GOING small could provide the impetus Peugeot needs to get its A-game back.
On the back of launching its sporty 308 GT this week, the French brand has confirmed plans to cull it range. With an aim of concentrating on core models, Peugeot will drop from 46 models to 26 in the near future.
One of the vehicles pivotal to the brand's ongoing success is the 308.
Officially unveiled here late last year the Australian line-up is now complete with the GT's arrival, with the range-topping variant starting from just over $40,000.
"Peugeot is back in a big way. This all-new T9 model is a return to form for us," Peugeot's John Startari said.
"It's a return to what made us a formidable car company in the past and this is just a sample of what's to come."
Just like all other 308s, the instrument and steering wheel set-up doesn't follow the usual blueprint.
Designed to improve your peripheral vision, the binnacle featuring a combination of analogue and digital displays sits higher than the traditional position.
This is Peugeot's take on a head-up display (that usually project information such as speed and sat nat instructions onto the windscreen) which have become commonplace on high-spec offerings in recent times.
Initially it feels strange, although spend some time in the 308 and it all becomes second nature.
That can't be said for some of the operations. This GT retains the same quirks that we've seen before, like only one cup holder in the console, and the cruise control/speed limiter stalk hidden behind the steering wheel.
An array of buttons and dials have been banished across the dash in favour of a 24cm touch-screen which houses controls to most operations.
Key differences in this model are the sporting touches, including the alcantara/ leather-trimmed seats which have nice bolstering and can massage your lower back, alloy pedals, GT floor mats, red stitching and the change in engine note when you press the sport button - that's actually a bit of synthetic magic which is played through the stereo speakers and matches acceleration.
On the road
Lively underfoot, the 308 GT is no slouch when asked about its sporting credentials via the throttle. Pulling nicely from low in the rev range it feels strong without impressing your body into the pew.
Throw the hatch into a bend and it feels dynamic, assisted by suspension which is lowered 7mm at the front and 10mm at the rear. It takes a reasonable amount of effort to get the 308 to shift off its line.
Steering is direct and well weighted, slightly heavier than the run-of-the-mill models, it really feels like you have total control of the car.
While Peugeot maintains this is a "grand tourer" rather than raw sports car, it's still equipped with a G-force meter. And it does punt along nicely, with suspension that walks a line of compliant and sporting, with a good turn of speed.
Sampling the GT on the track and the road, it was the petrol which felt more nimble despite the oil-burner looking better on paper.
In a sprint from standstill to 100kmh the diesel takes just five seconds while the petrol is two seconds slower.
But the petrol's lower kerb weight and manual transmission makes it the pick for those who embrace driving.
What do you get?
Standard equipment on the GT includes chrome finish on the grille bars as well as front fog lamps and window surrounds, 18-inch five-spoke alloy wheels, cool red illuminated instruments that come alive when the "sport" button is pressed along with a digital turbo boost and acceleration gauges, sat nav, 24.6cm touch-screen, push-button start, LED headlights with daytime running lamps and CD stereo with hard drive.
The diesel gets steering-wheel mounted shifters with the automatic transmission.
Safety is top shelf courtesy of standard kit such as anti-lock brakes and stability control, but it also comes with radar cruise control which always maintains a safe distance from cars ahead, warnings which let the driver know if there is another vehicle in the blind spot, forward collision alert, automatic parking for parallel/90-degree spots and automatic braking which can lessen the impact of an accident.
Both are pretty light on the juice with good acceleration behaviour. The petrol model should achieve about seven litres for every 100km, and the diesel around one litre less.
There are still some questions over parts availability, although there is a three year warranty and capped price servicing available for five years or 60,000km.
With five doors and five seats, unlike many "grant tourers" the rear seats are actually useful. Two adults can fit in the back as long as those in the front don't slide too far backward. The rear pew also has a 60-40 fold and there is also a massive boot. Access to the USB and auxiliary point is in front of the shifter.
Peugeots in recent days have had a tendency to look clumsy and distinctly French. The 308 range cuts a fine figure, and the GT derivative is a muscly little unit boasting broad shoulder lines, aided by brilliant five-spoke alloys and dual rear pipes out the back.
The Peugeot 208 GT is a difficult one to pigeon-hole. Not quite hot hatch, neither is it warm, it's Goldilocks in the middle.
Peugeot is tight-lipped about whether there is a GTi version in the works, but the brand's performance arm has previously hinted at the possibility of there being a hot hatch derivative in the pipeline.
If that's the case, then Peugeot Australia will have its hand up swiftly.
The Peugeot 308 GT is fun and a great looking package … it just may take some courage to back the brand working on rebuilding its reputation.
What matters most
What we liked: Grippy set-up and direct steering, strong equipment levels, feels lively.
What we'd like to see: Extra cup holder up front, a GTi variant, true sports exhaust, auto in petrol.
Warranty and servicing: Three-year 100,000km warranty with roadside assist. Capped price servicing available for five years, petrol costs $495 while diesel is $684. Intervals are annual or 15,000km.
Verdict: Four stars.
Model: Peugeot 308 GT.
Details: Five-door front-wheel drive hot hatch.
Engine: 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder generating maximum power of 151kW @ 6000rpm and peak torque of 285Nm @ 1750rpm; 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel 133kW @ 3750rpm and 400Nm @ 2000rpm.
Transmission: Six-speed manual (petrol only) or six-speed automatic.
Consumption: 5.6 litres/100km (combined average, petrol); 4.0L/100km.
Performance: 0-100kmh in 7.5 seconds (petrol); 5.5 seconds (diesel).
Bottom line: GT petrol (m) $41,990; GT diesel (a) $42,990.
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