If variety is the spice of life, then the hatchback market in Australia must be the among the spiciest in the world, given the sheer variety of vehicles on offer to consumers.
And that's a very good thing, and it means you can pick from world-renowned volume marques like Toyota’s Corolla or Volkswagen’s Golf, or choose from the best of Asia and Europe’s more niche catalogues.
Take the Peugeot 308 GT, as tested here. It probably doesn’t need to be on sale in Australia, where its sales figures are laughable compared to its presence in Europe. But it is, and we’re all the better for it.
The 308 is perhaps not the kind of car being cross-shopped by Australia’s budget hatch buyers, but rather a more discerning audience who want something a little out of the ordinary.
Does it deliver on its left-of-field promise and semi-premium price point? Let’s find out.
Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with? 7/10
One thing which should probably be made abundantly clear is that the 308 GT is not a budget hatch. Landing at $39,990 before on-roads, it’s almost playing in proper hot-hatch territory.
For a bit of context, I’d pitch this car’s direct competitors as the VW Golf 110 TSI Highline ($37,990), Renault Megane GT ($38,990), or perhaps the Mini Cooper S five door ($41,950) - although among those options it’s a bit unique in its positioning.
Hardly a budget buy, though. You can be getting into some seriously good mid-size SUVs for this price, but I’m guessing if you’ve bothered to read this far then that’s not what you're shopping for.
The 308 GT comes with ‘Diamant’ 18-inch alloy wheels.
The 308 GT is a limited-edition trim, with just 140 cars available in Australia. It’s also the highest level of 308 you can get with an automatic transmission (the GTi remains manual only). It’s a good one, too, with Peugeot using this car to debut its new eight-speed auto.
The 9.7-inch multimedia touchscreen comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Performance-wise, the GT also gets some genuine enhancements like lower, firmer suspension and a ‘Driver Sport Pack’ – essentially a sport button which actually does something other than tell the transmission to hold gears – but more on that in the driving section of this review.
To round out its equipment, the 308 GT also gets a reasonably impressive active safety kit which includes active cruise control – read about that under the safety subhead.
So, it’s expensive, pushing hot-hatch territory in terms of price, but you’re not getting a poorly equipped car by any means.
Is there anything interesting about its design? 8/10
This car’s distinctive style and personality will be enough to justify the price to some. The 308 GT is a warm hatch which is full of character.
The exterior look is slick. This Pug isn’t ugly. It’s rough in the right places to give it attitude. Its side profile is its most tame angle, showing stereotypical Euro hatch proportions, just with the wow factor of those massive wheels.
Around the back is restrained, there are no flashy spoilers or big ventilation outlets, just a rounded rear with tidy LED light fittings accented by some gloss-black highlights in the bootlid and rear diffuser.
Our test car was finished in ‘Magnetic Blue’, which is a $590 option.
Up front, the 308 gets frowny-face LED light fittings to remind you it’s a bit angry, and a slim, shimmering chrome-emblazoned grille. Normally I don’t like chrome so much, but this Pug uses just enough around its front and sides to keep it classy.
The more I looked at our test car in its ‘Magnetic Blue’ shade (a $590 option), the more I thought it takes the fight to the VW Golf for understated but sporty looks.
Inside is, if anything, even sportier than the outside. You sit deeply in this car’s strongly contoured sports seats, and the driver is welcomed by Peugeot’s signature i-Cockpit style.
That consists of a small flat-bottomed-and-topped wheel, with the instrument cluster perched atop the dash. It’s a different take on a tired formula, and it all looks very cool so long as you’re exactly my (182cm) height. Any shorter, and the instrument cluster starts to obscure your view over the car’s bonnet, and any taller and the top of the wheel starts blocking instruments (according to office Giraffe-person, Richard Berry). So, this cool design isn’t exactly for everyone…
Peugeot has taken a minimalist approach to dash design, while the 308 features the brand's signature i-Cockpit style.
Other than that, the dash presents a super-minimalist layout. There’s a fantastic large media screen nestled between the two centre vents, surrounded by tasteful amounts of chrome and gloss black. There’s a centre stack with a slot for CDs, a volume knob and that’s really all there is to it.
About 90 per cent of the plastics in the dash are well-built and soft to the touch - finally the nasty plastic days of Peugeot are a thing of the past.
How practical is the space inside? 7/10
There is a bit of a cost to this Peugeot’s minimalist approach to dash design. It seems to be there are next to no storage areas for passengers in this car. There’s one somewhat awkward cupholder/storage area behind the shift lever and a small top box. Outside of that, there are small, hard-to-use cupholders in the doors and a glovebox and that’s it.
You can’t fit a phone under the centre console where the USB outlet is, so you’ll have to run the cable somewhere else. Annoying.
