Cape Town - When you have a choice between two cars from the same manufacturer and each one is as accomplished as the other, how do you go about choosing between derivatives?
That’s what many potential owners will be faced with when visiting a Peugeot dealership, looking to invest in the 308 hatchback range.
The two models in question - the PureTech and GT - are fighting at different ends of the spectrum but both have their unique selling points in the fiercely-contested local hatchback market.
Same clean design
Fluid lines and clean angles makes the 308 one of the more attractive hatchbacks SA. Both cars have the same confident stance and tinted rear windows add poise to the overall design.
The wheels fill the arches nicely and the rear rounds off an overall attractive package.
Differences between the two aren't that obvious at first glance. Each set of rims is model-specific; the PureTech’s 17” rims are more simplistic compared to the GT’s in-your-face 18” design. At the rear, both cars feature the same silver exhaust (even if it just for show), but the badging gives the game away as to which model you’re looking at.
Overall, the design of the 308 is inspiring, but it does not radiate that je-ne-sais-quoi...
READ: Peugeot 308 GT spices up SA line-up
Two models, same interior
The interior is clean, uncluttered, and devoid of unnecessary dials and switches. Accessing both vehicles’ settings is completed by using the large touchscreen found atop the dashboard. Everything from light, temperature and connecting your phone via Bluetooth is done via the touchscreen. Each of the six accessible categories has a second page of menus with large images and letters. Switching between menus is a breeze.
The materials used throughout the cabin feel durable and premium. It does not give the impression of cheapness or that Peugeot skimped on quality. Sadly, space for rear passengers is minimal. With the driver’s seat positioned to my liking, someone with a similar height/weight (1.86m tall, 87kg) will have to squeeze as rear leg room is frustratingly tight. What the car lacks in rear space it makes up for with a decent-sized boot.
The front lacks heatable seats, though there is a massage function. When it comes to the one or the other, my preference would be heatable seats. Having your back massaged on the go is soothing, especially during traffic, but it won’t help you fight frigid road conditions. A warm back is a happy back.
Gadgets and features
The 308 range, and especially these two models, are filled to the brim with standard equipment. Features such as front-rear parking sensors and auto wipers (with rain sensors) are standard, as well as an electric handbrake. The GT has keyless entry/start and a Driver Sport Pack and the PureTech only has Sport mode. Both cars feature Eco mode with stop/start technology.
Driving traits of the…
The PureTech has a very different character to the GT. It’s slower, obviously, and demands its driver to take on a more relaxed driving style. Its three-cylinder engine was designed to be as frugal as possible and a sensitive foot will return decent fuel consumption. The PureTech does have a big downside; drive it too hard and fuel consumption rises quite steeply; with Sport mode raising fuel consumption even further.
Peugeot says the PureTech will return 5.2 litres/100km, but it'll take some real effort to achieve that in the real world.
READ: Peugeot SA launches 'most advanced hatch'
Driving this specific model squashes any need or desire to drive fast because the car's nature requires a calm demeanor behind the wheel. The PureTech’s drive feels solid and sturdy and the steering is responsive enough to generate a feeling of confidence in the car’s abilities. The six-speed auto does well to channel the power to the front wheels and is much happier changing cogs on its own rather than obeying driver input.
Like the GT, the PureTech, if pushed, can feel as though t’s wafting over the road. Sound insulation is exemplary - deafening external sounds with aplomb and ensuring an as quiet ride as possible.
The GT has two driving modes: Normal and Sport. In Normal the car is smooth as silk. It sneaks around like a cat without anyone taking note of it. The engine performs in a gutsy manner, though calling on available power is a gradual process. Power delivery is good enough for a quick sprint past slower traffic, yet the car can crawl along without a care in the world.
Activating Sport mode sees dials switch from white to red and the exhaust becomes deep and angry. In Sport mode, the GT becomes a different car: one that's eager to deliver driver enjoyment. Does it succeed? Well, steering becomes taut and the suspension stiffens up. The aforementioned Driver Sport Pack allows for exhaust blips to be more pronounced and gear-changes from the six-speed manual 'box are slightly more intense.
During my time with the GT, I took on a couple of mountain passes in the Western Cape and picked up a few discrepancies in its on-road form. Despite taking the right line through corners and bends, the front wheels feel somewhat disconnected from the drive. Yes, there is feedback through the steering wheel but even that feels lifeless at times.
The rear, too, can become unsettled, which can be disconcerting when pushing the vehicle. Changing gears during an enthusiastic driving, sees the clutch pedal retract into its normal position, but not without a little jerk. It does not hinder performance, but the feeling under your left foot is not something you'll get used to.
The PureTech and GT have similar spec and are only separated by engine and drive characteristics. With a price difference of R20 000 between the two cars, choosing one over the other will come down to preference.
The PureTech does have the benefit of being the fuel-saver of the pair, but it will take a monumental effort to achieve Peugeot’s claimed fuel consumption. It can hold its own with many of its rivals but engage in spirited driving and you'll negate its fuel-saving ability.
The GT would be my pick. Yes, it has shortcomings in the sport division, but it does well in many areas (read: space, performance, tech). Between the two cars it is the more ‘realistic’ option with its real-world credentials. GT owners are unlikely to chase claimed fuel return figures, but will instead seek fun behind the wheel and possibly spend their time entirely in Sport mode.
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