THE GTI phenomenon of the 80s was a wonderful era for driving enthusiasts with several extremely good cars produced as a result. Peugeot, of course, was at the forefront with its 205 GTi.
However, as you get a little older, you want something a little more than just brash power and speed. While your desire for something a little less ordinary may remain, you crave some comfort and refinement too. Which is where a ‘warm hatch' such as the extremely enjoyable Peugeot 308 GT comes in.
For starters, it certainly looks the part. Available as a hatchback and a SW, Peugeot's lion emblem has moved from the bonnet's leading edge to the front grille, with three horizontal blades on either side.
Like the more powerful GTi, it also features sequential direction indicators, which are placed above the new air scoops needed to supply the engine with extra cooling.
Visibly widened by its side sill finishers, the GT sits on 18-inch ‘Diamant' wheels shod with grippy Michelin Pilot Sport 3 tyres, while at the rear, there's a lacquered black diffuser and twin exhaust pipes add to its dynamic looks. The ride height has also been lowered by 7mm at the front and 10mm at the rear.
Inside, the GT's sleek, minimalist cabin oozes quality. Both the roof lining and upper window pillars are finished in anthracite while red stitching adds a performance air to the upholstery trim. It's also found on the dashboard, door panels, gear lever gaiter and floor mats.
The instrument panel bears a new chequered flag motif background. To complement this, the large touchscreen's new colour scheme is dominated by red and black. Aluminium pedals are naturally de rigueur.
On the move, it's quiet and refined - a pleasant and comfortable place to be. A nightmare 11-hour journey between Plymouth and the wilds of Norfolk tested that to the max.
The GT can be powered by a 1.6-litre petrol or lower powered but torquier 2.0-litre diesel engine. The four-cylinder 1.6-litre THP 205 Stop/Start petrol engine driven here comes with a six-speed manual gearbox to make the most of its 285Nm of torque, which pleasingly bursts in from just 1,750. It is also extremely quick, with a top speed of 146mph.
Despite the power available, official fuel consumption is over 50mpg - I managed just over 36 - and CO2 emissions are just 130g/km.
In many ways, the GT is much like other well specced versions of the 308. However, nudge the ‘Sport' button on the centre console and its engine sound, piped through the car's speakers, is electronically manipulated to be beefier and gruffer. It also turns the dials red, tightens up the steering and sharpens the throttle response.
The instrument panel also changes to display the power and torque delivered, turbo pressure, longitudinal and transverse acceleration and other completely unnecessary ‘sporting' data. The GT is good but it's not a track day car.
So, so far, so good. It's got the looks and the power, but can it provide GTI levels of excitement behind the wheel?
Peugeot say the GT's suspension set-up has been given specific settings to suit the engines and the spirit of the car. The focus was on a performance-orientated and dynamic drive with excellent body control while still maintaining a high level of comfort.
To achieve this, engineers worked on all the settings to provide precise control on the extremes of road conditions, providing secure driving and avoiding unwanted over or under-steer. For example, the passive dampers react instantly to adapt to the type of driving.
So, the answer to that question is ‘Yes, sort of'. It is admirably quick, the gearshift is light and slick, and the variable electric power steering is remarkably accurate and well-weighted, putting those grippy Michelin Pilots exactly where you want them.
Its purposefully-soft suspension sometimes struggles to cope with the GT's extra horsepower and a proper hot hatch would no doubt provide more initial excitement. But, where it scores extra points is that very suspension which, on rough country roads, keeps the GT composed and comfortable, cushioning the lumps and bumps felt so much more keenly through stiffer set ups.