Up front, there's plenty of room thanks to a high roofline and low seats.
At least front-seat occupants get plenty of room with the high roofline, low seats and a reasonably wide cabin. The 308’s front seats are not a cramped place.
Life in the back isn’t great, but it's not bad either. A friend of mine who is a bit taller than myself had a little trouble squeezing into the seat behind my driving position, but I fit with my knees up against the back of the seat.
Rear passengers misses out on air vents and can be a bit squishy for taller people.
There’s no air-conditioning vents back there either, although the comfortable seat trim continues with the added benefit of leather-trimmed doorcards for elbows. Passengers in the rear seats can make use of small bottle holders in the doors, pockets on the back of the seats and a drop-down armrest in the centre.
The Pug makes up for its lack of cabin space with a gigantic 435-litre boot. That’s bigger than the Golf 7.5’s 380L, much bigger than the Mini Cooper’s 270L, and on-par with the also-good Renault Megane and its 434L of luggage space.
With the rear seats in place, boot space is rated at 435-litres.
What are the key stats for the engine and transmission? 7/10
The 308 GT ships with the latest version of Groupe PSA’s 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine.
This engine is special, because it’s the first in Australia to have a petrol particulate filter (PPF). Other manufacturers would love to bring petrol particulate-filtered engines to Australia, but are vocal about the fact that our lax standard of fuel quality means they simply won’t work due to higher sulfur content.
The 1.6-litre turbo engine produces 165kW/285Nm.
Peugeot’s local representatives tell us the PPF was able to be launched in Australia by way of a different coating technique inside the filter itself, one which can cope with the high amounts of sulfur in our fuel.
Very cool and environmentally friendly, although it does mean this little Pug requires a minimum of 95RON petrol. You’ll have to be militant about sticking to that recommendation too, as there’s no telling what might happen if you run it on poor quality 91.
Because 308 GT is fitted with a PPF, it requires a minimum of 95RON petrol.
Power is good, too. The 308 GT can make use of 165kW/285Nm which is strong for the segment, and puts it in genuine warm hatch territory given its slender kerb weight of 1204kg.
Against a claimed/combined fuel consumption figure of 6.0L/100km, I scored 8.5L/100km. Sounds like a bit of a near miss, but I was enjoying the thrill of the Peugeot’s drive quite a bit during my week, so all-in-all it’s actually not too bad.
As already mentioned, the 308 requires a minimum 95RON petrol to comply with its petrol particulate filter.
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating? 8/10
The 308 has been augmented over time with additional safety features and now has a more-than-respectable suite of active safety items. These include auto emergency braking (works from 0 – 140km/h) with pedestrian and cyclist detection, active cruise control with full stop and go support, lane departure warning, and blind spot monitoring.
Although capped-price servicing is not yet available through Peugeot’s website, the brand's representatives tell us the 308 GT will cost a total of $3300 over the course of its five-year warranty for an average service price of $660 a year.
While it’s not the cheapest service plan around, Peugeot assures us the program is inclusive of fluids and expendable items.
The 308 GT requires servicing once a year or every 20,000km.
What's it like to drive? 8/10
Like any good Peugeot, the 308 is all about the drive. The low, sporty seating position and small chuckable wheel give it an awesome amount of engagement right from the get-go.
In Eco or Standard mode, you’ll wrestle with a little turbo-lag off-the-mark, but once peak torque arrives, you’ll have the front wheels spinning in no time.
Handling is excellent, with the Pug being easy to point exactly where you want it to go. A trait which comes courtesy of its nice chassis, low ride, slender kerb weight, and big wheels.
The GT’s sport mode does a little more than just re-mapping the transmission to hold the gears longer. It amplifies the engine note, firms up the power steering and makes the accelerator pedal and transmission instantly more responsive. It also makes the instrument cluster turn red. Nice touch.
It does add up to a properly engaging drive experience, almost to the tune of a proper hot hatch, where the peripheries of the car melt away and it becomes all about the wheel and the road. This is a car best enjoyed on your nearest B-road.
Day-to-day it has its drawbacks though. With its commitment to sportiness, and those giant alloy wheels, the ride has a tendency to be a bit harsh, and I found the paddle-shifters not as engaging as they should be, even with the sport mode activated.
Still, for an enthusiast wanting to spend under $50k it’s a strong contender.
The 308 GT is not a budget hatch, but it’s not bad value either. It exists in a world where ‘warm hatches’ are more often than not becoming sticker packs, and so its commitment to true performance is to be commended.
You’re getting good multimedia and great safety packaged in a stylish body, and although it’s a bit of a niche with just 140 being made available to Australian consumers, it’s still a great showcase of Peugeot’s emerging technology.