We all know about hot hatches but the latest phenomenon is the warm hatch — enter the Peugeot 308 GT.
Not as raw, showy, stiff, powerful or expensive as a hot hatch, the warm version represents the sensible middle ground, with sporty looks, ample performance and without damaging wallet or spine so much.
Our French car-loving family of testers gets cosy with the GT, a limited edition of 140.
Iain: You’re of French stock, so you have a predisposed and irrational love of Citroens, Renaults and Peugeots. Are you brainwashed at school?
Jules: It’s patriotism. You support your local car industry. Australia used to have one.
Iain: I’m hearing crickets. The 308 GT launched a few months ago at $39,990 plus on-roads, now it’s drive-away for $36,990.
Jules: The original price was optimistic. Can’t you get a proper hot hatch for that?
Iain: Only a Hyundai i30 N at $40,490 but it’s the stand-out hot hatch bargain. This 308 GT challenges warm hatches such as the i30 N-Line Premium ($34,990), Kia Cerato GT ($32,990) and Holden Astra RS-V ($30,740).
Jules: Peugeot’s badge is more exotic.
Iain: If you say so. Style-wise it looks better than those rivals. The front end is nice and curvy and I’m a fan of the sporty red lettering saying “Peugeot” on the nose.
Jules: The rounded LED front and rear lights, fancy grille, exhaust diffuser and exhaust tips ooze style. It’s much less fussy than most Japanese or Korean hatchback designs.
Iain: It sits neatly on sharp 18-inch alloys too — the sports suspension lowers ride height by 10mm over a normal 308.
The living space
Jules: Sporty! There are Alcantara seats and red stitching. I’m easily pleased, aren’t I?
Iain: Some don’t like Peugeot’s so-called
i-Cockpit with its small steering wheel and high-mounted instruments. It works for me, especially as I like a very low driving position.
Jules: All sporty cars should have little red-stitched steering wheels like this.
Iain: It’s small, fat, perforated, flat-bottomed and says GT on it. I’m easily pleased too.
Jules: The big touchscreen runs satnav and smartphone mirroring but having temperature controls via the screen is so frustrating. Bring back normal buttons!
Iain: There are the usual frustrating French cabin quirks. The rev counter needle goes the wrong way, owner’s manual doesn’t fit in the glovebox, my sports bottle’s too big for the cup holders and the central storage bin is a maze of complexity.
Jules: Glovebox is for Gauloises smokes; cup holder for espresso. Europeans are different.
Iain: The gear shifter may be phallic but it has some style. But, wow, is that a CD player dominating the dash?
Jules: Properly old-school. I’ve not seen a CD in a new car for a decade.
Iain: Alloy pedals are a nice touch but I notice they’ve forgotten to add a clutch pedal.
Jules: Aren’t they as old-school as CDs?
Iain: I love this turbo engine, a gutsy thing that makes a rorty note without the vulgarity of popping hot hatches. With 165kW/285Nm, it’s plenty quick.
Jules: It’s easy to live with, too. We had the Peugeot 308 GTi 270 a few years ago and it was too stiff for a daily driver.
Iain: Go the warm hatch. It’s a good highway cruiser, especially with radar cruise control, but in town the eight-speed auto gearbox is a bit jerky and fussy, no matter whether it’s in Eco or Sport mode.
Jules: I love a hatchback’s practicality and the Pug seems roomier than our VW Golf.
Iain: Far roomier. We have a 380L boot in the Golf, the 308 trumps it with 470L.
Jules: Parking sensors front and rear and reversing camera eliminate car park bumps.
Iain: Here’s where the 308 GT shines. OK, there aren’t the raw thrills of a 308 GTi with its 200kW, manual gearbox and smart Torsen limited-slip differential — but in the lesser GT the balance and grip are quite superb.
Jules: And you’re less likely to lose your licence.
Iain: Probably. It only weighs 1200kg so its power-to-weight ratio ensures rapid acceleration. Sport mode amplifies the engine note, turns the instruments red and sharpens the response to accelerator and steering inputs. It’s a hoot.
Jules: It feels fun and safe to drive quickly. Some of the higher performance hatches are a bit twitchy and harsh for my tastes.
Iain: That makes it a great all-rounder. Suspension, brakes, fancy Michelin tyres and engine are racy enough but the GT can switch back to daily drive mode too.
Jules: For a small hatch, it feels surprisingly big. The rear doors are whoppers so getting the kids in is easy and they get plenty of legroom.
Iain: There are no rear air vents, not great with our summers.
Jules: Safety gear is family-friendly, with the likes of blind spot monitor, lane departure warning and autonomous emergency braking.
Iain: It isn’t as thirsty as I’d expected — we returned a decent 7.4L/100km — but it needs
95 RON and servicing is pricey.
Jules: Our 1989 Peugeot 205 GTi is history’s best ever hot hatch so I have lofty expectations of modern Pugs. The 308 GT hits the mark. It’s fun, fast, sexy and practical, if a little expensive.
Iain: There are frustrating aspects to the cabin but this is a hatchback to treasure for its ample ability, more than enough performance and inclusions that give a semi-premium feel. It was too expensive previously but now, at $37K on the road, it’s a fun hatch for the money.
Peugeot 308 GT Auto
Price: $36,990 drive-away
Warranty/servicing: 5 yrs/u’ltd km, $3354 for 5 years/100,000km
Engine: 1.6-litre 4-cyl turbo, 165W/285Nm
Safety: 5 stars, 6 airbags, AEB, blind-spot monitor, lane departure warning, active cruise control, emergency collision alert and braking, front and rear parking sensors
Originally published as Surprise new phenomenon affecting cars