The French have a way with things. They revel in the finer aspects of life, like fashion, cooking and coffee…and they are appreciated for it, the world over. But things are a little different in the automobile arena, where they haven’t quite made their mark in countries closer to the equator. But we have noticed a recent rejuvenation of the brand with cars like the 2nd generation 308 and the all-new 3008 crossover SUV which are pushing hard to turn things around. Curious about their current fleet, last week we took to the streets of Dubai, in something small, almost cuddly and French. No it wasn’t a poodle. Read our 2017 Peugeot 308 GT Line review!
DESIGN & AESTHETICS
On the day, I was to pick up the 308 GT Line, I was expecting something peculiar, like the last Peugeot I drove – the outlandish RCZ. But instead, as I was handed the keys to the GT Line and walked towards it, I found myself pleasantly surprised by a form that was anything but controversial.
Here stood a voquish hatch back glistening under the noon sun, in magnetic blue exterior paint – evocative of the paint reserved historically for French competition vehicles. The 308 GT Line is a smallish car, roughly the size of a VW Golf. At the nose of this once ‘Car of the Year’ (2014) is that familiar “prancing lion” emblem splitting a grille with three horizontal lines – supposedly inspired by claws of the French-imagined feline. The grille is flanked bright headlamps which are lit by a full LED arrangement…which sums up the illumination for the whole car. The headlamps get as many as 62 LED elements, dynamic directional indicators that scrolls sequentially get 30 LED elements and the rear lights – also inspired by feline claws – have 48 LED elements. They all add up to as many as 142 LEDs, which is good to see, considering LEDs are the future of illumination.
The sporty aspirations are further conveyed by 18-inch dual-tone wheels that add more character whilst beautifully filling those wheel wells perfectly. The purposely placed “dent” in the door that creates shadows on the bodywork and the black lacquered rear view mirrors do their bit in sprucing up the otherwise orthodox hatchback profile.
At the rear quarters, the safe conventions of curvature for a hatchback and for that little extra that have used more lacquered black material on the diffuser and stainless steel decorative twin tail pipes.
In nutshell, the 308 is a tastefully executed hatchback design that most will find endearing, not infatuating. And there is more good news on the inside too. In here, you will find what Peugeot call i-Cockpit. Everything sounds so cool with an ‘i’ prefix doesn’t it…say Apple aficionados! And this interior will turn your thoughts around about Peugeots. It’s a predominantly a black-base cabin with an aluminium trims to highlight irregular, but attention grabbing geometric shapes. You will also be in awe for the materials used and the general fit and finish – it’s got a Germanic quality to it. Most of the dash is foam-backed except for the centre stack, which has some scratchy plastic but looks good. The whole architecture is devoid of clutter, which is fantastic, considering that some modern cars fail to do, due to an overwhelming and overpopulated gimmick-infused layout.
The steering wheel the smallest of its kind. Its genuine race car equipment and will raise your heartbeat just by holding it, except it obstructs the view of the instrument cluster. And that is a shame considering the beautifully rendered gauges come with stylized red needles and the rev counter spins anti-clockwise…both of which are a pleasure to watch. Other highlights include, a 9.7-inch infotainment screen on the centre console, probably the biggest in the segment and in the segments adjacent.
As for accommodations, the front cabin is rather spacious, but in the rear is bench set for two. Three is a crowd amongst acquaintances, but work amongst siblings who can’t help but be in each other faces. But the sheer awe of the ginormous panoramic sunroof which covers the roof corner to corner maybe able to distract them for a bit, as it did to my friends.
POWERTRAIN & PERFORMANCE
Any car that wears a GT badge gets my attention and this was no different. Infact, I kept rubbing my palms against each other in anticipation wearing a smug, until I read that the GT Line doesn’t get an engine upgrade over the rest of the 308 range. All get turbocharged 1.6-litre engines. But I set aside prejudice thanks to a little word called turbo. To those whom numbers matter, this 4-cylinder makes 163 bhp and 240 Nm of torque.
