What’s Hot: High level of equipment, good balance of handling/comfort and performance.
What’s Not: Not really a hot-hatch (but more than 'warm'), despite the price.
X-FACTOR: Ignore the usual 'snorting fire' connotations that come with a GT badge, and you’ll find lots to like about the 308 GT.
Vehicle Style: 5-door small hatch
Price: $41,990 (308 GT petrol), $42,990 (308 GT diesel)
151kW/285Nm 1.6 turbo petro 4cyl | 6sp manual
133kW/400Nm 2.0 turbo diesel 4cyl | 6sp automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 5.6 l/100km (petrol), 4.0 l/100km (diesel)
Goldilocks would love this car, surely. Peugeot's new small car flagship the 308 GT is pitched as a performance hatch that's not too hot and not too cool, but juuuust right.
In terms of pricing though, it's right in the middle of hot hatch territory.
Starting at $41,990 before on-roads for the 308 GT petrol manual, the GT retails for exactly the same amount as that perennial hot-hatch favourite, the VW Golf GTI.
The 308 GT diesel is a neat $1000 more.
In the 308 GT's favour is an equipment list that the Golf GTI can't hope to equal, but working against it is performance that, as we found out, lags somewhat behind the well-honed German.
We travelled to Albury to experience the 308 GT range on some challenging roads. We discovered plenty of things to love in both petrol and diesel models - each a little different on road - but we still have some questions about where the GT's real appeal lies.
- 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 colour touchscreen display, 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.
The 308's interior is one of the best in its segment as far as presentation and quality goes, second only to the VW Golf's near-faultless cabin (and it's a very close second).
For the GT, there's a black headliner to impart a sportier feel, a unique instrument cluster that illuminates red in Sport mode, deeply-bolstered sports seats, Alcantara/pleather upholstery and perforated leather on the steering wheel.
There is also a 'performance meter' display which sits between the speedometer and tacho, showing turbo boost, instant power/torque figures and lateral and longitudinal G forces.
On the whole, the cabin looks appropriately sporty and the seating position behind the wheel is nice and low.
The 308 GT's high-mounted instruments can take some getting used to (you look at them from above the steering wheel rim, rather than through the wheel), but they do make it easier to keep tabs on both your speed and the road at the same time.
And that wheel, with its compact diameter and meaty rim, is one of the best around. It feels substantial in the palms, but takes minimal movement for sharp cornering.
Like all other 308s, the GT’s back-seats provide a good amount of room for passengers, and there’s space for two adults to sit in comfort.
But, unfortunately, the faults we found elsewhere in the new 308 range can also be found in the GT: namely having just one (severely undersized) cupholder between the two front seats and a glovebox that’s filled with a bulky fuse box.
ON THE ROAD
- 151kW/285Nm 1.6 turbocharged petrol four | 6sp manual
- 133kW/400Nm 2.0 turbocharged diesel four | 6sp auto
- Front wheel drive
- MacPherson strut front, torsion beam rear suspension
- Disc brakes all around
- Electric power steering
Powered by a 151kW/285Nm 1.6 litre turbo petrol four (which is closely related to the 1.6 used by the previous-generation MINI Cooper JCW), the Peugeot 308 GT petrol has a relatively modest power output compared to similarly-priced key rivals.
But thanks to the 308's featherweight EMP2 architecture, it’s got a 100kg-ish weight advantage against the Golf GTI and Megane RS 265. Compared to the Focus ST, it's a sizable 225kg lighter.
Yet it’s not quite enough to give it the same level of performance as those cars.
The petrol hits 100km/h from standstill in 7.5 seconds, which is well beaten by the Golf’s 6.5 second sprint time.
Its small displacement is its likely undoing. The turbo doesn’t really start to come on song until 3000rpm, and while it will rev happily to 6800rpm, it’s not the torquiest motor by any means.
It’s also only available with a six-speed manual, which may deter some buyers.
But Peugeot has you covered if you're after a self-shifting gearbox. That configuration falls to the 308 GT diesel, it being the auto-equipped alternative.
It's a very appealing diesel, producing 133kW of power and a stout 400Nm of torque from its 2.0 litres of turbocharged capacity.
It’s definitely more tractable and easy to drive than the petrol, but it’s also a lot more docile in its power delivery.
Combined with the extra weight of the diesel engine and auto trans, that gives the diesel a 0-100km/h sprint time of 8.4 seconds. Mazda’s XD Astina, the only other diesel warm hatch, hits 100km/h in 7.7 seconds.
But, as you are likely aware, diesels perform best in rolling acceleration. Once moving, the 308 GT diesel is nicely lively and quite effortless as a highway tourer.
We found that both petrol and diesel 308 GTs handle very well on-road. While they sit closer to the action on a lowered suspension, and feature firmer springrates and revalved dampers, on-road compliance and comfort generally is pretty good.
The GT’s quartet of Michelin Pilot Sport 3 tyres also provide decent grip. True, go a bit hard and you'll find typical understeer, but it's quite manageable (a quick lift in fact will tighten things).
Dynamically, however, the 308 GTs could both still use some sharpening up.
On a quick sprint around a handling circuit we found the GT petrol to suffer from traction issues on corner exit (a proper limited slip diff would help), while the GT diesel was more nose heavy and understeer prone.
The brakes though held up to substantial abuse. With ambient temperatures in the low 30s and subjected to repeated hard lapping, there was no brake fade evident.
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
Peugeot doesn't see the 308 GT as having any true rivals, and to an extent it's right.
It may be priced line-ball with a Golf GTI, but the 308 GT has a much higher level of standard specification while the GTI is a more-focused performance car.
However, Peugeot appears to have forgotten about the Mazda3 XD Astina, the Mazda3's diesel-powered flagship that, like the 308 GT, boasts warm-hatch performance and a long list of standard equipment.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Is it a grand tourer, or is it a performance car? Peugeot prefers to call it the former.
In reality, this 308 GT pair is not quite either, but each finds its own sweet spot at 'somewhere in-between'.
It’s certainly comfortable to cruise long distances in these GTs, but the edgy looks and on-road stance suggests this car aspires to be something a little sharper than a cruiser. In the end though, a hot hatch this ain’t.
But our confusion about the 308 GT's true identity doesn't mean we hate it. Not by a long shot. Both petrol and diesel handle sweetly, come with a beautiful interior and are very well-specced for the money.
That’s where Peugeot's 308 GT really shines.
It’s got nearly everything you’d want in a small hatch, and with more than enough useable performance - provided you can stomach the price.
Interestingly, these 308 GT models - petrol and diesel - leave significant headroom for Peugeot to develop a proper stonkin' hot hatch to sit above them. We look forward to seeing what eventuates.
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