dusk-sensing LED headlamps, reversing camera, parking sensors, blind spot monitoring, rain-sensing wipers
- Infotainment: 9.7-inch infotainment display with 7-inch touchscreen, satellite navigation, 6.9G onboard music storage drive, AM/FM/CD stereo, Bluetooth phone/audio integration, two USB ports.
- Luggage capacity: 435 litres minimum, 1274 litres maximum.
We really, really like the 308’s interior style.
Its elegant simplicity and driver-oriented dashboard look great, and the quality of materials is superb. The GT gets a black headliner and red contrast stitching, and the ambience is appropriately sporty.
The sports front seats are trimmed in grippy Alcantara in the centre and supple leather on the bolsters, and also get a massage function to help ease your back on long trips.
They might only be manually-adjustable, but they’re more deeply sculpted than the standard 308’s front seats and offer great support.
The driving position does take some getting used to though. The small-radius steering wheel feels tiny in the hands, and it needs to be set low in order to view the instruments over the top of the rim.
That can cause issues for the longer-limbed. If you’re tall, or have particularly long legs, you may find your knees banging against the steering wheel.
The back seat is roomy enough, but there are no rear face-level air vents and under-thigh support is lacking. Other complaints? The glovebox is pointlessly small, and there’s only one cupholder up front.
At least the boot is big. Able to swallow up 435 litres with the rear seats in place, there’s also ample room between each wheel arch, plus four tie-down points.
To keep the cabin design uncluttered, the 308’s seven-inch touchscreen is the primary interface for the sat-nav, climate control, audio and phone systems.
The only knobs on the centre stack are for volume control and CD ejection.
And while that makes for a neat interior, it can be irritating having to click through multiple pages just to adjust the temperature a degree or two.
Thankfully, capacitive shortcut buttons flanking the screen allow you to jump straight to the nav, climate, phone, settings or audio pages.
And the infotainment system is fairly painless to use, once you’ve learned its sometimes-cryptic symbology.
ON THE ROAD
- 151kW/285Nm 1.6 turbocharged petrol inline four
- Six-sped manual, front wheel drive
- MacPherson strut front, torsion beam rear suspension
- 330mm x 30mm ventilated disc front, 268mm x 12mm solid disc
- Electric power steering, 10.4m turning circle
- On-paper specs only tell half of the story.
In the 308 GT petrol’s case, we have a 151kW, 285Nm 1.6 litre turbo engine pulling a 1200kg car. That should be a good recipe.
And, yes, it is.
If you’re not the type who drives everywhere at 10/10ths, the 308 GT petrol will provide plenty of excitement.
Peak torque is spread from 1750 to 4500rpm, and peak power is available at 5000rpm. It pulls strongest above 4000rpm, but is suprisingly muscular below that.
In sport-mode the throttle response and power steering respond quicker, and an “augmented exhaust note” adds some aural drama (though it sounds pretty synthetic).
While the GTI runs to 100km/h in 6.5 seconds, the 308 GT takes a full second longer. It’s not slow, but it’s not a true sprinter by modern standards.
There are two reasons why.
Firstly, with 285Nm of torque, the 308 GT petrol has 65Nm less twist than the GTI. Secondly, its soft front suspension produces a lot of axle tramp and makes it hard to get a clean launch.
That soft front end also costs it dearly in corners.
Without a proper limited-slip differential splitting drive between each front wheel, it doesn’t take much throttle to get the inside wheel spinning when powering out of a bend.
But on the flipside, it sure makes for a pleasant ride. Though it’s more firmly sprung than the standard 308, it doesn’t fidget over small bumps or transmit much shock into the cabin.
It’s a comfort-oriented suspension that’s a touch sporty, rather than a well-tuned sports chassis.
And it’s in more sedate forms of driving that the 308 GT is at its most satisfying.
The 1.6 turbo has surprising mid-range torque and is happy to lug around in high gears, and the six-speed manual is light and easy to use - which is good, considering an auto isn’t available on the GT petrol.
ANCAP rating: The 308 scored 35.82 out of 37 possible points in ANCAP testing, however it should be noted that this score applies only to diesel-engined models.
Safety features: Stability control (switchable), traction control (switchable), ABS, EBD, brake assist and six airbags are standard on all 308 models.
Parking sensors and a reversing camera are also standard-fit on the 308 GT, as is active cruise control, blind spot monitoring and a self-parking feature.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Renault’s Megane GT 220 Premium is the closest rival to the 308 GT, being a turbo French non-hot hatch with decent - but not scalding - performance. It’s dynamically better than the Peugeot, but loses out in interior quality and comfort.
If you want something with a bit more heat, there are plenty of compact rockets at that price point, like the following:
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
More 'warm' than 'hot', $41,990 is a lot of money to pay for a small hatch when there are so many compelling competitors with real hot-hatch performance.
And the argument for the 308 GT as a quasi-luxury option is diminished when you consider the Audi A3 starts at $35,900.
But in the 308 GT’s favour is its handsome styling, quality cabin and solid equipment list.
All-round, the GT is perhaps more about balance: 'sporty enough', certainly swift, and with a concession to ride comfort over outright dynamics.
As an alternative to the Renault Megane GT 220 it’s not a bad way to go, but that car has a retail price that starts with a ‘3’ and the Peugeot doesn’t.
If only the pricetag was a couple of thousand lighter, our verdict might be a little more complimentary.
Pricing (excludes on-road costs)
- 308 Access Hatch - 1.2 petrol manual - $21,990
- 308 Access Hatch - 1.2 petrol auto - $23,990
- 308 Active Hatch - 1.2 petrol auto - $27,340
- 308 Allure Hatch - 1.2 petrol auto - $30,490
- 308 Allure Hatch - 2.0 diesel auto - $34,790
- 308 Allure Touring - 2.0 diesel auto - $37,490
- Peugeot 308 GT - petrol manual - $41,990
- Peugeot 308 GT - diesel auto - $42,990