Peugeot's given the 308 the engine from the 208 GTi 30th and some chassis upgrades; we find out if the changes bring a bit of old-school Peugeot hot-hatch magic to this likeable family hatch.

What is it?

The Peugeot 308 is arguably a return to form for the French manufacturer in the style stakes. Gracefully reserved but handsome nonetheless, it’s a big improvement over some of the company’s less well-received recent creations.

Great dynamics were also once a Peugeot trademark, but over the last decade or so that star has waned. It's hoped that the new 308 GT can improve this aspect, too. Its sporting credentials are announced by the mild body kit, with side skirts and bigger air ducts, twin tailpipes and LED headlights. Meanwhile its credibility relies on stiffer springs and dampers, plus the 1.6-litre turbocharged motor from the 208 GTi 30th Anniversary. So, has it worked?

What's it like?

The engine is a good unit, although its character is very different to that of the GTi 30th. Instead of that car’s free-revving, high-end potency, the 308 GT version builds revs in a more leisurely, linear fashion. Initially this smoothness can dupe you into believing it’s not that quick, but a glance at the speedo brings home the realisation that it is - 0-62mph takes a respectable 7.5 seconds.

In the petrol GT (there’s also a diesel version), the engine drives through a six-speed manual gearbox. The ratios are well spaced to make the most of the car's broad torque spread, but it’s a shame that the rather long-throw gearshift doesn’t have the mechanical precision that some rivals possess.

Peugeot has made quite a number of changes to the suspension set-up on the 308 GT. The front ride height has been lowered by 7mm and the rear by 10mm, plus the dampers have been recalibrated and the springs stiffened. As you’d expect, these changes result in the GT acquiring a firmer ride, and it is noticeably more fidgety at speed than the standard car. However, there’s not much extra dynamic sparkle to compensate.

Challenge the GT in bends and there’s still a noticeable degree of body roll, but now, if you happen to come across a sharp bump mid-bend, the car will make a hop sideways as the dampers struggle to keep the wheels in contact with the road. Other than this it’s perfectly predictable, in the sense that it predominantly understeers - which can be trimmed with a feathered throttle – but otherwise it doesn’t feel much improved over the standard 308.

There is a Sport button that gives the GT more attitude. Press it and the dials instantly turn red, a readout appears  to feed you information on engine outputs and boost pressure  while the stereo augments the engine’s tune to make it sound vaguely (and rather oddly) like a flat-six. The button also weights up the steering, but, unfortunately, doesn’t boost its accuracy or feel. The brakes also suffer from an initial over-assistance, making them grabby until you learn to modulate the pedal pressure.

The 308’s cabin design is pleasing to look at and the materials used, at least in the prominent places, are of a decent grade. With most of the essential controls operated via the touchscreen it’s quite minimalistic, too. However, the absence of ‘real’ buttons does mean you have to swap between the various menus all the time, even just to change the air-con temperature.

The leather seats with their contrasting red stitching also add to the premium look and feel; they adjust to give plenty of head and leg room, offer good support and even come with a massage function to help de-stress while on the move.

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It’s a shame that the small steering wheel doesn’t come back farther to match the seat's movement, though – if you're tall and need the seat extended right back it leaves your arms at full stretch. The wheel does have plenty of up and down travel, but with Peugeot’s i-Cockpit dial arrangement, some people will find the need to have it set unnaturally low to enable them to see the instruments. Your over-the-shoulder view is also limited by wide rear C-pillars, although a standard reversing camera goes some way to making amends for that. 

In the back things are less spacious. Headroom is fine and on a par with many of the 308’s competitors, but the legroom is unusually tight so you’ll struggle to get two six-footers sitting fore and aft of each other. However, the boot’s a decent size at 470 litres and it’s well shaped, too.

Should I buy one?

The 308 GT is a decent car in many respects. There’s a discreet elegance to the way it looks and it feels well made and classy inside. It also comes well kitted out and with a claimed average of 50.4mpg, it’s relatively efficient to boot.

However, while it rides more firmly than a standard 308, it doesn’t complement this by feeling very sporty, which is surely the main reason why you’d stump up the £24k needed to buy a GT. If that's not your main concern, trade a bit of pace and go for the standard 1.6 THP 156 versions. These retain all the 308’s good points but ride better and work out several thousand pounds cheaper.

If it is the sportiness you crave, then you’d do better looking to Ford or Seat, where for a similar outlay as the 308 GT, you can pick up a Focus ST or Leon 265 Cupra that will deliver on the sporty promise.

Peugeot 308 GT 1.6 THP 205 5dr

Location Surrey; On Sale Now: Price £24,095; Engine 4 cyls, 1,598cc, turbo, petrol; Power 202bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 210lb ft at 1750rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1200kg; 0-62mph 7.5sec; Top speed 146mph; Economy 50.4mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 130g/km, 21% 

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Safari 12 April 2015

Peugeot where are you

I like the 308 - it is the nicest car Peugeot have produced in a long time. However why are they fussing with pointless things like small steering wheels and start focussing on what they were once masters at - ride and handling....

The reason is obviously more complex - however it is partly down to the fact that they no longer make their own dampers...

macaroni 31 March 2015

Too slow

0-60 in 7.5 secs for a 205bhp car?
The original 205 did it in 7.9 from 130bhp...
Andrew 61 29 March 2015

I did think the 308 would

I did think the 308 would sell well but there are few in evidence around these parts, let alone gti's. Perhaps too much brand damage done over the last 10/15 yrs ? and another car hobbled by no pucka independent rear end and electrical steering. ?