The playground just got smaller for the European Hot Hatchback bullies – Volkswagen Golf GTI and Renault Megane RS. After 13 years Peugeot now has a legitimate ‘tough nut’ in the form of the all-new 308 GTi.
You might ask why it has taken Peugeot so long to re-enter the game. After spending two days with the Peugeot people and driving the GTi on roads and racetrack, we still can’t answer that – and it’s not as if sales of the Golf or the Megane have been stalled – in fact they’ve been booming.
Hashtag Peugeot Sales Opportunity Lost
What we can say without hesitation about the Peugeot 308 GTi is…well it’s worth the wait. This thing is the real deal and throws down the gauntlet to both its compatriot and the hot hatch king from Germany.
Peugeot 308 GTi Overview
As you will shortly read about the engines, there are two versions of new range-topper for Peugeot’s 308 range – the 250 and the 270. Prices are $44,990 and $49,990 respectively.
The GTi runs unique suspension tune and gains excellent aerodynamic enhancements for the body.
And inside is the expected armada of sporty enhancements. The 270 goes further with the likes of Peugeot Sport Seats, a mechanical limited-slip differential, 19-inch alloy wheels and bigger brakes.
Peugeot 308 GTi Engine
Here’s where Peugeot has ‘trumped’ many of the 2.0-litre rivals. The 308 GTi employs a brilliant turbocharged 1.6-litre engine which leaves the opposition lagging both for performance and fuel consumption.
There are two versions – the 250 (as in horsepower) with 184kW/330Nm or the 270 (as in horsepower) delivering 200kW/330Nm. The latter engine is familiar as the powerplant for Peugeot’s excellent RC-Z R sports coupe.
Both drive the front wheels via a six-speed manual transmission. However the 250 uses an electronic differential while the 270 adopts a sportier mechanical limited-slip diff.
Peugeot 308 GTi The Interior
Big changes inside punctuate the GTi’s position as the 308 Range-topper. The 270 version flexes its muscle with genuine Peugeot Sport sports seats trimmed in Alcantara (not that there’s anything wrong with the sporty seats in the 250).
There’s an aluminium gear-lever and pedals plus nice brushed aluminium trim highlights.
For the driver, we have the now traditional Peugeot compact steering wheel (this time trimmed in perforated leather) and the ‘i-Cockpit’ which dispenses with many switches and buttons for a cleaner look (functions operated by touchscreen instead).
Rear seat legroom is on-par with segment rivals and family buyers will be pleased with the large 435-litre boot capacity.
Peugeot 308 GTi Exterior & Styling
Even the styling gurus have given the nod to Peugeot for the looks of the latest 308 range. Call us ‘petrol heads’ but we think the GTi model is the pick of the 308 crop.
In the European way, styling changes are subtle – but in the right places.
We’re talking the 11mm lower ride height and up-front gorgeous LED headlights, a black grille and new bumper with F1-style winglets either side. From the side you’ll notice side skirts while the rear sees a sporty gloss-black under-bumper diffuser and twin exhaust tailpipes.
You can even get a version with two-tone paint. It requires 15-hours of hand-painting back in France and will set you back an extra $3,000.
Peugeot 308 GTi On The Road
The task was simple – a day driving some of Tasmania’s best roads outside Hobart followed by half a day hot-lapping the demanding Baskerville Raceway (the latter overseen by rally ace Cody Crocker and V8 Supercars gun Andrew Jones). Not even the arrival of a little summer rain took the gloss from the driving dynamics of the Peugeot 308 GTi.
As we said, Peugeot’s terrific turbocharged 1.6-litre powerplant in 200kW/330Nm form has some 2.0-litre engines looking lame. And when you combine that with the 308 GTi’s relatively light weight of just 1205kgs…well that’s a likeable combo in anyone’s language.
We’re talking zero to 100km/h in 6.0 seconds for the 270 model or 6.2 seconds for the 250. Doing standing start sprints, the Peugeot did everything in an unfazed way (apart from some slight tugging of the steering wheel as the front tyres worked hard for traction) – there was even a hint of throttle lag at low revs – thus it was a tad surprising to learn those times easily beat the benchmark Volkswagen Golf GTi.
Through the twisty stuff both 308 GTi versions were a delight – here and on the race circuit the larger brakes of 270 model were…arresting? Seriously the range-topping Peugeot has noticeably impressive stopping power and even after four quick laps at Baskerville, the pedal remained stoic.
Yes the mechanical limited slip differential of the 270 version aided in cornering (especially noticeable when the road was damp) but the 250 was far from overshadowed. Both benefit from a fettle of the suspension – aluminium wishbones which are stiffer, new anti-roll bars which are stiffer (the rear by 100 per-cent!), new springs and damper tune.
Steering response was pin-sharp but naturally there was a hint of understeer at the limit. And we must say the Michelin rubber was extremely grippy.
Peugeot 308 GTi Issues
The drive route covered a variety of road surfaces which did highlight the extra road noise in the 270 version of the Peugeot 308 GTi. The 19-inch wheels and Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres propelled some extra roar into the cabin when we got onto some coarse-chip bitumen (a tad exaggerated by their relative hush when on perfect freeway surfaces).
Peugeot 308 GTi Verdict
Beyond a shadow of doubt the Peugeot 308 GTi is a terrific hot-hatch. In fact, all things considered, we think Peugeot’s latest – the 270 version - is definitely in the same conversation as Megane RS and Golf GTI.
A few things stand-out: the excellent styling job inside and out; that terrific turbocharged 1.6-litre engine and the excellent sports seats which reinforce the overall quality of the interior. And it’s that last area (interior quality) where Peugeot needed to make-up ground to its rival from just down the road and the one from Germany.
So Peugeot now has the hardware and it was the 308 GTi’s performance over those tricky Tasmanian roads and at Baskerville Raceway which sealed the deal for us. Yep this is a European hot hatch to match the best of them.
Value for money? Well you need to carefully cross-check the standard features and options of the Peugeot 308 GTi against its rivals to get a grasp on that (Peugeot says a lot of goodies reside in the options lists of the opposition making direct comparisons fraught with complication).
Peugeot 308 GTi The Competition
Renault’s Megane RS is an awesome bit of kit. A bit more grunt than the Peugeot with 195kW/360Nm, and some say the Megane stamps a claim to being the best in this league for looks and driving dynamics. That was until Peugeot launched the 308 GTi which we reckon gives its French rival a real headache.
Less power but more torque (162kW/350Nm), Volkswagen’s Golf GTI has for many years been the European hot-hatch benchmark. Well there are some rivals for the title now and the Peugeot 308 GTi is one of them. No doubting the Golf’s gorgeous interior and amazing production quality from the Wolfsburg plant.