Just don't call it a GTI. Jonathan Crouch takes a look at Peugeot's improved 308 GT.
Ten Second Review
Want something that's a bit more mature than the usual hot hatch brigade but which can still show you a good time on the right road? Look no further than Peugeot's improved 308 GT in that instance. Available in hatch or estate, with a 180PS diesel or a 205PS petrol engine, it's direct but discreet.
Warm hatches. They don't really tend to get the blood racing do they? Usually bought by customers who wanted the range-topping hot versions but couldn't justify the expense to their other halves, the warm versions have a faded wash of penultimate about them. Peugeot, however, doesn't think that should be the case and in the shape of its improved 308 GT, it brings us a car with a personality of its own. True, this variant doesn't have the 270bhp firepower of the range-topping 308 GTi derivative but then it doesn't have that model's higher running costs and off-putting insurance costs either. As a result, this 308 GT variant should continue to command a profitable niche for itself. In the panoply of warm hatches, this one's a bit special.
There are two variants of the 308 GT to consider. Should you prefer a car that drinks from the black pump, there's the 2.0-litre diesel model. This packs 180PS at 3,750rpm and offers maximum torque of 400Nm at 2,000rpm. It's mated to a new eight-speed automatic gearbox. Go petrol and you're looking at a four-cylinder 1.6-litre THP 205 Stop&Start petrol engine. You stir the stick yourself here, with a six-speed manual gearbox to make the most of its 285Nm of torque, available between 1,750 and 4,500rpm.
The 308 GT's suspension set-up features pseudo MacPherson at the front, and a torsion beam rear, stiffened by between 10 and 20 per cent depending on model. Passive dampers are fitted with hydraulic bump stops for reduced noise. The steering is a variable electric setup and the rubberwear comes courtesy of Michelin and its excellent Pilot Sport 3s. The brakes are big 330mm discs up front, gripped by floating calipers. At the rear, the discs are 268mm diameter on 308 GT and 290mm on the alternative 308 GT SW estate bodyshape. Both engine types have a switchable ESP stability control system as standard.
Design and Build
That Peugeot hasn't gone over the top with the sporty design cues ought to be welcomed. This isn't a gussied up special for youngsters who want the looks but can't afford the insurance. It's something a bit more mature, for those who want a discreet but fast car. There are some subtle upgrades, such as the black lacquered door mirrors, the side sill finishers, the 18-inch 'Diamant' wheels, a lacquered black rear diffuser and twin exhaust pipes.
The interior features roof lining and upper window pillars finished in anthracite. The upholstery is enlivened by some red contrast stitching, this finish extending across the dashboard, door panels, gear lever gaiter and floor mats. There's an aluminium pedal set and stainless steel sill finishers in the door apertures. The instrument panel bears a chequered flag motif background and switching on the ignition produces a GT welcome message.
Market and Model
Peugeot's main target with the 308 GT in both talent and execution is probably SEAT's Leon FR. Expect a starting price of around £25,000 and you shouldn't be too far off the mark. Available in both hatch and SW estate body styles, the 308 GT ought to do well, the estate in particular offering a swift point to point car that'll never draw a second glance.
A Driver Sport Pack is fitted to all 308 GT models and includes red illumination for the instrument panel, displays for power and torque delivered, turbo pressure, longitudinal and transverse acceleration. Plus there's also beefed-up power steering, more responsive accelerator mapping, steering wheel-mounted paddles for the automatic 'box and extra sound piped into the cabin. The driver can choose to turn off the Driver Sport Pack setting for a more comfort-orientated drive, using a button on the centre console.
There's also a radar-based Driver Assistance Pack available which includes Dynamic Cruise Control, an Emergency Collision Alert System and an Emergency Collision Braking System. There's also a Blind Spot Monitoring System where LEDs in the door mirrors illuminate to warn the driver that there is a vehicle in the blind spot. Park Assist is also available, allowing automatic parallel or bay parking.
Cost of Ownership
The petrol engine incorporates a Stop&Start system to help boost fuel economy to 50.4mpg and drive emissions down to just 130g/km. That's not at all bad for a powerplant that packs 205PS. The diesel is, as you'd imagine, even more parsimonious and will eke 70.6 miles from a gallon of derv, with emissions pegged at an excellent 103g/km.
Residual values of the 308 have held up better than many industry experts predicted, helped by a reputation for decent build quality and very good economy. The 308 GT should prove no exception to this and the days where SEAT had a big advantage over on the French company when it came to value retention seem to be over.
The Peugeot 308 is a better car than it really had any right to be given its prior form line. It's now a genuine alternative to the best cars in the class and the GT model only boosts its appeal. With 180PS if you choose diesel or 205PS from the petrol engine, specify one in a subtle colour and you've got a car that is a great choice for those who like to make progress but don't like to draw attention to themselves.