Next-gen Peugeot 308 to get 300bhp-plus performance version
5 May 2020 - autocar
VW Golf R rival will accompany the launch of the 2022 308 hatchback range, and sport four-wheel drive and plug-in hybrid tech
The next generation of Peugeot models will kick off with the all-new 308 in 2022 – and the range is set to include a hybrid hot hatch under the brand's new PSE performance arm.
When it was launched in 2014, the current 308 kick-started the transformation of the entire Peugeot range with a more confident design approach. The successful, more daringly styled 3008 followed, along with the 5008, 208 and 2008.
The next 308 is set to play that role again by laying the groundwork for a new era of Peugeots when it goes on sale in just under two years' time, most likely after a public debut towards the end of 2021.
It will be built on an updated version of the EMP2 platform that underpins more than a dozen PSA Group models and was originally introduced on today's 308.
PSA's strategy so far has been for EMP2 models to be offered with plug-in hybrid technology and for smaller CMP models to come with dedicated electric versions, both offered alongside existing petrol and diesel variants.
The 308 is set to get a plug-in hybrid drivetrain, mixing a 1.6-litre petrol engine with an electric motor to drive the front wheels in a mainstream variant. However, it's a proposed second plug-in hybrid model that will interest enthusiasts.
This model would gain an additional electric motor on the rear axle – a set-up already used on the 3008 PHEV – to give the 308 four-wheel drive and create a new 300bhp-plus hot hatch version that would also receive a host of sporty chassis and styling upgrades to challenge the likes of the Volkswagen Golf R.
This 308 hot hatch would come under the firm's new Peugeot Sport Engineered (PSE) sub-brand, whose badge is set to appear first on a range-topping performance version of the 508 in the autumn. Should the 508 PSE be a success, Peugeot boss Jean-Philippe Imparato told Autocar the PSE formula could be applied "on the 3008 and other cars", a comment that alludes to the desire to extend it to the 308.
Success will not be judged on sales, either, but instead on the reputation and acclaim the PSE models receive. To that end, the PSE project is as much about "transforming electric cars" and the perception of them, because Imparato sees "a big opportunity for a line-up of sporty cars" in this mould.
The GTi badge will not be used on the 308 or any other Peugeots apart from the 208. Even then, it might be limited to the UK only and be based on the fully electric version as part of the company's plans to switch Peugeot Sport's involvement in its models to electrified powertrains only.
The next 308 range will again include five-door hatchback and estate versions, with still no return for the likes of the 308 CC coupé-convertible seen in previous generations, due to the lack of profitability with such cars. "I love these cars but today there are three other topics first," said Imparato, naming 5G connectivity and autonomous vehicle development alongside electrified models.
However, a crossover version of the 308 is a strong possibility for Peugeot. It has noted the success of the Mercedes-Benz GLA, effectively a raised version of the A-Class hatchback. In addition, fellow PSA brand DS is planning both hatchback and crossover versions of its own new A-Class/GLA rival, which is due later this year with a shared body-in-white. There's enough of a gap between the 308 and larger 3008 SUV to make such a car a reality.
Updated petrol and diesel engines will continue to be offered alongside the plug-in hybrids. Peugeot is still committed to diesel and is even offering it in its new 208 supermini and 2008 crossover models at a time when many rivals are abandoning the fuel at this end of the market.
An electric version of the 308 may be on the cards too, as Imparato hinted late last year in an interview with Automotive News Europe: "It [the 308] will be a plug-in hybrid first but could perhaps later have a full-electric drivetrain. Our compact and mid-size cars will have plug-in hybrid drivetrains, because it's a smoother way to switch from internal combustion to electric."
Styling-wise, the 308 is set to build on the bold look of all other recent Peugeots. "We put the design first," said Imparato when describing why Peugeot's comeback has been so successful. "On top of all the investment choices, I protected the design. Then the brand image recovers."
Inside, the style-led formula will continue with an updated version of Peugeot's i-Cockpit design, adapted from that of the newer 3008 and 508.
Peugeot will be hoping for much greater sales success for the 308 in the UK, though, where it has struggled. "This car was Car of the Year in 2014 and has been a huge sales success in Europe," said Imparato. "It's not as strong in the UK, where it deserves more than a 2.5% market share."