Peugeot 308 GT Diesel v Mazda3 XD Astina comparison review

07 Mar 2016 Car Reviews

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Peugeot 308 GT Diesel v Mazda3 XD Astina comparison review

The powerful and feature-rich Mazda3 XD Astina locks horns with its classy French counterpart. Which warm hatch is the better buy?

PEUGEOT 308 GT DIESEL
Score: 77/100

Price & Equipment | 14/20

The $43K GT diesel shares lots with the Mazda – cruise, hill-hold, keyless entry/start, blind-spot monitoring, reversing camera, rear parking sensors, sat-nav, dual-zone climate, auto wipers and lights – then adds front sensors, a bigger 9.7-inch colour multimedia touchscreen (7.0-inch in Astina), auto-park and massage front seats.  

Interior & Versatility | 17/20

Peugeot’s floating instrument cluster polarises.

We reckon it works well, but depends on the proportions of the driver. Cabin is classy, well-built and offers terrific comfort with Alcantara/PVC seats, great ergonomics and good space. Cargo bay is more capacious at 435 litres, thanks in part to torsion-beam rear suspension.  

Performance & Economy | 16/20

Pug’s GT oiler is auto-only (the petrol GT is manual-only). With 400Nm from 2000rpm, the six-speed 308 charges hard, but with all 133kW arriving early (3750rpm), it’s not especially sporty, despite electronic sound augmentation. Acceleration to 100km/h is decent at 8.4sec, while 4.0L/100km combined-cycle economy is brilliant.  

Ride & Refinement | 15/20

Rear torsion-beam suspension that helps cargo bay packaging (and doesn’t unduly affect handling) is nonetheless responsible for some bumpy-road niggles. While the base 308 is an absorbent grand tourer, the GT, ironically, isn’t as supple, riding on stiffer springs and 18-inch wheels. But it’s commendably quiet inside.  

Steering & Handling | 15/20

Twenty percent stiffen-up over lesser variants is felt in flatter handling. The snout points quickly in response to the small-diameter wheel and there’s only a subtle sense of the relatively heavy engine blunting the 308’s enthusiasm. Steering not big on feel but dependably linear, and the front delivers a high grip threshold.  

MAZDA 3 XD ASTINA
Score: 78/100

Price & Equipment | 15/20

Astina’s brilliant turbo-diesel and auto, and the return to a ’90s nameplate, make for an interesting package. It’s pricey ($41K), but tops the 308 with rear cross-traffic alert, auto emergency braking, forward obstruction and lane-departure systems, radar cruise control, powered glass roof, seat heaters and adaptive headlights.  

Interior & Versatility | 16/20

Red-stitched leather and suede trim elevates cabin ambience above lesser 3s, while a high level of standard equipment makes it feel worth the money. Rear legroom is more generous but boot smaller at 308 litres. Multi-function commander control knob aids infotainment useability and head-up display is useful too. 

Performance & Economy | 17/20

Astina trumps 308 with 420Nm but is heavier, resulting in an identical sprint time. Economy is no match at 5.0L/100km, but the broad power band and throttle response are worth the bowser cost. Astina XD manual in a land of its own for driver-appeal and it’s a weapon – seven-tenths faster to 100km/h than the auto.  

Ride & Refinement | 15/20

Mazda’s exhaust sound synthesiser is subtler than the Peugeot’s, in step with the fact it doesn’t spruik its warm-hatch credentials as loudly. More engine noise might’ve helped mask the dull tyre roar on coarse-chip surfaces. While Mazda’s base 3 can’t match a cooking 308 for ride and refinement, the XD is in the league of the GT.  

Steering & Handling | 15/20

As with the 308, adding an oiler to the sprightly and entertaining 3 removes some of the sparkle; it feels a bit nose-heavy compared with the petrols. But the steering delivers feel once you lean on the nose, and the engine’s low-rev torque brings a means of exploring the dynamic envelope that isn’t available in an SP25.  

VERDICT

Small cars start around $20K, so you need powerful justification to spend double that. And, given that a good hot hatch – say, a Golf GTI – delivers its entertainment with few compromises, an identically priced warm hatch, on the surface at least, exists in no-man’s land. Dig a bit deeper and the XD Astina’s effortless grunt, economy and a truly loaded level of standard equipment (with lots of advanced safety stuff) makes for an alluring package. The 308 GT diesel works with similar fundamentals, though it’s not quite as richly equipped and perhaps removes more from the poise and polish of the excellent entry-level 308 than it deposits in torque and thrift. We’d buy a Golf GTI or, if picking from this pair, the Astina.

This article was originally published in Wheels November 2015.