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Peugeot 308 GT Line 1.2 PureTech broadens appeal

The 308 GT Line oozes quality
The 308 GT Line oozes quality

The Peugeot 308 is now in its second incarnation and, let’s be honest, the new model needed to be a significant upgrade if it was to get anywhere near the top of the class.

Sitting on a new platform the second gen model is lighter and leaner and, as a result, promises to be a much better drive.

The 308 isn’t overly-imbued with French flair, instead it’s a mature, sensible design that is unlikely to turn many heads but it’s a philosophy that has never let VW down so it’s easy to see why Peugeot might want to follow suit.

It also brings with it a sense of quality, of robustness, that suggests this is a car that has been carefully crafted and built to last. It’s not trying too hard to impress, and is all the more impressive for it.

The differences between the GT and the GT Line are all under the skin
The differences between the GT and the GT Line are all under the skin

That’s not to say that there isn’t room for a little more pizazz and Peugeot duly complied with the GT which came equipped with either a 205hp petrol or 180hp diesel. Other unique features include dynamic sequential indicators, which are phased from inside to out, revised front bumper, 18in alloys and twin exhausts.

However, all that extra pizazz and additional performance doesn’t come cheap so, thankfully, Peugeot have introduced the GT Line which shares a lot of the styling cues but, in 1.2-litre PureTech form at least, can be yours for a few thousand pounds less.

Climb behind the steering wheel and you’ll find yourself staring at a dashboard almost entirely devoid of buttons dominated by a 9.7in multi function colour touchscreen that gives you power over just about everything.

All the major functions are controlled via the touchscreen
All the major functions are controlled via the touchscreen

From the screen you can control the dual zone air con, the sat nav, audio playback, handsfree calling via Bluetooth, trip information and car settings and, despite the number of options available, Peugeot have done a pretty good job of keeping things simple.

There are a couple of issues with putting all of your eggs into a touchscreen basket, however, and probably the most serious is the lack of physical buttons means that you do have to take your eyes off the road to ensure you’re actually hitting your intended target. Obviously the safest thing to do, therefore, is to wait until you’re stationary but, let’s be frank, few of you will worry about that.

The second issue is a minor one and it’s the fact that you can only access one function at a time via the touchscreen. It’s true, there are capacitive buttons around the screen for quick access, but if you’re using the sat nav, for example, and want to adjust the cabin temperature, you have to switch to the air con interface and then back to the sat nav.

There are some nice touches, such as sequential indicators
There are some nice touches, such as sequential indicators

While I’m on the subject of the sat nav it did take me on a rather bizarre, and unnecessary, detour while driving through London. It was a left, right, right, left which, as you can probably work out, was just a quick drive round the block before returning me to the road I was originally on. It also completely missed a turn near the end of my journey and the spoken instructions occasionally didn’t tally with what I was seeing on-screen. That I actually arrived at my destination in good time was in no small part thanks to my familiarity with that particular part of our capital.

Despite my reservations about replacing all the controls with a touchscreen - and the sat nav’s rather inconvenient glitches - the overall implementation and integration was pretty good, and the touchscreen was sensitive enough that I didn’t have to repeatedly prod it in order to induce a response.

As for the rest of the controls, steering wheel buttons and stalks, and the few buttons on the centre console, they felt robust and high-grade. Likewise the materials around the cabin - the leather steering wheel, half-Alcantara heated seats, which also come with lumbar adjustment and massage function, and the soft touch plastics - all conspire to provide the passenger space with a premium feel.

The ride is comfortable, quiet and composed
The ride is comfortable, quiet and composed

The small flat-bottomed steering wheel, red stitching and aluminium-style pedals and door sill protectors help carry over the sporty intent evident on the outside.

However, although I was able to get my driving position was spot on, it meant that I was unable to see the instruments clearly and I think it’s the compact steering wheel that’s the problem.

Behind the gear lever are the Start and Sport buttons. Select Sport and the steering weights up, the dials change from virginal white to demonic red, the multi function display shows power, torque and boost, the engine noise is amplified and the throttle mapping is more responsive.

It doesn’t quite turn the 308 into a hot hatch, but there’s enough visual and aural stimuli to create a laudable level of excitement which, of course, would mean nothing if the 308 had the handling prowess of a haddock on an ice rink.

Thankfully it’s much, much better than that and, regardless of the mode you’re in, the handling is assured and confidence-building. The steering is communicative and direct and the chassis responds well to changes in direction with very little fuss. There is a bit of body roll, but it remains reasonably sure-footed enough when you’re hustling it along.

There's a 1.2-litre PureTech engine under the bonnet
There's a 1.2-litre PureTech engine under the bonnet

Power delivery is linear, with a reasonable amount of mid-range punch while the manual gearbox is true delight, with a slick, positive action.

The upside of the considerably-softer-than-you’d-find-in-hot-hatch-suspension-settings is that, with Sport mode disabled, you can revel in the hushed surroundings and serene progress as the springs soak up imperfections and the beautifully insulated cabin isolates its occupants from the outside world.

This is where, despite the 308 GT Line’s sporting bent, you’ll appreciate its qualities the most. Composed, comfortable and insulating, The 308 is an accomplished long-distance cruiser that, when the mood - or the mode - takes you, is capable of tweaking the corners of your mouth into a vague smile. It isn’t meant to be an edge-of-you-seat drive by any stretch, but it can still deliver a few thrills when pressed.

Peugeot 308 GT Line 1.2 PureTech

Price: £21,445 OTR

Engine: 1.2-litre PureTech

Transmission: 6-speed manual

Power: 129bhp

Torque: 230Nm

Acceleration (0-62mph): 10.3sec

Maximum speed: 125mph

Urban: 47.1mpg

Extra urban: 68.9mpg

Combined: 58.9mpg

Emissions (CO2): 110g/km

For more information about Peugeot cars click here.

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