NEW PEUGEOT 308 GT

Excellent design and fluid handling give this GT-badged lion its roar, less so the modest three-cylinder motor.

There’s a big design story backing the new 308 range, a core model for Peugeot globally and a contender for Car of the Year honours in New Zealand. As a compact hatchback, it’s in a heated category battle with Golf, Focus and Mazda3 and its dimensions and level of appointment have grown in line with those of its competitors.

While first impressions of the 308 GT confirm a pronounced move upmarket, the use of the efficient but gruff three-cylinder turbo means performance is modest and slightly at odds with the lounge-like sophistication of the cabin. That GT badge suggests more oomph for your $54k. But at least you get to enjoy much of the available performance most of the time, there’s decent character in the soundtrack, and 230Nm of torque is adequate for shifting 1288kg. Credit to Peugeot for ramping up its safety systems and still keeping kerb weight in check.

And the GT is generally fun to drive in warm front-drive Peugeot tradition, particularly in the way it steers and the poise it exhibits when hussled. There’s an abundance of grip from broad tyres on 18-inch alloys, the ride is firm but reasonably compliant, and the eight-speed auto (with paddles) is quick to shift in Sport and smooth at speeds above walking pace. It can require concentration when creeping along in traffic, sometimes stumbling with the stop-start function.

As for the design, note the detailing in the light clusters (Matrix LEDs up front and claw-effect LEDs at the rear), the dramatic sculpting at either side of the bonnet and through high-shouldered flanks, the gloss black and dark chrome detailing, a proliferation of Peugeot badges featuring the new logo, and a general air of athletic intent with the car sitting quite low on diamond-cut two-tones. It’s a classy look, no question.

Inside, highlights include a 10-inch configurable 2D instrument cluster for the quirky i-Cockpit and a very nice full-grain leather wheel. Dominant materials are black Alcantara, leatherette and cloth trim with green stitching. We were spoilt by inclusions from an optional Premium Pack (an additional $5000) that includes black leather upholstery, brilliant AGR front seats with an excellent range of adjustment, extensive lumbar support, extended nose cushioning, and multi-point massaging. Icing on the cake was the Focal premium hi-fi with 10 speakers.

But go easy tiger, because before you know it, you’re looking at an outlay of $60k. And while the aesthetic excellence, comfort and on-board tech reflect such a price, the powertrain lacks the punch and refinement to do likewise.

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PEUGEOT 308 GT

ENGINE 1199cc 3-cyl turbo

POWER 96kW @ 5500rpm

TORQUE 230Nm @ 1750rpm

TRANSMISSION 8-speed auto

DRIVETRAIN front-wheel drive

LENGTH 4.37m

WEIGHT 1288kg

WHEELS 18-inch alloy

TYRES 225/40 (f, r)

0-100km/h 9.7 secs

FUEL CLAIM 5.2L/100km

PRICE from $53,990

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