Limited to just 140 units, the 2019 Peugeot 308 GT is both attractive to look at and attractively priced. Pricing starts from $39,990, and after a week behind the wheel, CarAdvice is mightily impressed with the lion's revived and facelifted hot hatch.
Interestingly, Peugeot confirmed when pricing and specification was released that the 308 GT would be fitted with a petrol particulate filter, ensuring it is one of the first vehicles to go on sale in Australia with such technology as standard.
The other big-ticket item with the 308 GT is the fact that it features some standard equipment that isn’t yet available in other 308 variants, making it an even more compelling option given the sharp asking price.
Looking at our tester in its deep blue hue, rolling on attractively machined alloy wheels, it certainly doesn’t look like a sub-$40K car, that’s for sure. There’s a genuinely premium feel to the styling and design execution, which comes as no surprise really, but it points to an enjoyable driving experience, too.
Getting the tech details out of the way first, there’s a 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine, which knocks out an easy 165kW at 5500rpm and 285Nm at 1750rpm. Peak torque being available so early in the rev range is a solid indication of the punch you might expect off the mark, too.
The 2019 308 GT gets a new eight-speed automatic transmission built by Aisin – a traditional torque converter automatic, which is the first time this unit has been available Down Under. Whereas some manufacturers have opted for – sometimes unrefined – DCT options, this traditional auto is a real feature worthy of note, especially in traffic where it is buttery smooth.
The fuel-use claim on the combined cycle is an impressive 6.9L/100km, and on test, with a solid chunk of highway running tossed into the mix, we saw an indicated return of 7.2L/100km.
Peugeot has been doing some work with petrol particulate filters for some time, and the company claims that the device used in the 308 GT is designed to handle our average fuel in Australia, both 95 and 98RON. It’s good news, too, that despite our poor fuel, we can still access a vehicle that is being forced into a high standard of emissions by Europe.
The standard equipment list is impressive with highlights including: AEB, adaptive cruise control with stop and go function, 18-inch alloy wheels, dual exhaust outlets, performance-tuned suspension, red stitching, privacy glass, LED headlights, electric lumbar supports, alloy pedals, keyless entry and push-button start.
Part of the GT’s appeal, though, is the engine note. It’s actually quite rorty, and that’s because it has an amplified, sportier engine note according to the company. As you’d expect in what is not quite a hot hatch, but it’s not far off either. You also get a red illuminated instrument set, performance data readouts, and sharper steering and throttle response via ‘Sport’ mode.
I found the engine and gearbox combination to be faultless either around town or on the highway. It tends to select the right ratio for the road speed and stays there, rather than relentlessly hunting through ratios as some ’boxes have the tendency to do.
I loved the cruise-control system, too, which accounts beautifully for right-lane imbeciles who can’t keep left when they’re not overtaking. Just select your speed on the highway and worry about positioning the GT in the lane. You can select the distance to the car in front, too, and it maintains the chosen speed even on long downhill sections.
While the ride is comfortable on coarse-chip surfaces in ‘Eco’ mode, it remains softish on nastier sections despite the stiffening of the damper rates and the 7mm/10mm reduction in ride height front and rear respectively. I do love the steering response, too, silly small steering wheel aside. The GT really does feel pin sharp if you want to hook into a few switchbacks on a country road.
It manages to balance the ledger beautifully between comfort and handling in a way that begs the question why all hatches can’t do the same. The lower ride height means it looks the part, but it handles just as well, and it rewards enthusiasm behind the wheel in terms of grip and poise. It’s a fun car to drive, without any of the harshness you sometimes get from a chassis that is chasing outright sporting intent.
The cabin is nicely executed, too, with enough storage, and it’s comfortable over longer distances as well. Apple CarPlay worked well for us, despite an initial glitch with what was a non-branded cable. Peugeot techs told us they have had similar issues, so make sure you always use a quality cable to connect your smartphone. Bluetooth was crisp, too, once set up.
The seats themselves are nicely sculpted, and you don’t slip around in them either when you do start to have some fun. Plenty of room in the second row for adults, too, and the boot is also useful if you need to transport larger items. 470 litres stretches out to 1309 litres when you drop the second row seats down. There’s adequate movement in the seats to get comfortable, and height adjustment helps shorter drivers get into the right position behind the wheel.
The door pockets house large bottles, and while the storage pocket ahead of the shifter could be bigger, it’s still useful for small wallets and keys. There’s a USB connection right there at the front of the centre console, too. The proprietary satellite navigation works really well, and while the display isn't as up to date as some of the best on the market, the infotainment control centre does what it needs to do quite nicely. It doesn't seem anywhere near as fiddly as some of the Peugeot systems we've tested in the past.
Now, that steering wheel is something I’ve never been able to get comfortable with. Some people love it, and some like me hate it. There seems to be no middle ground. I could actually get it into a position this time that didn’t obscure the driver’s display, but it still seems small just for the sake of it to me. It does have one positive, though: when you’re rowing through corners with a bit of gusto, it’s tailor-made for the task.
Visibility inside the cabin is otherwise perfect, and you’ll have no trouble reverse parking or getting into and out of tight city streets. The A-pillars aren’t too thick that they obscure forward vision, and rear three-quarter visibility is also solid. The rear-view camera is nice and clear when you use that, too.
Like the rest of the Peugeot range, the 308 GT gets a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty and a five-year roadside-assistance package.
After our short time with the 308 GT, I’m genuinely impressed by what is a fun, affordable warm hatch. As we’ve found more and more recently, hot hatches aren’t for everyone, and this newish segment caters to exactly that buyer. If you want a daily driver that you can uncork on the weekends, this might be the one for you to consider. Be quick, though. I reckon the price will ensure they sell pretty quickly.