It’s all too easy to underestimate how well small three-pot turbo engines can go but we’ve sampled a few lately, like the 1.0-litre unit in Seat’s Ibiza and Arona, and we remember fondly Ford’s litre trip too. Peugeot’s 1.2-litre triple is another wee ripper.
It first turned up in the 308, which has just undergone a midlife facelift. It comes as no surprise that all other engines previously powering 308s have gone by the wayside so the hatch is now available in two guises, both with the 1.2 petrol engine. There’s also a front and rear visual update which is more readily seen on this, the better specified GT Line.
You can pick it from the lowly Allure by its reprofiled sports bumper up front and the twin exhausts exiting out of the rear unit, along with a gloss black diffuser. Side skirts are also a point of visual difference. The refashioned grille incorporating the iconic Peugeot lion is a bit smarter in the GT Line, as are its LED headlights. Inside, it’s differentiated by red double-stitched sports seats covered in a mix of fabric and leatherette, and aluminium pedals.
GT Line also features the latest-generation 3D navigation system with voice recognition, a $750 option for Allure. Optional on GT Line only are Alcantara and leatherette upholstery ($1500), or Nappa Leather with heated front seats and electric lumbar adjustment ($3500).
The i-Cockpit philosophy carries over which centres around a compact multifunction wheel, above which is viewed the “head-up instrument panel”. It isn’t really; think of this more as eyes up. You still have to look down a bit from the road, whereas with head-up devices you only have to adjust visual distance. In the 308 the i-Cockpit works well, for the car is compact and lightweight and the wheel feels appropriately small for the size of the vehicle, giving it a “heightened sense of agility”.
And does it do that well? Especially with lower profile rubber, as here. The well tuned spring and damper combo work in harmony to keep the body level and tyres planted, while delivering a supple ride. Electric steering actually has some feedback, and weighting is spot on without feeling artificial. Even the 308’s brakes feel more vibrant than the norm. And the powertrain features a sorted Sport mode to match the heady dynamics out of town. So yes, we still have a bit of a soft spot for the 308 which won our COTY title in 2014.
Four years on and the Allure sets the stage at $35,990 while the GT Line costs $3000 more. The latter normally gets 17-inch alloys (16s for Allure) but ours had a $1000 upgrade to 18-inch ‘diamond’ alloy wheels with slightly lower profile rubber (225/40R18s instead of 225/45R17s). There are only two other options for both trim variants, one a panoramic glass room with sunblind ($1500) and the other a three-year 60,000km service plan for $1200. Frankly this resembles a regular service plan that you’re paying for up front. Mazda offers the same thing, three years of servicing, only it’s part of the price, and covers 100,000km.
Other differences that explain the $3k difference? The GT Line gets manual lumbar adjust for both front seat passengers (driver only for Allure) and there’s the full LED headlight system versus halogens for the cheaper model. Aside from other differentiating factors already mentioned, the GT Line gets black mirror shells and headlining, window tints, a leather-bound wheel, and special sill panels and carpeting.
As to performance the pair should be identical with matching powertrains. On that, the 1.2 PureTech engine produces 96kW at 5500rpm, along with 230Nm of hauling power at 1750rpm, as before. A combined fuel use figure of 5.1L/100km is matched by CO2 emissions of 115g/km. Peugeot reckons on a 9.1sec dash to 100 and we got 8.9sec by short-shifting. The six-speed auto is fluid, if not lightning quick.
About the only real oddity to the 308 is its push button start and stop mechanism which, while really well sited for ease of access, needs to be held for a bit longer than expected to effect a stop or start. There’s a proper comfort entry system to go with that, while most major functions are controlled by the 10-inch colour touch screen.
That said, there’s a regular well sited volume control. There’s also mirror screen and compatibility with both phone types. Both models feature AEB, collision and lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, tiredness detection and auto dipping. Hence, five-star Euro and Aussie crash ratings. There’s also self parking into parallel and bay openings along with dual zone air, front and rear parking sensors, and a rear view camera. About all that’s missing on the convenience and safety front is active cruise.
There’s actually been a slight price drop over the years and Allure (extra specification) now costs around what Active used to. So it’s better value than ever, and fully competitive with its Asian opposition. Next year Peugeot will add a 308 GT version using the top 508’s 225bhp turbopetrol mated to an eight-speed automatic.
|Model||Peugeot 308 GT Line|
|Engine||1199cc, IL4, T/DI, 96kW/230Nm|
|Drivetrain||6-speed auto, front-wheel drive|