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Peugeot 308 GT: the silver medallist Grip and handling get thumbs up

Spare a thought for the runner-up, that poor soul who came second. Like athletes who return from the Olympics with toothy smiles and a silver medal dangling around their neck; or the chap who got five numbers right in the lotto. Now spare a thought for the Peugeot 308 GT.

That’s not a spelling mistake, there’s no “i” in its name. Therein lies second place because the 308 GTi hasn’t pitched up yet and this GT already knows that it won’t hold the crown for long. It’s like the top-placed athlete at a tournament waiting for the world champion’s performance.

To run you through the local line-up, this range starts with the 1.2F (110 hp) turbo-petrol 3-cylinder Active, followed by the more powerful (130 hp) GT Line in manual or automatic. Top of the range – for now – is this 1.6F (205 hp) four-pot turbo-petrol GT.

A decade ago that would’ve been plenty-plenty for most buyers but the hot hatch market has gone a bit bananas. Nowadays you need at least 300-plus horsies to go for gold but – shh, big secret – you also need expensive engineering and uncompromising rides to tame such beastly power outputs.

Is that an indication of the upcoming 308 GTi’s potential? I suspect so (but hope not) because the world doesn’t need another crass, rock-hard, scary hatchback. What we need is smooth, mildly entertaining and efficient hatchbacks which, hooray, is exactly what a Peugeot 308 GT is.

I took a good look at our press car and was happy to display it in front of my house. The design is sleek and reasonably unique with Pug-specific details. These include a big lion on the three-bar grill and cool “slashes” in its elegant rear lights.

Distinguishing features to lesser 308’s are two flush exhaust tips, deeper side sills and sporty 18-inch alloys with bizarre grooves. The GT has that futuristic 308 interior with odd shapes, a fake CD slot, tiny steering wheel, raised instruments with bent needles and strange markings.

At R400 000 this current pole sitter sets itself apart with sportier seats, red stitching, keyless entry and a Sport button. Press that and those bizarre instruments turn red, some energetic read-outs appear and the car pipes an artificial induction boom through the speakers. I thought it was fun but my wife hated it.

“Sies!” she said, “That sounds common!” Thanks to the excellent response from the engine in non-Sies mode, I only used the boomy button while doing acceleration tests. And to annoy my wife. For the record, this Peugeot 308 GT clocked 0-100 km/h in 7,60 seconds (Peugeot claims 7,5) and 400 m in 15,2 seconds.

Most drivers agreed that the impressive torque figures of this runner-up are far more interesting than noisy rev orgies. Especially in daily traffic, the 285 Nm spread over six nicely-stacked manual gears come in handy. Available at 1 750 rpm, that does mean you need to keep at least 2 bars on the backwards rev counter.

As for the rest of the car, I have mostly positive things to report. Despite sporty ambitions, ride quality and comfort are pleasing. Grip and handling also got two thumbs up; as did the brakes and LED headlights. Peugeot quotes 370F of boot space, which is not exactly medal contention but still acceptable.

Average fuel consumption is 5,6F/100 km if you cruise at or just below the speed limit on a flat highway. Throw in some weight, hills, stops and other such everyday nonsense and you’ll be looking at 7-8F/100 km from the 53F tank. Still not bad.

Why would you buy a Peugeot 308 GT? Well, besides that whole 2014 European Car of the Year award, it’s a good-looking medium hatch with a favourable mix of power, efficiency and quirky style. It may be second to a GTi but, everything considered, I’d be happy to go home with the silver.

-Galimoto Media

Full Speclist
Engine: 1.6 turbo
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Kilowatt @ RPM: 151 kW
Torque @ RPM: 285 Nm
Fuel consumption av erage: 5.6F (claimed)
0-100 time: 7,5 seconds
Top Speed: 235 km/h
List Price: R399 900

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