Peugeot 308 GT has magic touch
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Australian motoring writer Grand Edwards checks out some French flair
Going small could provide the impetus Peugeot needs to get its A-game back with the launch of its sporty 308 GT.
Officially unveiled here late last year, the Australian line-up is now complete with the GT’s arrival, while New Zealand has instead decided to go for the 308GTi, due for launch later this year.
Just like all other 308s, the instrument and steering wheel set-up doesn’t follow the usual blueprint.
Designed to improve your peripheral vision, the binnacle featuring a combination of analogue and digital displays sits higher than the traditional position.
This is Peugeot’s take on a head-up display (which usually projects information such as speed and satnav instructions on to the windscreen) now commonplace on high-spec offerings.
Initially it feels strange, although spend some time in the 308 and it all becomes second nature.
That can’t be said for some of the operations. This GT retains the same quirks that we’ve seen before, like only one cup holder in the console, and the cruise control/speed limiter stalk hidden behind the steering wheel.
Key differences in this model are the sporting touches, including the alcantara/leather-trimmed seats (which have nice bolstering and can massage your lower back), alloy pedals, GT floor mats, red stitching and the change in engine note when you press the sport button — that’s actually a bit of synthetic magic which is played through the stereo speakers and matches acceleration.
There are two variants available in Australia, the 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol with 151kW of power and 285Nm of torque, and the 2-litrefour-cylinder turbo diesel (133kW/400Nm).
Lively underfoot, the 308 GT is no slouch when asked about its sporting credentials via the throttle. Pulling nicely from low in the rev range it feels strong without impressing your body into the pew.
Throw the hatch into a bend and it feels dynamic, assisted by suspension which is lowered 7mm at the front and 10mm at the rear. It takes a reasonable amount of effort to get the 308 to shift off its line.
Steering is direct and well weighted, slightly heavier than the run-of-the-mill models. It really feels like you have total control of the car.
While Peugeot maintains this is a “grand tourer” rather than raw sports car, it’s still equipped with a G-force meter. And it does punt along nicely, with suspension that walks a line of compliant and sporting, with a good turn of speed.
In a sprint from standstill to 100km/h the diesel takes just five seconds while the petrol is two seconds slower.
But the petrol’s lower kerb weight and manual transmission makes it the pick for those who embrace driving.
Standard equipment on the GT includes chrome finish on the grille bars as well as front fog lamps and window surrounds, 18-inch five-spoke alloy wheels, cool red illuminated instruments that come alive when the “sport” button is pressed, along with a digital turbo boost and acceleration gauges, satnav, 24.6cm touch-screen, push-button start, LED headlights with daytime running lamps and CD stereo with hard drive.
The diesel gets steering-wheel mounted shifters with the automatic transmission.
Safety is top shelf courtesy of standard kit such as anti-lock brakes and stability control, but it also comes with radar cruise control which always maintains a safe distance from cars ahead, warnings which let the driver know if there is another vehicle in the blind spot, forward collision alert, automatic parking for parallel/90-degree spots and automatic braking which can lessen the impact of an accident.
With five doors and five seats, unlike many “grand tourers” the rear seats are actually useful. Two adults can fit in the back as long as those in the front don’t slide too far backward.
PROS AND CONS PEUGEOT 308 GT
ENGINE:1.6-litre petrol, 2-litre diesel
PRICE:Not available in NZ.
PROS: Grippy set-up and direct steering, strong equipment levels, feels lively.
CONS: Extra cup holder up front, a GTi variant, true sports exhaust.
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