Review: Peugeot 308GT THP 175
The Peugeot 308 isn’t renowned as a sporty drive but with 175bhp under the bonnet, this GT model isn’t short of go. Andy Enright reports
As long as you don’t go expecting a proper hot hatch, the Peugeot 308 GT THP 175 shouldn’t disappoint.
It’s a great engine allied to one of the more comfortable and sophisticated family hatches around. If you like a car that feels bigger than it is and doesn’t expect you to try too hard, look no further.
I can pinpoint with some exactitude the moment that Peugeot lost its knack of building fun fast hatchbacks. It wasn’t when the seminal 205 GTi was pensioned off or even when the talented but underrated 306 GTi-6 hopped the twig. No, the time when Peugeot joined mere mortal car manufacturers was when it binned the 106 GTi and decided the 107 was an adequate replacement for keen drivers. Which, when you think about it, wasn’t all that long ago. The death of the great Peugeot fast hatch has been much debated and the launch of the Peugeot 308 GT THP 175 isn’t going to stop that discussion, but think of it as a step in the right direction. It’s fast, if not furious, being a little more mature in its attitude than many similarly powered rivals and emerges as a very worthy addition to the Peugeot line up.
The 1.6-litre turbocharged powerplant is one of the best installations of its type. There’s a smooth surge of torque available across a broad range, with none of that bog and surge characteristic that afflicts many turbocharged engines. You may well have experienced it in the 207 GTi THP 175 and while the significantly bigger 308 can’t match the 207’s sprinting ability, it’ll still get to 60mph in 8 seconds and keep accelerating to 140mph. Those with longer memories may remember this car’s predecessor, the 307 2.0-litre 180 Feline. Not only was that car slower, it was also a good deal thirstier and nowhere near as clean in terms of emissions. Designed in conjunction with BMW, the engine is mated to a six-speed manual gearbox.
Maximum torque is rated at 180lb/ft at just 1600rpm but an overboost facility allows up to 195lb/ft for short periods, such as when effecting an overtaking manoeuvre. The 308 is, above all, an easy car to drive and all models feature steering that doesn’t require much effort. Peugeot hasn’t beefed up the suspension too seriously either, aiming to retain the 308’s supple ride.
"A great engine allied to one of the more comfortable and sophisticated family hatches around"
The 308 GT THP 175 looks a little more focused than its humbler brethren courtesy of a lower ride height. Couple that with a lowered front bumper panel and a rear spoiler and you end up with a car that has a little more attitude. The 308 is never going to look like a lithe low rider though, the taller than average roofline being used to good effect in creating a roomy and airy interior. The long front overhang of the 308 creates a wedge-shaped profile that brings a further sporty element to the car’s shape and assists in pedestrian safety. Those familiar with the Peugeot 207 supermini will find plenty they recognise in the 308 but the key differences on the larger car are the prominent V-shaped bonnet that extends down from the base of the A-pillars on a raised plain and the huge oblong foglights. The rear of the 308 has more of a bulbous look to it, helping to maximise luggage space that runs to 430 litres and can be extended to 1,398 litres by folding the rear seats.
The interior takes a sober but classy approach with the GT adding an aluminium gear knob and pedal set. It feels notably more upmarket than the inside of the old 307 and even more spacious. The GT features quite liberal use of chrome and expensive-looking plastics with the lighter colour options proving particularly eye-catching. The middle section of the dash slopes down into the centre console, bringing its controls closer to the driver and creating a snug cockpit effect but you sit a long way back from the base of the steeply raked windscreen with a huge expanse of dashboard to look out across. This, combined with the 308’s long front overhang, may present problems when manoeuvring but the A-pillars, a constant impediment to the driver’s view in the 307, appear much thinner for improved visibility.
As befits a range-topping model, the GT doesn’t want for standard equipment. Features include power steering, remote control central locking with deadlocks, electric front windows, a steering column adjustable for reach and rake, a CD player, height adjustment for both front seats, a trip computer and electrically operated door mirrors. Air conditioning, body-coloured mirror housings and door handles, alloy wheels with low profile tyres and ESP stability control are also standard. Peugeot hasn’t skimped on safety kit and there are seven airbags included. There’s also anti-lock brakes with brakeforce distribution and brake assist.
Getting a car to 60mph and back in a scant few seconds is the easy part. The tougher task is doing that and ensuring that it doesn’t guzzle too much fuel or chug out unacceptable levels of carbon dioxide. This encompasses all manner of disciplines from weight reduction to optimising engine efficiency, from aerodynamics to the details like lower rolling resistance tyres and replacing hydraulic power steering systems with electrically assisted setups. The 308 GT THP 175 will return a combined fuel economy figure of 37.1mpg which compares well with well, with what? The 308 GT THP 175 occupies a rather odd market niche and direct rivals aren’t that easy to identify.
It’s not as sporting as something like a SEAT Leon FR, and it outguns the Citroën C4 VTR, so perhaps the closest thing we can forward as a rival would perhaps be the Toyota Auris T180, but that’s a diesel so it’s not quite the same deal. Volkswagen Golf 1.4 TSI 170? Answers on a postcard please.
If identifying quite what the Peugeot 308 GT THP 175 is remains a tough task, it helps by figuring out what it isn’t. It’s certainly not a hot hatch, and it doesn’t even play the warm hatch card with a great deal of conviction. If you’re a little embarrassed by the concept of a sporting hatch but appreciate a car that doesn’t hang about when prodded into life, the 308 GT THP 175 might well appeal. It’s quick, well built, very pleasant to sit in and comes with excellent safety provision. Add in competitive fuel economy and emissions and you have a car that would probably have the measure of its rivals if we knew what they were.
This car’s problem is that many rivals achieve much the same ends with better economy and emissions from their upscale diesel models. As such, the reason why it’s so hard to identify a direct rival for the 308 GT THP 175 becomes clear. It’s occupying a niche that few have deemed worth exploiting.