ENGINE 1997cc inline-4, DOHC, 16v, turbo-diesel / POWER 133kW @ 3750rpm / TORQUE 400Nm @ 2000rpm / WEIGHT 1320kg / 0-100KM/H 8.4sec / PRICE $42,990 DIESEL hot hatches always sound half interesting in theory. Case in point, the Peugeot 308 GTD. Tightened-up, sporty chassis married to a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel donk cranking out 400Nm at 2000rpm. And all for just 4.0 litres per 100km (claimed) is enough to get the eyebrows raised. Or at least some semblance of vertical movement in that department.
For some punters dead keen on a heated-up 308 there mightn’t be much choice if they’re filling with petrol or diesel at the bowser, the 308 GTD available in six-speed torque converter auto-only to its petrol sibling’s six-speed manual-only. The differences continue on the scales, the diesel copping a 120kg weight penalty, not insignificant when we’re talking 1200 to 1320kg. And it might go some way to explaining why the petrol can hit 100km/h in a claimed 7.5sec while the diesel languishes behind by quite the margin, 8.4sec.
A power difference – 151kW for the petrol versus 133kW for the diesel – doubtless also helps explain why the petrol will smoke the oil-burner at the lights. Unusually, Peugeot claims 0-1000m times as well, the petrol also comfortably pipping the diesel over the kilometre, 27.9sec versus 29.4.
That’s not all to say the diesel feels like it’s towing a parachute.
In-line with the original theory to some extent, the rattler pulls hard from down in the revs sufficient to push you back in the seat. But from there, the 308 GTD reveals its full personality, which is really more premium-feeling hatch with a bit of urge than any sort of weapon that might tempt you to hunt driving roads on your Sunday. Let alone a racetrack.
It’s more to do with the drivetrain’s personality than a lacklustre chassis performance. Press the ‘Sport’ button and the throttle sensitivity increases, while via the sound system, the cabin fills with a shamelessly artificial and uninspiring engine note.
Like all 308s the GTD scores the premium-feeling, minimalist interior, and it’s a nice place to sit, even if some punters will find the relationship between the instruments and steering wheel an odd one – if you’re of average height you’ll have to get used to a lower wheel, otherwise it’ll get in the way of the gauges.
The smaller wheel, however, connects to light, precise steering, the 308 cornering confidently and with a reasonable amount of grip from its 225/40 all-round 18s, but the chassis’ default setting is one of conservative understeer than playfulness.
Fortunately it rides well, and drives inoffensively, but the 308 GTD is more warm than hot hatch, its diesel donk giving the 308 some low-down oomph but lacking the character to inspire driving for driving’s sake.
We say, if you’re keen on a 308, learn manual and grab the petrol instead, and not just because you’ll pocket $1000. If it has to be auto, try the $43,490 DSG VW Golf GTI.
But if it just must be French, we’ve got a theory much more sound than a diesel hot hatch: stick with the manual lessons, and see if you can stretch to the $45K 308 GTi 250. M
Low-down urge; polished interior; chassis has its act together
Diesel ultimately uninspiring; on the slow side; weird driving position