Peugeot’s more famous hot hatches normally have an i on the end of their names, but that shouldn’t stop fans of fast cars getting excited about the new Peugeot 308 GT – without an i. That final letter is being reserved for an even more spruced up 308 that we’ll see late next year, but this warmed-over range-topper, which replaces Feline models, still has plenty of appeal.

Not in a snorty, seat-of-the-pants type of way, but in a swift, comfortable, stylish and premium-feeling way. And you’ll not get a nicer looking interior this side of £25,000.

Or £24,095 to be precise, putting the GT pretty close to the much more powerful and faster Ford Focus ST, and just a few grand short of our favourite proper hot hatch, the SEAT Leon Cupra.

Like its direct rivals, you can have your GT as a five-door hatch or SW estate – the latter only with a 178bhp diesel engine that you can also order for the hatch. Here we’ll concentrate on the 202bhp five-door with its 1.6-litre twin scroll turbocharged engine.

And what a good-looking hatch it is. Peugeot has taken the 308’s clean looks and added just the right amount of beef without being shouty. The Peugeot Lion has slid down the nose and on to the grille, the headlamps are all LED units and the indicators sit under the bumper and blink in a unique way with 18 led lights scrolling outwards as they flash on.

At the side, there are gently extended sills and tasty 18-inch five-spoke alloys, while twin exhausts and a black diffuser round things off. To add a touch more purpose, the GT sits 7mm lower at the front and 10mm lower at the back.

The delightfully minimalist cabin with its dominant touch screen features even more high quality materials inside, with red stitching on the seats and dash, and a thicker rim for the oh-so-small standard steering wheel. Peugeot’s high-set instruments remain, which a few people abhor, but most just get on with.

However, it’s what happens when you hit the starter button that matters most and we’d recommend you hit the sport button pretty soon after. Before you even pull away it adds a bit of spice to things, introducing a more aggressive, growling exhaust note into the cabin through the speakers that’s not unlike how you would imagine Peugeot’s lion to roar.

The dials turn red, some of the steering’s assistance is removed and the throttle becomes slightly more responsive.

It doesn’t turn the 308 GT into a sports car, though. That 202bhp would’ve been plenty back in the day, but with nearly 1.8 tonnes to haul around thanks to the generous safety and luxury kit on board it means 0-62mph is covered in a warm rather than hot 7.5 seconds – a distant second behind the similarly-priced Focus ST. It feels brisk rather than swift, enabling you to sprint quickly between corners, but without a noticeable kick in the back.

Power delivery is smooth enough, though, accompanied by that enjoyable engine note if you’ve hit the sport button. Just don’t roll down the window if you go through a tunnel to enjoy more – you can only hear the noise inside through the speakers.

The 1.6-litre engine is efficient, too, claiming an average of 50mpg and CO2 emissions of 130g/km – lower than those of rivals, giving the GT a clear company car advantage.

• GT Line trim to spread from 308 to 508 and RCZ

What’s slightly disappointing, though, is how the 308 gets its power onto the road. You’ll become very familiar with the traction control light flickering away as the car spins its wheels at even moderate provocation, translating into a frustrating propensity to understeer. This isn’t a car to hustle through tight bends.

The steering doesn’t help, either – although the small diameter wheel does make the car feel sportier than it actually is. Reactions aren’t as sharp as you might like, but then as the name suggests, this is more GT than GTI.

As the ride proves, too – there are standard 308s that ride worse than this model in spite of the suspension being heavily revised for the GT model – 20% stiffer at the front and 10% stiffer at the back. The GT’s ride is firm, yet nicely so in a gently communicative rather than poking and prodding sort of way. And even with the synthetic sound switched on, the car’s quiet and refined on the motorway.

As befits a range-topper you get all the luxury and safety kit you could wish for and a bit more. The touch screen system works better than most, while the only notable options are full leather seats rather than Alcantara (complete with massage function), a rather lovely panoramic sunroof and a CD player – remember those?

The 308 does the normal day-to-day things well, if not spectacularly. There’s okay, if not class leading, space for three in the back, and the boot is nice and square but not ginormous – for most people most of the time the 308 will be just fine. And Peugeot’s push upmarket is affecting its dealers, too, as improving scores in our Driver Power survey continues to show.

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