A brisk Peugeot hatchback, if not a hot one. But there's still lots to coo over
By Stephen Dobie / Thursday, 8 December 2022 / Loading comments
It’s been a tumultuous year for some of the regular cars we know and love, even a brand like ‘Fiesta’ proving neither strong nor iconic enough to survive the SUV-isation of the car market. So it’s a delight to drive a brand-new iteration of something that has a recognisable name and rides a sensible height from the ground. That the new Peugeot 308 also happens to look arresting and offer a punchy power output on its price list? Well, that’s a wonderful bonus.
But it’s worth getting it out the way quickly: this range-topping GT isn’t a hot hatch, even if a 225hp peak promises some semblance of fun. As its name suggests, you’re looking at a plug-in hybrid, and thus a hatchback that weighs 1,633kg. In a world of 2.1-tonne Mercedes-AMG C63s, it’s not completely mad, but it’s certainly another slice of evidence for PHEVs being a temporary and far-from-perfect solution for making a car go quickly.
It’s brisk, though, with a 7.5sec 0-62mph time and 146mph top speed (or 83mph on electric power alone). The 308 GT Hybrid 225 sends all of its power to the front axle; the electric motor can provide up to 110hp and the familiar 1.6-litre THP engine 179hp, though you don’t get it all at the same time. A combined peak torque figure isn’t always a given with PHEVs, although here there’s a healthy 266lb ft claim.
It all operates through an eight-speed automatic gearbox we know well from abundant other applications. And it works well, helping the two powertrains blend together pretty smoothly with the engine dropping away at low-speed cruising or during deceleration – even when the 12.4kWh battery’s range figure is down to zero. Its quoted 37 miles of emission-free range feels very optimistic when a big chill arrives and the heated seats and wheel are prodded on at the start of every journey, mind. And the chore of a seven-hour charge on a three-pin socket (or 3h50m with a 7kW wall box) meant I never actually charged the thing in 700 miles of driving, however much the car’s infotainment screen pestered me to ‘get the best out of the powertrain’. Sorry, everyone.
But the 44mpg it consistently averaged would otherwise look decent in a car of this power and weight, if a long way short of the 213mpg (plus) on the Hybrid 225’s spec sheet. The resulting 26g/km of CO2 will be of notably more interest and relevance for anyone looking to get one of these, as a company car specifically.
For those buying (or leasing) privately it might look like a trickier proposition, priced at a mite under £40,000 – which is surely enough to make that Civic Type R price much less of a bombshell. You’re getting a premium product these days, though.
Yep, for all the hybrid tech going on beneath, I think this 308’s most interesting facet is how much it helps sweep Brand Peugeot onwards and upwards. It also occupies a fascinating place in the increasingly overwhelming kaleidoscope of the Stellantis world. I’ll admit to raising both eyebrows when PSA bought Opel (and thus Vauxhall) five years ago. The way that other brands have been hoovered up since has been somewhat dizzying, but this 308 proves that Peugeot’s not forgotten to cling vociferously to its own character in the process.
I can give or take the new Peugeot shield badge, but the confidence and swagger exhibited by the company’s styling department – and the bold moves they continue to make with dashboard architecture – is something I’m on board with. I’d be lying if I told you I loved the 308’s styling when it first arrived, but by the end of the week I was smitten. I’d frequently overhear passers-by not only compliment the 308, but recognise exactly what they were cooing over. Perhaps reinventing the badge wasn’t so silly after all…
The holographic dials on higher-spec 308s look cool, work well and give lots of credence to the ‘small wheel, high instruments’ layout that’s sat in Peugeots for over a decade now. It also negates the need for fitting a head-up display, saving cost and complication. I’ve always liked the setup, and further flattening of the steering wheel makes the resulting driving position a bit less of a compromise, allowing you to sit the rim an inch or two higher without blocking the speedo. The materials are all plush, there’s decent room in the rear seats and the boot isn’t dramatically impeded by battery tech, dropping from the base 308’s 412 litres of boot capacity to 361.
And as for how it drives? Well, the time it’s us taken to get there probably gives you a hint it’s not the 308’s most dazzling quality. It handles smartly, though, with a deft balance you sense would be defter still with 300 kilos of hybrid tech scooped out. While it never matures into a true entertainer, it resists understeer admirably and there’s a sense of the rear end lending a hand during cornering, if stopping short of pulling up its shirt sleeves and getting right into the thick of the action. Ultimately the 308’s greatest dynamic quality is its lush ride; no small feat with chunky 18-inch wheels and so much mass to keep in check. It really warrants its GT tag, with supreme refinement for a car of this size whether you’re in Electric mode or not.
So while it doesn’t earn a place in Peugeot’s rich and esoteric hall of fame – nor justify you immediately chopping in whatever you own now to hastily get your bum in one – it makes a thoroughly good case for not only standing proud of your other options on a list of business cars, but proud of numerous similarly sized products within its own family. Especially when the likes of Alfa Romeo, Citroen and Fiat don’t really do cars of this ilk anymore.
Indeed, this 308 doesn’t just sit lower than a crossover, but 20mm lower than its predecessor. Peugeot isn’t apologetically keeping a line of traditional hatches running, it’s actively developing them. Which is the best news of all here. With a little luck, the 308 might be whisked through the Peugeot Sport Engineered team at some point in the coming years. On this evidence, it deserves nothing less.
Specification | Peugeot 308 GT Premium Hybrid 225 e-EAT8
Engine: 1598cc, in-line four turbo, plug-in hybrid
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Torque: 266lb ft
Top speed: 146mph (83mph in electric)
MPG: 213.8-266.2 (37-mile electric range)
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