Driv­ing the Peu­geot 308 GT

Peu­geot’s 308 GT is light on spice, says Chris Knap­man

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Cover Story -

Peu­geot’s mar­ket­ing mae­stros would have you be­lieve the new 308 GT is hot­ter than a vin­daloo. That, with its tur­bocharged en­gine, chrome ex­hausts and sporty red di­als, it is driven by the kind of peo­ple who keep their loo roll in the fridge. Back in the real world the GT is not so much hot as warm, with a side help­ing of healthy prac­ti­cal­ity to go along­side the in­ter­est­ing bits. Not that be­ing the biryani of the car world need be a bad thing. Peu­geot it­self has nailed this warm hatch for­mula nu­mer­ous times in the past, pick­ing up buy­ers who wanted a pinch of spice with­out stretch­ing to a GTi. Pow­er­ing its lat­est sen­si­ble yet swift steed is ei­ther a 1.6-litre petrol en­gine or a 2.0-litre diesel. Heavy and sad­dled with an un­re­spon­sive au­to­matic gear­box, the lat­ter takes a tum­ble down the ther­mome­ter from warm to barely tepid, so let’s put that back in the mid­dle of the ta­ble for oth­ers to, you know, share, and keep the petrol one to our­selves for now. Pinched from the 208 GTi, and pack­ing 202bhp, this mo­tor should de­liver feisty per­for­mance, but in re­al­ity never quite gets to that level in the heav­ier 308, tak­ing too long to work through the mid­dle part of the rev range to ever feel par­tic­u­larly ur­gent. Still, its six-speed man­ual gear­box has a pre­cise ac­tion, if a slightly long throw. On the out­side, the GT doesn’t scream boy racer, not that there’s any­thing wrong with styling up­grades when they are as taste­fully re­strained and thought­fully ap­plied as th­ese. There is, how­ever, fak­ery at work, as ev­i­denced when you peer be­hind the shiny ex­hausts and see that they are in fact not con­nected in any way what­so­ever to the weedy tailpipe. Mean­while, inside the car is a sys­tem that fil­ters the best bits of the en­gine’s sound through the speak­ers. The in­ten­tion of this sonic silli­ness is to throw a chilli or two into the mix but, in fact, all it does is make it sound as though there’s a PlaySta­tion in the glove­box. It’s not all smoke and mir­rors, though. Peu­geot has made gen­uine up­grades to the 308’s sus­pen­sion, such as low­er­ing the ride height and in­creas­ing the stiff­ness of the springs and dampers. The steer­ing has also been tuned for bet­ter re­sponse, the brakes have been up­graded and there’s a smat­ter­ing of red stitch­ing and swathes of suede in the in­te­rior, in­clud­ing on the very small steer­ing wheel, which for all the Euro­pean Car of the Year awards and ob­vi­ous im­prove­ments to build qual­ity re­mains this 308’s most defin­ing fea­ture. Yet de­spite the prom­ise of honed han­dling and re­lent­less road­hold­ing, the GT is a dis­tinctly nor­mal car to drive. Those sus­pen­sion up­grades en­sure that body lean is well con­tained, but the steer­ing is in­con­sis­tent in its weight­ing, giv­ing lit­tle sense of driver en­joy­ment. On the plus side, as a non­sporty of­fer­ing the GT is pretty pleas­ant, with lit­tle road or wind noise on the mo­tor­way and a ride that is com­posed across most sur­faces. But pleas­ant, of course, is no good to the mar­ket­ing peo­ple. They need some­thing spe­cial, some­thing hot. The 308 GT, ami­able as it might be, is not it. Peu­geot 308 GT 1.6 THP Price from: £24,095 Power: 202bhp 0-62 mph: 7.5sec Av­er­age mpg: 50.4 Rat­ing:

Cur­ry­ing favour: the 308 GT has enough to rec­om­mend it with­out the need for mar­ket­ing hy­per­bole

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