Let’s get one straight from the start, the last time I was behind the wheel of the new Peugeot 308 GT was a year ago in Cannes, in the South of France and it was epic – a suitable silver screen event for the first Peugeot to sport their new coat of arms. But would I still be impressed driving on our local NZ roads? Peugeot NZ thought I should find out.
Not to rub it in, but having your first date with an ‘oh, so French’ car around the glorious French Riviera is bucket list stuff, this plus being on the wrong side of both the road and the car could give you (me) rose coloured spectacles in terms of what the new 308 GT has to offer, after all, aren’t we a nation of ute and SUV lovers? However, it would appear not.
As a nameplate, the 308 was first established around 2007 and as a successor to the 307 and it’s been popular virtually from the get go, with its first two generations selling around 1.3 million units globally and the previous model winning European Car of the Year – no pressure on the next generation then.
My review model came in the striking ‘olivine green’ which is essentially the hero colour and therefore stunning (especially in the sun – Azur or Auckland) and really helps accentuate its new exterior styling. The long bonnet comes with sculpted curves that look great when driving, while the redesigned cascading grille showcases the brand’s new lion’s head coat of arms (it also hides a myriad of technical wizardry). While the matrix LED headlights and elongated sabre-design DRL’s and discrete vents help complete the 5-door hatch’s visage.
Pronounced wheel arches and sils give the new 308 more visible road stance, (and shroud the model’s 18-inch alloys), while the strong character lines, fender mounted ‘lion’s head’ coat of arms and tapering roofline (with full-sized sunroof) combine to add to the 308’s sporty style.
The rear comes with a roofline spoiler, 3-claw LED lights that offer up a unique light display, another lion’s head coat of arms and a semi-hidden boot handle (so you can keep your hands clean) that gives you access to 412L of luggage space.
For the new 308, NZ has a pride of three (lion reference). The Allure, the GT (that I am reviewing) and a PHEV on the horizon. The first two, come with a 1.2L puretech 3-cylinder engine married to an 8-speed transmission, together they produce 92kW of power and 230Nm of torque, with 5.2L/100km fuel efficiency and 119g/km of emissions and therefore eligible for an NZ rebate.
Step inside and you are greeted with a modern cabin that’s spacious too. The seats are leather, very well bolstered, and comfy too. The use of leather extends across the majority of the 308’s touchpoints and when combined with some restricted use of contrast stitching, the result is sporty/premium. The build quality is solid without any hint of squeaks or panel gaps, and they have been conservative in the use of gloss plastics, so it’s not a smudgy fingerprint fest.
The infotainment screen is 10-inches and is kind of split, with the lower section having fixed shortcuts to likes of climate control, auto start/stop and music input, while the main section offers the full suite of large icon’d apps and entertainment, Android auto, Apple Carplay, a 10-speaker Focal audio system even helping you purify the air in the cabin. The (i-cockpit) instrument cluster is 10-inches too, clean and clear and reasonably personalisable – even changing colour with each of the drive modes.
I spent more or less a week with the new Peugeot 308 GT which meant that it joined me on all my family outings along with some spirited drives of my own, handling both with equal aplomb. And as I said before, being on the right side of the car and road (well left on the road of course), and no Cannes scenery to gaze at, meant that I could concentrate on the drive.
For the new 308, Peugeot have opted for the EMP2 platform which, aside from the fact that it will accommodate the move to electricity, it’s also firmer and more stoic on the road. The driving position feels quite low too, (or maybe I’m getting used to SUVs), which means there is an immediate sensation of speed from the moment you head off – although the reality is, the 308 GT has a zero to 100km/h time of 9.7 seconds.
Pushing the rev needle north, means that the 3-cylinder engine creates the most enjoyable of notes, one that often had me turning down the stereo to hear, and this mixed with the hatch’s tiny steering wheel brings out your inner racing driver. Off the line speed aside, the 308 is grippy in the corners and handled the greater Auckland roads with glee – I mean it’s only 4.44m long with a kerb weight of 1.3-tonnes, so it should be light-footed right.
When it comes to safety, both the 308’s passive and active systems go a long way to help rather than hinder, meaning that they do ensure you stay in your lane and facing the right way on the road, without having to fight with them and for those times that you want to relax and cruise along the highway, the cruise control is active and thanks to great NVH and acoustic glass, the cabin is a quiet place to be.
For this 3rd generation Peugeot went back to their customers and other hatchback drivers and asked them what the wanted, the result is a vehicle that looks stylish, has lots of character and personality and has a low centre of gravity. My advice though is buy it in Olivine green and drive it in Sports mode with the revs up high (although granted not ideal if you want to reap the low emissions and efficiency rewards).