2020 Peugeot 308 GT Line review (video)

Competing in the small car market is a tough gig in 2020. Not only is it one of the most competitively fought markets, it’s also shrinking due to the increasing popularity of SUVs. Nevertheless, the 2020 Peugeot 308 continues to roll on in Australia while others run away from the segment.

It dazzles with class-leading Euro styling, a minimalistic interior, and a new three-cylinder engine. In Australia, understandably, we only get the one three-cylinder powerplant matched to a six-speed auto gearbox. But we are offered a hatch and wagon. The entry-level Allure is available in  hatch and wagon, and our testing model, the flagship GT Line, is exclusively hatchback.

Prices begin at $30,499 for the Allure hatch, and rise to $34,990 for the GT Line (excluding on-road costs). There is no more sporty GT or high performance GTi model here.

2020 Peugeot 308 GT Line – THE SPECS

Engine: 1.2-litre turbo three-cylinder
Output: 96kW@5500rpm / 230Nm@1750rpm
Transmission: Six-speed auto
Drive type: Front-wheel drive
Wheels: F & R: 18×8.0, 225/40
ANCAP: Five stars (from 2014)
Tare weight: 1122kg
Power-to-weight: 11.68:1 (kg:kW)
Official fuel economy: 5.0L/100km
Economy during test: 7.0L/100km
Fuel capacity/Type: 53L/95 RON

Power efficiency: 19.2kW:L/100km
0-60km/h: 4.34 seconds*
0-100km/h: 9.78 seconds*
60-110km/h: 7.23 seconds*
1/4 mile: 17.06 seconds at 133.5km/h*
Max acceleration: 0.548g
100-0km/h braking: 3.01 seconds at 38.67 metres*
Max deceleration: -1.211g
Decibel at idle: 39*
Peak decibel at 60-100km/h: 76*
Priced from: $34,990

* Figures as tested by PerformanceDrive on the day. Factory claims may be different

2020 Peugeot 308 GT Line – THE PACKAGE

We get that French-built cars are always going to cost a little more in Australia. But at $35k, the GT Line is up there. Fortunately, it comes standard with loads of tasty treats. Highlights include 18-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control, blind-spot sensors with lane departure warning and active lane keeping aid, forward collision mitigation, front and rear parking sensors, road sign recognition, puddle lamps in the door mirrors, a giant panoramic glass roof with an electric blind, and a modest bodykit.

The only big feature missed here is adaptive cruise control. And sadly, it’s not even available as an option. We also would have liked to see rear cross-traffic alert, wireless phone charging, rear air vents, leather seats, and maybe an electrically adjustable front seat. The sound system comes with Bluetooth, digital radio, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and is controlled through a range-wide 9.7-inch touch-screen.

On the design front, the 308 GT Line is a strikingly good-looking Euro-styled hatch. The front end is dynamic and sophisticated, and there are plenty of acute angles and chrome to make it look flashy. We love the dotted LED lights along the top of the headlights, and the kink at the bottom of the light units give off an aggressive vibe.

At the rear, the 308 hatch could easily be mistaken for a wagon thanks to an extended roofline that curves down steeply further back than other hatches. Either way, it is a curvaceous rear that looks brilliant and well-proportioned. The contrasting black painted lower apron is bespoke to the GT Line.

The interior mirrors that sporty, European style too. But it goes with a minimalist approach. There are fewer buttons than most rivals, with most air-conditioning functions controlled via the touch-screen, which can be fiddly when driving. There are a few hard plastics on the lower half of the dash, and better quality soft-touch materials on the doors and touch points. Most controls look and feel high in quality. The instrument cluster is quite small and difficult to get a good view of due to restricted steering column adjustment and the odd placement of the cluster itself. But it looks modern and unique.

Being the GT Line, the sports front seats are semi-bucketed to offer more side support during cornering. But the foam is soft as well, so it moulds around your shape comfortably.

