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.