On the road, I liked the way it moved and how it danced along traffic thanks to its convenient size and good visibility overall. And the throttle – like a well-trained subordinate – is rather responsive. All of this means that the 308 GT Line is a car meant for everyday driving. But because it wears the GT moniker, a lot of responsibility lays on it chassis to excite the driver. So in search of driving pleasure, I stomped the gas pedal on several occasions – making the cylinders work hard – only to find that the acceleration is brisk but not Golf GTI quick, which was a little disappointing. However the power delivery is relatively flat especially for a turbocharged engine. Also, being a GT you’d expect flappy paddles behind the steering to swap ratios of the rather smooth operating 6-speed tiptronic automatic…but there aren’t any.
The axles are attached to a pseudo MacPherson at the front and deformable beam at the rear which brings a good compromise between ride and handling. There is good body control while you take the curves. And the steering is on cue for the most part. So whether your taking your trip down to the office or quick spin across town to make it for a movie premiere, it will serve you a good dose of fun but it is anything bit competition level. A lot of that good dynamics can been experienced in the braking department too, courtesy of 330mm diameter discs upfront and 268mm diameter discs at the rear working with linearity. And that kind kit is important especially when we head into this time of the year where chaotic traffic becomes the norm.
During our many driving episodes, ones that involved heavy throttle application and acute directional changes for chassis testing – for the purposes of this review of course – we averaged between 8 and 9 l/100km…which is a rate that deserves a salute of some kind. And that allows the GT Line to be drive over 600 kilometers if driven with a light foot.
FEATURES & FUNCTIONALITY
Open that boot and you gets a square-edge space with as much as 470 litre which will eat up most regular people luggage and as you’d guess, like other cars you can drop the seats in a 60:40 format for more space. As for stowage, up front there is only a single tiny cup holder that can’t fit a mug – given the French design, in all probability it was built for tiny espresso cups. But the glovebox is huge, atleast!
Some may prefer physical buttons and knobs to operate all the in-car functions, but the 308 comes with sparingly easy to use and clutter-free layout with on-screen menus and button – even the HVAC controls. All the digitalized switchgear is easy to identify and reach. There is an accessible USB to plug in a pen drive for music, but the sound quality from the audio system is average. Yes, there are equalizer adjustments with pre-set arrangements named classical, techno, jazz, vocal etc, but they don’t help much! Well, you can’t expect more from a company-fitted 6 speaker unit! The avigation graphics are “alright” and setting destination can be done either on the map itself which can be cumbersome or by searching the names, but for some reason couldn’t find the Burj Khalifa. Strange!
Also, it is obvious that the French value gender equality and we understood that from the choice of male and female OS voices available on the infotainment system.
Those who are concerned of the safety features of a small car, you should know that the 308 comes with essentials like 6 airbags – which is many for this segment – and a rear camera. You also gets child locks and ABS and EBD. And I’m sure all that will come handy if you wish to keep to car for the car as long as the extensive 5 year/1 million warranty. As for service, you can have a 3 year/60,000 kilometer contract.
With the 308 GT Line, Peugeot have created a sporty hatchback with global appeal – one far removed from French idiosyncratic styling seen on past models. The premium cabin involves good plastics, but is best reserved for not more than 4 adults. Performance form the 1.6L engine is expectedly peppy, but doesn’t excite like a car with a GT badge should. In other words, it’s eight-tenth a VW Golf GTI at eight-tenth the price, which isn’t a bad proposition, except when compared to cheaper Mazda 3 and regular Golf 1.4TSI. Then again, “This is French”, which is an argument is some parts of the globe.
The first generation 308 HDi holds the Guinness world record of the most fuel-efficient mainstream car currently in production, having averaged 3.13l/100km over a distance of 14,580 km
Body type: 5-seater; 5-door premium hatchback
Engine: Front-engine; turbocharged 1.6-litre 4-cylinder; front-wheel drive
Transmission: 6-speed Tiptronic (automatic)
Peak output: 163 bhp @ 6,000 rpm; 240 Nm @ 1,400 rpm
0 to 100km/h: sub-9.0 seconds (estimated)
Top speed: 212 km/h (drag limited; claimed)
Price: AED 104,500 (as tested)
Pros: Tasteful styling; quality cabin design and materials; some degree of exclusivity
Cons: Not as quick as the GT badge suggests; few ergonomic quirks; suspect resale value
Author’s rating: 7/10 stars
2017 Peugeot 308 GT Line Review