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You wait for ages for a fast Peugeot

…and then a car transporter-full arrives. What began with a positive reaction to the 208 GTi has turned into a full-on renaissance for fast Pugs of late, with praise rightly being lavished upon the RCZ R and 208 GTi 30th in recent months.

Now Peugeot’s cranked out the fastest version of its Focus-rivalling 308 yet, wearing a GT badge.

Ah, not a GTi?

Afraid not, and that’s very important. Peugeot has a love-hate relationship with badge - it got a lot of credit for building affordable greats like the 205 GTi and 306 GTi-6 in the Eighties and Nineties, but it’s also produced some turkeys (step forward 206 and 207 GTi).

So, by trimming that last letter off the badge, we’re supposed to be readied for more of a seven-tenths car. A lukewarm, amusing family runaround rather than a proper balls-to-the-wall Golf R or Focus ST rival. Pay up an extra £900 and you can spec your 308 GT as a cavernous diesel SW estate, but we’ll focus on the petrol hatch here.

Got it. Those engines, then?

Petrol-wise, the 308 GT gets the 208 GTi’s 1.6-litre turbo engine in 202bhp, 210lb ft form. Clearly some way off the likes of the Vauxhall Astra VXR, SEAT Leon Cupra and co, which dish out upwards of 260bhp.

Here we’re talking more Kia Ceed GT two hundred-horse territory, though the Peugeot is aided by its lightweight ‘EMP2’ platform. It promises a kerbweight of just 1200kg in hatch form. A five-door manual Golf GTI is 1351kg in comparison.

So how does it drive?

Nicely, without ever being exciting. With 62mph in 7.6 seconds the best acceleration you can hope for, performance is brisk rather than quick, but at least that means there’s not much traction control intervention to kill your momentum.

There’s very fast steering, a small ‘wheel and a responsive front end with stiffer anti-roll bar. That, allied to the low claimed weight, makes the 308 GT an agile hatch. It’s more competent than playful (no backwards-through-hedge French hatch clichés here) but you can row it along at a fair lick, enjoying the sweet, short-throw six-speed gearbox. When you’re back to being a grown-up, the harder ride hasn’t turned the 308 into a skateboard. It’s a fair compromise.

Toggling ‘Sport’ mode means lots more weight in the steering - and too much springy self-centering - with a usefully sharper throttle response, and the mother of all fake engine noise tribute acts.

No, Peugeot hasn’t managed to subtly feed engine song into the cabin like the Golf R or BMW M5. It just sounds like the CD player is belting out a recording of some yobs slewing around an estate at 3am.

How does it compare to its rivals?

A Seat Leon FR is a more honed driving machine, and a Skoda Octavia vRS less pretentious, but the 308 GT counters the VW Group’s might with lots of kit. You get heated massaging seats, a touchscreen sat-nav with reversing camera, tinted glass and LED lights plus much more thrown in as standard. If toys matter to you, the French car makes a big case for itself. So it should, for over £24,000…

Bit half-baked for a fast car though?

Yes, but Peugeot bosses quietly admit this isn’t the best they’ve got up their sleeves. Hopefully the decent form of late will continue with the upcoming 308 R, which recycles the very handy RCZ R’s 267bhp 1.6-litre engine, limited-slip differential into a lighter, more practical body. Just go easy on the faux engine noise, please.

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