Peugeot’s 308 GT takes on the posh brigade

The burgeoning Irish appetite for luxury cars shows there’s a market for ritzy, sporty models

 

Peugeot will use the upcoming Paris Motor Show to launch the new 308 GT, a high(ish)- performance version of its popular, award-winning 308 hatchback and estate. The GT, as its name suggests, is a little sportier than normal; it is differentiated from the more plebeian end of the 308 range by a new grille, with the prancing lion front and centre, a new paint job, dubbed Magnetic Blue, and an interior festooned with leather, carbon-effect trim and flashes of red.

Underneath the changes are significant. The most important changes are in the engine bay, where you’ll find a tweaked version of the 1.6-litre THP turbo petrol engine found in the 208 GTI, here developing 205hp, or an entirely new 2.0-litre BlueHDI diesel with 180hp. Peugeot is deliberately positioning the GT as a rival to the well-received likes of the Seat Leon FR range, so expect prices to start around a not-unreasonable €28,000-€29,000.

Still, is there a market for a posh Peugeot in Ireland? Or has the recent – or current: it depends who you talk to – recession cured us of any obsession with the needlessly expensive?

“Clearly, the Irish car market year to date is up 30 per cent this year, an increase of over 20,000 cars on the road versus 2013,” says Emma Toner of Gowan Distributors, the Peugeot importer for Ireland. “Considering that finance is now more easily available in Ireland and that consumer sentiment is more steady, there is clearly the possibility that performance cars could become more visible in the marketplace, even by 2015. Prestige cars in general have seen a definite lift, so there’s no reason to not see a lift in performance cars.”

Peugeot and the other mainstream brands have an opportunity to strike. For although the premium-car market might be up this year, it’s still an enormous 34 per cent down on 2008. Where there’s a gap, there’s opportunity .

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