Peugeot’s hottest hatch

308 R HYbrid

When you hear the word ‘hybrid’, it’s understandable that your attention begins to waver. There’s no blame from us – you can’t help but picture the terribly boring Toyota Prius. However, several manufacturers are determined to get rid of this negative image, particularly BMW’s i3 and i8 models, which are quite fun to drive. And it seems as though the Peugeot’s new 308 concept, known as the 308 R HYbrid, will arrive along similar lines.

A compact hatchback with a petrol-electric powertrain, it has 500hp (more than a BMW M4!) and four wheel drive, along with an electronically-limited top speed of 250km/h, not that you’re likely to get anywhere near that. Given the power bubbling away beneath the bonnet there’s no surprise that this very hot hatch is very fast: 0-100km/h takes a mere four seconds.

In terms of the petrol-electric drivetrain, Peugeot say they drew on the expertise and track record of Peugeot Sport, and eventually came up with a three-pronged result: a 4-cylinder 270hp 1.6L petrol engine sending power to the front wheels, a 115hp electric motor linked to the gearbox and a third motor sitting pretty on the rear axle. When you’re hurtling along the road, three modes are available. If you select Hot Lap (which we thoroughly recommend doing), you’ll harness the power of all three sources for a combined 500hp and torque of 730Nm. Track mode is the next option and gives you 400hp and 530Nm via the petrol engine and the motor on the rear axle, with intermittent boosts from the front electric motor. Finally, there’s Road mode. Even though it’s the slowest of the three there’s still 300hp on tap not to mention 400Nm, so you won’t exactly be puttering along at the speed of a Micra. The front motor isn’t used here at all. If you run out of electricity, there are three ways of re-charging – via the regenerative braking system, using the front motor as a generator or via a charging terminal.

To make sure you hug the road as much as possible, Peugeot has also done some fiddling around with the R HYbrid’s weight distribution. The batteries have been placed under the rear seats in place of the fuel tank, which has been moved to the boot just above the rear electric motor. Peugeot’s engineers have also redesigned the bottom of the fuel tank so that it sits more tightly against the technical components, saving a few millimeters on the car’s height. It’s attention to detail like that which impresses.

When you open the door you’ll be greeted by the Peugeot i-Cockpit, a driver-orientated concept from Peugeot that focuses on efficiency. The steering wheel is leather bound and small, the gear paddles are within easy reach for control over the six-speed gearbox, a head-up display provides a host of driving information while two buttons located on the central console allow the driver to keep an eye on the mechanics. It’s not too bad on the eye either – bucket seats wrapped in leather, a dashboard covered with a digital woven fabric, a slate grey roof lining and dashes of red here and there around the dials and the steering wheel. On the outside it looks quite sharp and aggressive, although we’re not entirely sure about the two-tone black and blue paint job. It looks as though they simply ran out of paint half way through the process, and couldn’t make the paint shop on time.

Will it hold a candle to the original 205 GTi (or its modern incarnation, the 208 GTi)? Though it’s still technically a concept car, due for an official unveiling at the upcoming Shanghai Motor Show, the R HYbrid sounds suspiciously close to a real-life version, so we should find out soon enough. Get on it Peugeot, we’re all waiting.

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