Rewind time just a few years to 2013, and hot hatches are all the craze. Although not too long ago, this was around the time when car automakers started getting serious about hatchbacks; fitting them with advanced AWD systems, dual clutch gearboxes, and as much power as they could squeeze out of a small displacement engine. A huge step up in performance from older hatchbacks, these new hot hatches such as the Mercedes A45 AMG and Volkswagen Golf R Mk7, were pushing mid to high 4-second-to-100km/h times which at the time, was pretty astonishing. Then, in 2015, came a fearsome competitor from an unforseen automaker, Peugeot, with a new 368kW petrol/dual-electric motor hybrid mega-hatch.

A blend between supercar technology and hatchback practicality, this concept Peugeot looked very promising. Power came from three different powerplants. Two electric motors, one at the front, one at the back, each producing 86kW and 200Nm, and a 1.6 litre Prince THP inline-4, which alone produced 200kW and 330Nm; the most powerful iteration of the Prince engine ever made.

The gearbox, a light and cheap six-speed electronically automated manual replaced the need for a dual clutch, because although quite a clumsy gearbox, the car filled in the shift gaps by switching from the engine to the electric motors for a brief moment. This resulted in a 0-100km/h figure of 4 seconds with launch control, which was quite quick for its time. The gearbox however wasn't the best suited to keep up with the advanced hybrid setup, as it was taken from less powerful Peugeot cars, and we also feel like it lost a little character, as the shifts were too seamless and a shift would give the driver no feedback.

Everything about this car looked production ready. The interior was fitted with everything you would expect in a production hatchback. Seemingly taken straight from the 308 GTi, the interior featured leather clad seats, a 9.7 inch-touchscreen, multifuctional steering wheel, heads-up display, four drive modes et cetera, so sitting inside a 308 R HYbrid, you wouldn't feel like you're in a supercar-rivalling concept hatchback at all.

Despite a hefty kerb weight of 1550kg distributed 60/40 front/rear, this car handled surprisingly well. To counter the added weight from the AWD system, electric motors and 3kWh lithium-ion battery, Peugeot gave the R HYbrid a wider stance than the GTi, a completely redesigned front suspension setup, and 19-inch wheels fitted with Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres. Steering feel felt great too, with accurate feedback from a relatively heavy power steering rack.

The Peugeot 308 R HYbrid had a lot of potential. With a few minor tweaks to the weight and the added benefit of a newer dual clutch gearbox, we feel that this mega-hatch could have paved the way for the future of the high-performance hatchback. Unfortunately, this was not the case as after years in development, PSA decided to put their progress 'on hold' as they focused on increasing market share in worldwide sales. Peugeot themselves stated that they were " more interested in cars that sell in hundreds of thousands than those that sell in smaller numbers."

Given the current stance on hybrid and electric vehicles, we still hope there's a chance Peugeot can resume development and put the 308 R HYbrid into production, or at least makes good use of it's technology to produce something even more impressive. Would you like to see this mega-hatch in production?

(WE ARE) more interested in cars that sell in hundreds of thousands than those that sell in smaller numbers.

Jean-Phillippe Imparato - Peugeot executive vice president

Autonews Australia

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