By rocking up with something close to 200bhp, a supermini or family hatchback can pretty much guarantee itself entry to the hot hatchback club.
There is, however, a lot more to being a truly adept performance hatch than a big power output. A range of qualities is required, chief amongst them being the illusive fun factor that all great pocket rockets seem to exude. The strengths of Peugeot’s 308 hatchback certainly appear to lie in other areas but can a 200bhp turbocharged petrol engine reveal the fiery side that’s been struggling to get out?
Peugeot used to do affordable fast cars better than almost anyone else but then the brand’s focus appeared to drift elsewhere. The 308 family hatch, with its classy cabin and comfy ride, is a prime example of this. Its stodgy set-up is better suited to insulating drivers on long motorway trips than wiring them in to the road surface for a blast down a favourite B-road.
None of this bodes particularly well for the 308 GT THP 200 we look at here, assuming that the last word in hardcore hot hatch performance is what you’re after. Peugeot is well aware of the things its car does well and is positioning this quick version more as a refined and composed GT car than a ferociously sharp road weapon.
We know that the 1.6 THP turbocharged petrol engine is up to the job. It’s featured successfully in the best Peugeot driver’s car for ages, the RCZ coupe, and it also finds its way into hot versions of BMW’s MINI. In the 308, the engine makes 200bhp and 274Nm of torque at 1,700rpm. It’s a powerful unit with a lot of mid-range punch but the 308 is a weighty car, registering 1,412kg on the scales. Despite this, the 0-62mph sprint takes just 7.7s and the top speed is a healthy 140mph.
"on paper, it has the pace to live with some big names from the affordable performance sector"
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. It’s not the kind of focused set-up you’d expect to find in a hot hatch but Peugeot will point out that the 308 GT THP 200 isn’t that kind of car. It does get a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, though, the same item used in the RCZ coupe.
The quickest 308 looks a little more focused than its humbler brethren courtesy of a collection of sporty accessories. Lower bumpers feature at the front and rear with a large spoiler also attached above the back window and twin chrome exhausts. 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. The rear of the 308 has 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 sports seats plus an aluminium gear knob and pedal set. Elsewhere in the cabin the GT makes 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 at least the A-pillars aren’t too thick.
As befits a range-topping model, the GT doesn’t want for standard equipment. Features include remote control central locking, air conditioning, 18" alloy wheels with low profile tyres, a Bluetooth phone kit and cruise control. Peugeot hasn’t skimped on safety and there are seven airbags included along with ESP stability control.
For the prices being asked, it looks like a well specified car and the five-door bodystyle offers a degree of practicality that three-door alternatives can’t match. Buyers prioritising performance will still find a range of better destinations for the money.
Insurance and fuel costs are going to be higher for the 308 GT THP 200 than for a 308 with a less fiery engine but the car can get close to 41mpg on the combined cycle which isn’t the environmental disaster you might have been expecting. Emissions are measured at 159g/km making this 308 competitive against other family hatchbacks with similar power outputs.
The Peugeot 308 has never felt like a car that was likely to sire a credible hot hatch version. Its space, comfort and quality impress but there were always better options for those prioritising handling, driver involvement and fun. Despite this, the 308 GT THP 200 is the most powerful 308 to date and on paper, it has the pace to live with some big names from the affordable performance sector.
Peugeot hasn’t tried to create a truly focused driver’s car here, instead, it added a generous slug of power to the 308’s existing strengths. The aim was to create a fast, comfortable and refined hatchback and if that sounds more like your cup of tea, this 308 range-topper could be worth a look.