28 September 2023

Peugeot nails 'a pretty face' with the new 308, but what about the 'more than' bit?

| James Coleman
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The 2023 Peugeot 308 GT Premium posing along Uriarra Road. Photos: James Coleman.

‘Mensur scar’, ‘the bragging scar’, ‘smite’, ‘Schmitt’ or ‘renommierschmiss’ – call it what you want, I wonder if it’s what Peugeot had in mind when they designed their new hatchback.

Let me explain … In the early 20th century, when posh university students in Europe got their kicks from fencing, this could result in a sword to the face and a ‘duelling scar’ on your cheek for the rest of your life. But far from a permanent sign the other guy was better than you, this scar was worn as a badge of honour and courage.

Where am I going with this? The vertical daytime-running lights on the front of the 2023 Peugeot 308 GT look like they were cut on. You’ll never look at it the same way now.

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It’s not a criticism in this case, either. A drive along Uriarra Road had passing cyclists peering and a brief photo shoot in Forrest had compliments flowing. There’s no doubt the 308 is spectacularly good-looking, especially when set off in this dizzyingly vibrant ‘Vertigo Blue’.

People are also double-taking the updated logo because up to this point – or at least until the stunning 508 Sportswagon – Peugeot hasn’t had a glowing record when it comes to styling. That’s all changed. This isn’t your average Peugeot. Nor is it your average hatchback.

The new 308 GT starts at $43,990, before driveaway costs. This particular one, borrowed from the John McGrath dealership in Phillip, is the GT Premium and starts at $48,990. A wagon version is also available from $50,490. A plug-in hybrid, arriving soon, is expected to cost more than $60 K.

It’s very pleasing to note – once you’ve finished ogling the design of the 18-inch ‘Portland’ wheels and rear light graphics – everything feels very premium.

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First up, we have to mention the massage function, available on both the driver and passenger seats. Lumbar, cat paw, wave, stretch – it does it all. More cars need more massaging seats. Scrub that. All cars need massaging seats.

Then there is the Focal sound system, surround-view camera and panoramic sunroof.

The attention to detail flows through elsewhere too. There’s a mix of solid plastic, suede and plush leather trimmed in tasteful green stitching. On the road, it rides stiffly but smoothly. The steering is precise and the wheel is perfectly sized for the job, even if it involves the usual Peugeot quirk of having to look over it rather than through it to see the dials.

Not that they’re really dials. Peugeot calls the 10-inch driver’s screen a ‘3D i-Cockpit’, which – much like watching Avatar: The Way of Water in 3D – might be gratuitous but is also just nice to look at.

And as car makers toss up what to do with physical buttons, Peugeot has done the French thing and taken a different route.

Press any of the digital icons beneath the main touchscreen for a couple of seconds and you can swap them for whatever shortcuts you want, such as air-conditioning temperature or ‘Stop-start off’. This, along with your seat position, also forms part of your driver profile so whenever the car recognises your phone is on board, it preps everything exactly how you like it. Except for the AC vents, which you’ll still have to straighten manually.

At the end of the day then, it’s a lot for the price, especially when compared to rivals from BMW and Mercedes.

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In this market, a car might not advertise itself as a sports car, but it still has to beat lesser beings at traffic lights. Dutifully, Peugeot has provided the 308 GT with a 1.2-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine. But before you point out that your wristwatch has more horses, prodding the accelerator reveals an eager beast with an intoxicatingly raspy roar. True, the initial get-up-and-go is slightly jolty as the eight-speed automatic gets its stuff together, but 0-100 km/h is completed in 9.6 seconds. So not only is it a genuine joy to drive, it’s also ‘not terribly shabby’.

In fact, it’s getting hard to meaningfully fault this car. And that’s certainly not something anyone would have said about a Peugeot a decade ago.

Blue car

The 2023 Peugeot 308 GT Premium wears its scar as a badge of honour. Photo: James Coleman.

2023 Peugeot 308 GT Premium

  • $48,990 (plus driveaway costs)
  • 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol; 96 kW / 230 Nm
  • 8-speed automatic transmission; front-wheel drive (FWD)
  • 0-100 km/h in 9.6 seconds
  • 4-star Euro NCAP safety rating

This car was provided for testing by John McGrath Peugeot. Region has no commercial arrangement with the John McGrath Auto Group.

Original Article published by James Coleman on Riotact.

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