It was bound to happen. Try as it might, Peugeot couldn’t make it through a launch presentation without mentioning the venerable 205 GTi.
This is despite stressing to us, in no uncertain terms, that the new 308 GT is NOT A GTi! Instead, the GT badge is intended to signify a halfway house between the regular models and the GTi hero models.
GT means a 151kW and 285Nm 1.6-litre turbo four, larger brakes, 18-inch alloys and a lower, stiffer suspension tune. Those outputs might seem a bit lukewarm, but the 308 GT’s impressively light 1200kg kerb weight results in a power-to-weight of 126kW/tonne. To choose a not-so-random example, VW’s Golf GTI offers 122kW/tonne.
Pricing, too, matches the VW, at $41,990 for the petrol GT – an auto-only diesel GT is also available, but for keen drivers the petrol is undoubtedly the pick – so despite Peugeot’s insistence, we are playing in the same ballpark here.
The 308 GT is reasonably handsome in an understated way, and the interior impresses with its minimalist approach. Moving all the controls, including those for the HVAC, to the central touchscreen, has allowed for a very clean dash design and it feels well bolted together – Peugeot is keen to leave the usual French reputation behind.
Peugeot’s controversial new driver’s layout – mounting the instruments above the steering wheel – remains, but works much better here thanks to the lower driver’s seat; you actually feel like you’re sitting in, rather than on, the car. The tiny steering wheel takes some getting used to, but the driving position is good.
But what of the driving itself? The news remains positive. Despite the impressive power-to-weight ratio, the 308 GT is no firecracker in a straight-line – Peugeot claims a 0-100km/h time of 7.5sec – but the engine revs keenly and is very flexible, while the gearchange is long-throw but light and a breeze to use.
Pressing the Sport button adds a rorty fake engine note and extra weight to the steering, which is quite slow but more eager and communicative than that in the 208 GTi. Occasional traction difficulties arise, but in general the 308 GT is a nice car to drive.
It’s not going to leave you breathless and panting at the end of a thrash – IT’S NOT A GTi, REMEMBER – but accept its limitations and it’s an enjoyable car to make progress in. It’s quiet and, in general, rides well, too, though it can get a bit choppy on rough surfaces.
Given the performance on offer, the price tag seems a touch high, but Peugeot counters this with a high level of standard kit, including LED headlights, massage front seats, active cruise control, self-park and a 6.9GB hard drive, though metallic paint is a $990 option.
The GT is a welcome addition to the ‘warm hatch’ crowd, but with a few choice goodies from the RCZ-R, the 308 GTi could be something worth mentioning 205 GTi for.
3.5 out of 5 stars
Engine 1598cc inline-4, DOHC, 16v, turbocharger
Power 151kW @ 5000rpm
Torque 285Nm @ 1750-4500rpm
0-100km/h 7.5sec (claimed)
Price $35,590 (manual)