Interior space is impressive thanks to that extended roofline at the rear. There is an adequate amount of room in the first and second row for a hatchback. And the panoramic roof helps to make it feel less claustrophobic. The rear doors have been carved out of the body further back at the top of the door, which makes entry/exit less of a squeeze. There just needs to be more thought on storage options; there is only one cup holder in the first row and the centre storage and door pockets are tiny.

Boot space is huge in the little Pug. At 435L, this is bigger than the Mazda3’s 295L, the Ford Focus’s 341L, and the Toyota Corolla’s 217L. If you lay the rear seats down, volume is increased to a handy 1274L Unfortunately the rear seats don’t fold down completely flat, which can be frustrating when you’re trying to fully utilise the space.

Peugeot offers a generous five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty with five years of roadside assistance. Servicing is required every 15,000km or 12 months, whichever comes first. And Peugeot offers capped-price servicing for five years for those who might be worried about the running costs of a French-built car.

2020 Peugeot 308 GT Line – THE DRIVE

Three cylinders is an odd number to have in an engine. But it has suddenly become popular in the industry in the name of efficiency. And don’t let the numbers deceive you. In the 308’s case, it still packs plenty of punch. On paper the mighty unit develops 96kW and 230Nm. And the entire car weighs significantly less than its competitors, at just 1122kg.

Behind the wheel, it feels lively and willing. We adore the unique sound of the three-pot unit. It adds lots of character and fun to the drive experience. And it feels happy to be pushed, so tackling steep hills is no issue. Turbo-lag is evident when taking off from standstill, while the mediocre official 0-100km/h time of 11.0 seconds kind of reflects this. But when you’re on a roll it picks up speed without even trying. Our real-world testing with a Vbox also revealed a more respectable 0-100km/h time of 9.78 seconds. Although, the time was achieved by building the revs on the brake before setting off.

Tackling corners, the 308 exhibits tight and responsive steering for that trademark sporty and energetic feel. This, in combination with a small steering wheel, makes it a lot of fun to drive. You can aim it at any apex and it holds on firmly and confidently, partly thanks to the impressive Michelin Pilot Sport 3 tyres. It does a decent job of absorbing bumps too. Control and vibration levels are undisturbed by even the bigger bumps.

In regular conditions, the start-stop feature is pesky and inexcusable. Firing up a three-cylinder is never going to be as smooth a process as engines with more pistons. But this one is especially interruptive because it activates too quickly and too often. For example, inching forward slowly in a carpark is a pain as the engine will stop and restart every time you come to a halt – even if it is four times in half a metre. We feel there is room for improvement here. How about not activating until a certain minimum speed is achieved first? The whole experience of parking is rough, annoying, achieving nothing for emissions reductions, and would only increase wear and tear in our opinion.

Officially, the fuel consumption average is outstanding, at 5.0L/100km. We were not able to achieve lower than 7.0L/100km during mixed highway and city driving during our test. Maybe longer term use could produce better results than our spirited driving. It also requires a minimum of 95 RON petrol.

2020 Peugeot 308 GT Line – THE VIDEO

2020 Peugeot 308 GT Line – THE VERDICT

It’s a pity the small car segment is dwindling, as the 308 GT Line is an alternative proposition that will match well with drivers who want something a little unique, but also something stylish and fun to drive. The engine is willing and characterful, unlike many rival motors, and the exterior is as attractive as they come.

There are some minor shortcomings that could be easily fixed in the next update, such as in-cabin storage and stop-start smoothness, but overall we think the GT Line deserves a thorough look-over if you’re in this market space. And good on Peugeot for continuing to offer the 308 Down Under, even if it is a restricted lineup.

PROS:
– 1.2 turbo 3CYL engine sounds brilliant and is full of character
– That European exterior styling is a winner
– Wagon-like rear provides big boot, good rear seat entry/exit
– Notably sporty and nimble handling

CONS:
– Missing adaptive cruise control
– Start-stop technology needs refinement
– Steering wheel blocks view of instrument cluster
– Interior lacks storage

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