Laurissa Mirabelli spent the last two decades convincing media on the merits of the various car brands she’s represented.
Now that she's free of brand loyalties, we’ve let her loose to say what she really thinks about the latest models - uncensored, without fear or prejudice. You'll find her testing cars near her home in regional Victoria, using her three young children as guinea pigs to help evaluate the ‘family-friendly’ aspects of each vehicle.
What is the Peugeot 308 GT?
If there’s one thing Europeans know how to do well, it’s a stylish, fast hatch. There are the usual suspects that come to mind including Volkswagen and Renault but there was a time when Peugeot had some serious skin in the game.
Peugeot may have lost ground to its competitors in recent years, but the introduction of a raft of new models in 2019 is bringing sexy back to one of the world’s oldest car brands. Enter the updated 308 GT.
Like its 308 sibling, which was crowned 2014 European Car of the Year, the top-spec 308 GT is beautifully designed inside and out and offers an impressive list of standard features, including a full suite of active safety, the latest in connective technology, genuine sports handling characteristics and excellent environmental credentials.
2019 Peugeot 308 GT
But it’s the 1.6L turbocharged petrol engine and superb eight-speed automatic gearbox that sets this model apart from the rest.
More GTI-lite than ‘hot’ hatch, there are just 140 examples of the 308 GT available to Australian buyers, priced at $39,990 plus on-road costs.
Peugeot has pitched this model as a ‘bold’ show-stopper, which will be aiming to win the hearts and minds of savvy inner-city dwellers who enjoy a spirited drive of a weekend.
If my test drive is anything to go by, they are well and truly on the money. And Peugeot’s competitors (which include the likes of the Volkswagen Golf Highline, Mazda 3 G25 Astina, and even the Hyundai i30 N-Line) should be taking note. Right about now…
What's the Peugeot 308 GT like to drive?
The 308 GT is good. Really good.
It’s everything you would expect given the external design cues – quick, nimble and perfectly poised. The kind of car you want to keep driving, and not just because someone else has paid for your tank of fuel!
The gear changes were silky smooth thanks to its Aisin eight-speed auto gearbox, the first of its kind in Australia. The 308 GT performed exceedingly well on Victoria’s average B-roads (and A-roads for that matter); it was happy cruising along the freeway or start-stopping its way through bumper-to-bumper traffic, but it really came to life on the bends.
I found myself thoroughly entertained by the standard Driver Sport Pack, which offers the ability to change the driving mode to Eco or Sport at the flick of a switch. Difficult intersection? Sport mode. Overtaking manoeuvre? Sport mode. Just want to hear the engine note again? Yep, let’s just keep it in Sport mode!
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Despite my penchant for the Sport button, it returned a respectable 8.4 l/100km against a claimed combined cycle of 6.0 l/100km. The 308 GT also features Australia’s first petrol particulate filter, too, which gives owners access to one of the cleanest petrol engines on the market.
And did I mention it’s actually a lovely place to be? The clean lines of the exterior continue through to the interior with its European heritage delivering all the hallmarks of a luxury hatch. The sleek, minimalist dash houses a large 9.7” touchscreen that includes features such as Apple Car Play/Android Auto connectivity, 3D navigation and DAB radio.
There’s also a ‘head-up display’ unit in the instrument panel to deliver real-time information to the driver such as navigation directions. And while I found all the tech that formed part of Peugeot’s i-Cockpit quite intuitive, I would have liked a slightly better sound system.
What's the Peugeot 308 GT like to live with?
Before I even start the car I peg the supportive seats in the 308 GT and the surprising amount of headroom – even in the back. Rear leg and foot room is a little more compact thanks to one of the most generous boots in the segment, but perfectly adequate for tall friends and family as long as you’re not doing a trans-continental drive.
The obligatory black-and-red colour palette in any ‘go-faster’ model is there but not over the top; in fact, the red highlights are all class.
In Europe this car is pitched at small families, but I did manage to fit two child seats and still have room for Master Eight (below) in the middle – just! Obviously there’s not a lot of boot space for prams, port-a-cots and playmats but the 308 GT could quite easily take on the role of the second family car.
I found the blind-spot detection helpful given the generous proportions of the C-pillars, and the adaptive cruise control system worked well too.
In what may seem an unusual observation, I was impressed by the range and functionality of the keyless remote. Too many remote keys are like Goldilocks – you can’t be too close, or too far, you need to find that sweet spot for them to work, by which time I’ve given up.
And I love an extended five-year warranty and roadside assist deal. Sign me up!
Is the Peugeot 308 GT worth the money?
The 308 GT is totally on-song for its target audience, who won’t think twice about the sub $40k price tag for a beautifully executed, equipped and engineered Euro hatch.
If there’s one thing I love it’s an underdog, and this Pug has my vote.
Pros: Fantastic drive; high levels of standard equipment
Cons: Rear legroom for adults; lack of storage