Peugeot new compact hatch drives like a supercar

Peugeot has unveiled a four-wheel drive 308 R hatchback model, equipped with a plug-in petrol hybrid unit boasting 500bhp, claiming it's a concept car, but as a production car of the future.

Peugeot tells us that it offers truly extraordinary performance. The Peugeot 308 R Hybrid model borrows design codes from their Quartz concept car, first unveiled by Peugeot in 2012. Cloaked in an intensely blue paint, specially developed using fluorescent pigments and glass particles, the rear doors are matte black, a trademark of performance cars from Peugeot.

Pinned to the ground on 235/35 R19 tyres and set on tracks that have been widened by 80mm, the Peugeot 308 R Hybrid devours the road. Its front end is imposing with a checked-pattern grille, which works to supply the powertrain with air. The white side air scoops house LED indicators, while the central scoop sports the car’s signature 308 R Hybrid badge, carved into the block. At the rear, a narrow spoiler at the top of the tailgate reinforces the aerodynamics.

The doors open to reveal an impressive interior, structured by a stretched-out central console and four bucket seats. The selected materials and colours clearly state the aim of Peugeot 308 R Hybrid: performance. The upper fittings and the roof lining are slate grey. The bucket seats are upholstered in fawn-coloured perforated leather. In true sporting tradition, the interior is finished with touches of red, especially around the dials, the steering wheel centre marker, and the central console.

For the first time ever, the Peugeot 308 R Hybrid has adopted a set of materials taken from the range usually reserved for concept cars only. Hence, the dashboard is covered in a fabric produced using a digital weaving technique. This innovative material can be used to produce large, complex parts that are soft to the touch with no need for foam, making for a lighter vehicle. The digital fabric is used on the door panels together with black leather and the same fawn patinated leather as the seats.

And thanks to the innovative architecture of the Peugeot i-Cockpit, the driver is fully in control of the 500bhp supplied by the powertrain. The compact steering wheel, upholstered in perforated leather and bearing the 308 R Hybrid logo, allows for precise, incisive positioning when cornering. The steering wheel paddles are immediately to hand, giving the driver finger-tip control over the six-speed gearbox. And the head-up display provides all relevant driving information, without the need to take your eyes off the road.

A toggle button on the central console is used to select one of four driving modes. A Hot Lap mode is the most powerful, harnessing the full potential from the three power sources to reach a total of 500bhp and maximum torque of 730 Nm. Track mode delivers 400bhp and 530 Nm, mainly from the petrol engine and the rear electric motor whilst the front electric motor serves as an additional booster when accelerating.

Road mode is specially designed for road use with power of 300bhp and torque of 400 Nm whereby the petrol engine delivers its full potential, while the rear electric motor helps during accelerations. The front electric motor is not used in this mode. Zero Emissions Vehicle mode makes use of the rear electric motor to drive the Peugeot 308 R Hybrid and the front electric motor only comes into play when needed for acceleration.

Peugeot says that for impeccable dynamic handling, the car’s weight has been re-centred and placed as low as possible; perfectly balanced, with 60 per cent of its weight to the front and 40 per cent to the rear, the Peugeot 308 R Hybrid has a fiery spirit but an incredible weight/power ratio, barely reaching 3.1 kg/hp. The lithium-ion 3 kW battery has an excellent ratio between power and size, and has been placed under the rear seats in place of the fuel tank.

In turn, the 50 litre fuel tank has been placed in the boot above the rear electric motor and the two transformers. Peugeot Sport engineers have completely redesigned the bottom of the fuel tank so that it sits tightly up against the technical components. The few millimetres thus gained on the vehicle height contribute to its performance.

Thanks to the all-wheel drive system, the handling of the Peugeot 308 R Hybrid is pretty formidable, especially coming out of the bends. The braking system is on a par with the car’s performance with 380 mm ventilated discs at the front, gripped by four pistons and 290 mm discs to the rear. However, they are not used every time the brakes are applied, because Peugeot Sport has designed the powertrain to decelerate using the electric motors throughout the full speed range, starting at 250 km/h.

Not only does this preserve the discs and pads, but this regenerative braking system is also one of the three ways of recharging the battery. Another recharging strategy uses the front electric engine as a generator, driven by the petrol engine. The third solution is a rapid recharging terminal restoring the battery to its maximum power in just 30 minutes.

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