The Peugeot 308 is the mid-sized model in the French marque’s Australian range. The latest, all-new, model arrived in Australia in September 2014 with the semi-performance GT variant following in February 2015.
Peugeot Australia is at pains to avoid tagging the 308 GT as a hot hatch, no doubt because its high-performance big brother 308 GTi is due here early next year and looks set to shirtfront the market-leading Golf GTI.
Instead the 308 GT sits around the middle of the performance band, an all-rounder aimed at those looking for a comfortable weekday commuter that can also be let loose for an enjoyable weekend spin.
In line with its relatively conservative clientele the styling of Peugeots isn’t as radical as French compatriots such as Renault or Citroen. Nevertheless there’s still plenty of flair to the latest 308 range with a clever design that looks sleek without compromising cabin space.
The front of the car follows the latest Peugeot theme with the upper grille flowing out to the headlights and back to the sculpted bonnet. At the side there are prominent swage lines that run from just behind the front wheels to the taillights. The rear lights flow forward at their upper and lower edges.
Among the enhancements the GT receives over the standard 308 models are lowered suspension; subtle skirts-and-spoiler; larger (18-inch) alloy wheels; chrome highlights on the grille, foglight surrounds and window frames; GT badges; and a new GT-only Magnetic Blue colour choice.
The LED headlights look great at night, while the turn indicators scroll rather than blink – a neat touch.
The interior features sports seats and trim; red-stitching; aluminium highlights; LED interior mood lighting; and sporty flat-bottomed steering wheel. All seats are spacious and comfortable with plenty of rear legroom.
Two turbocharged engines are available in the 308 GT, a 1.6-litre petrol and 2.0-litre diesel.
The latter might seem a bid odd to many Australians who, given our general lack of interest in diesel passenger cars, don’t associate them with sporty performance. They should do, because access big to torque is one of the turbo-diesel basics.
Although the petrol engine has more power (151 kW) than the diesel (133 kW) the position is reversed with the diesel getting an impressive 400 Nm compared to the still useful 285 Nm from the petrol.
Fuel consumption is listed at 5.6 litres per 100 kilometres with the petrol engine and 4.0 L/100 km with the diesel. In our test of the diesel GT we averaged 5.7 L/100 km (4.6 on the motorway and 6.9 in the suburbs) which is a lot higher than the official numbers.
Transmission options are limited. The petrol GT gets a six-speed manual, the diesel a six-speed auto with steering wheel mounted paddles.
There’s a high level of standard safety equipment including six airbags; traction and stability control; ABS brakes with emergency brake assist and brake force distribution; blind spot monitoring; collision alert with auto braking; hill start assist; rear view camera and parking sensors; active cruise control; park assist; head-up instrument display; blind spot monitoring; and automatic headlights and wipers.
The infotainment system displays on a 9.7-inch touchscreen with a well-designed and logical layout. It also allows for most of the car’s functions to be operated from the screen and so almost eliminates the need to switch back and forwards between other buttons and knobs. Not only does it present a nice clean centre console but, more importantly, reduces distraction time.
There’s a 6.9 Gb jukebox with six-speaker sound; speed-related volume controls; satellite navigation; easy Bluetooth pairing and a pair of USB sockets.
Peugeot’s reputation for outstanding ride and handing has slipped over the past decade since the departure of the excellent 306 so keen drivers will be delighted to hear that normal service has resumed in the form of the 308 GT.
Chassis and suspension changes in the GT from the standard 308 models include lower ride height at the front (7mm) and rear (10mm) as well as between 10 and 20 percent stiffer spring and damper rates depending on the drivetrain.
The tweaks do their job well with steering that is well-weighted, direct and communicative in normal mode and even more responsive when the Sport option is selected.
Around town the ride is comfortable and it’s an impressively quiet, composed and capable car. Once clear of the suburbs the diesel edition has sharp acceleration and can be hustled through corners at pretty decent speeds. Keep within your driving limits and you’ll have great fun. Go beyond them and one or other of the car’s safety systems should step in and get you out of trouble. Keep in mind that physics always wins in the end.
The Aisin six-speed automatic is impressively smooth in normal mode, noticeably sharper in Sport mode.
As the years roll by comfort climbs ever higher in the priority list for our ideal car. Unfortunately that usually means a performance trade-off; but every now and then a car comes along that ticks both the comfort and performance boxes. The Peugeot 308 GT is such a car.
A sophisticated, well-equipped French hatch it has enough interior space to cover big Australian distances on both motorways and back roads. Its $40,000-plus price tag may look like a deterrent but its high spec level includes many features that will be options elsewhere.
If you’re looking for serious performance then it may pay to be patient and test out the upcoming GTi. The GT will still be around as a fallback option.
AT A GLANCE
308 GT 1.6-litre turbo-petrol five-door hatch: $41,990 (manual)
308 GT 2.0-litre turbo-diesel five-door hatch: $42,990 (automatic)
Note: These prices do not include dealer or government charges. Contact your local Peugeot dealer for drive-away prices.
SPECIFICATIONS (Peugeot 308 GT 2.0-litre turbo-diesel five-door hatch)
Capacity: 1.997 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders in line
Maximum Power: 133 kW @ 3750 rpm
Maximum Torque: 400 Nm @ 2000 rpm
Fuel Type: Diesel
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 4.0 L/100km
Greenhouse Vehicle Guide Rating: Not available
Air Pollution Rating: Not available
CO2 Emissions: 103 g/km
DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 4253 mm
Wheelbase: 2620 mm
Width: 1804 mm
Height: 1447 mm
Turning Circle: 10.4 metres
Kerb Mass: 1320 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 53 litres
Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Solid disc
Three years / 100,000 km