Overall rating: 4/5
Peugeot takes a more measured approach to its latest performance hatch, one that appears to be about more than merely horsepower figures.
In the Metal:
The Peugeot 308 was already a rather handsome-looking car, so adding more performance-orientated styling into the mix can only serve to improve the breed. If you were expecting exaggerated wheel arches and speed hump-scraping front splitters look elsewhere, as Peugeot has taken a measured, almost conservative approach to shaping the new 308 GT.
One of the standout features that differentiates the 308 GT from its lesser-powered brethren is the 18-inch 'Diamant' alloy wheels that add an upmarket glint to the car. Subtle visual cues include the repositioning of the Lion emblem from the bonnet to the front grille. Meanwhile, the lower front bumper element is made up of three distinct louvres that help to channel airflow in towards the radiator to aid cooling for the more powerful engine.
Contrasting black door mirrors and a gloss black rear diffuser that incorporates twin sleek rectangular exhaust exits are features of the new styling and in case you weren't sure of it, there are GT signature badging on the front grille, wings and boot lid.
Inside, there is little to question the quality of the finish. Peugeot really has done a very good job here, not just in the overall fit and finish but also in the smaller details. All of the touch points in the cabin exude a real feeling of quality; for example when you go to pull the door closed the handle is covered in soft perforated leather with red material underneath. It looks and feels the part. The red stitching continues across the dashboard and through the sports seats while the signature small steering wheel remains and carries the GT badge.
Going beyond merely installing a new engine, the Peugeot engineers have reworked the chassis of the 308 for the GT model, lowering ride height by 7mm at the front and 10mm at the rear in a bid to improve dynamism. The sportier stance is also a welcome by-product. With 207hp from the 1.6-litre THP four-cylinder engine the 308 GT is no slouch but it lacks a real feeling of urgency when pushed harder. Making progress is a smooth affair and that engine certainly wills you on to keep chasing the red line as it swings (anti-clockwise) around the rev counter.
The six-speed manual gearbox packs a good set of ratios although the throw between the gear shifts is a little on the long side. Not a huge criticism but one that needs to be mentioned, especially seeing how Peugeot has tried so hard to get the feeling of everything else so right. There's grip aplenty courtesy of the Michelin Pilot Sport 3 tyres and the car can be pushed reasonably hard into corners before any semblance of understeer starts to make itself known.
It loses out a little to the Volkswagen Golf GTI (the obvious rival) on power, but the performance gap feels wider than the 13hp shortfall would suggest. You can select a Sport mode in the 308 GT but all it does it add more weight to the power steering and increase the engine noise in the cabin via the car's speakers, the result of which is an overly-synthesised sound that to any keen motoring enthusiast is obviously fake. In truth the 308 GT is actually much more enjoyable to drive when left out of Sport mode.
The suspension setup consists of pseudo MacPherson struts up front and a deformable beam at the rear giving a supple ride that is not overly firm, even with the presence of those 18-inch wheels as standard. Behind which, the 330mm front brake discs (and 290mm on the rear) are gripped rapidly and firmly by uprated callipers with 60mm pistons; during more spirited driving the brake pedal has a progressive feel. It is largely down to these two elements that the car has a reassuring sure-footedness that allows the driver to feel confident in placing the vehicle exactly where they want it on the road. This is one of the 308 GT's strong points in what is otherwise just a well-specified car.
What you get for your Money:
Official Irish pricing has yet to be confirmed but we would expect it to be at least on a par, if not more keenly-priced than its main rivals such as the new Ford Focus ST and Volkswagen Golf GTI. The standard specification is high, a trait that resonates with the rest of the 308 range, and this could be one of the areas that entices buyers more than the car's outright performance credentials.
Should you need more room than the five-door hatchback, Peugeot is also offering an SW estate body style in the GT guise and in addition - if petrol power isn't your thing - you can also choose a diesel-engined 308 GT.
The Peugeot 308 GT falls shy of being deservedly called a hot hatch - it's much more of a warm hatch. It is still a very well-rounded car in isolation and is arguably well-suited to everyday life when we're not driving at anything near to ten tenths. Compared to the rest of the 308 line-up it does shine and if the long-rumoured 308 R is to be believed then it slots in nicely to what is becoming an all-encompassing model range.