The 308 GTi is, as the name suggests, the hot version of the regular Peugeot 308, the French manufacturer’s best attempt yet at capturing the small hatch crown for itself. Talk of this very version emerged almost immediately after the base car made its debut, and now that it’s here, it’s proven to be a handy addition to the hot hatch landscape.
The car is the most recent spawn in Peugeot’s lineage of fast front-driven cars, following the 208 GTi and the RCZ R, the latter of which has since been phased out. They were both impressive in their own right, laying a solid foundation with enthusiasts to expect another hit with the 308.
Peugeot has replied with a thoroughly beefed up version of the original car, with both technical and visual changes aplenty. Like the 208 GTi, this hot 308 benefits from a totally reworked suspension setup, and it certainly doesn’t help that there’s plenty of power under the bonnet from a 200kW turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder and grip from a Torsen limited slip front differential to cope with that tune.
Only a single version of the GTi is on offer as Peugeot has done away with the less powerful 184kW version. If its raw power you’re after, then the 308 GTi does seem like the most car for your money, though really it’s the finer points that determine whether it succeeds as an all-round hot hatch rather than just a fast and compact point to point express.
It has already been established that the 308 is very worthy contender to the Golf in their more sedate guises, but ultimately it’s the VW that edges the win and keeps the throne. With this in mind, has Peugeot managed to pool its resources and unseat the Golf GTi instead?
“There's no denying that the 308 GTi 270 is a handsome little hatch, which doesn't fall into either of the twin traps of over-conservatism or overplayed styling flourishes.” - CarsGuide
From the outside, it is evident that the engineers have taken the top-spec 308 GT and dressed it up even more. Thankfully they have been careful to keep the car’s basic visual profile untouched. Aside from the odd sporty accent, there isn’t much here that’s different.
The more discerning may notice it now sits lower by 11mm and wider by 10mm. Hidden from view is the other suspension alterations such as the larger 380mm brakes, uprated dampers, firmer springs, and stiffer bushings.
It’s all quite subtle, a unique grille embedded with the GTi badge, dual chrome tip exhausts. Even the darkened 19-inch wheels are a derivative of the 18-inchers found on the 308 GT. The most ostentatious visual markers are optional extras, like the triple coat Ultimate Red metallic paint finish or the two-tone ‘Coupe Franche’ red and black treatment.
Engine and Drivetrain
“On paper the engine is giving away capacity to its 2.0-litre rivals, but it feels extremely strong. It may be small but it runs enough boost to pull hard across the rev range, with a particularly strong mid-range.” - Drive.com.au
With the rest of the Peugeot 308 range now limited to the 1.2-litre PureTech three-pot turbo or the 2.0-litre BlueHDi turbodiesel, the GTi is now the only one to carry the 1.6-litre Prince four-cylinder turbo, or THP as Peugeot calls it.
Here it has had its internal components strengthened and subsequently tuned to an astonishing 200kW. Peak torque of 330Nm arrives as early as 1,900rpm too. That’s a lot of twist for a front-wheel drive car, and to help it manage that surge, Peugeot has supplied it with a Torsen limited slip differential.
This results in more power being put to the ground more of the time, and no matter how you spin it, the 308 GTi is quicker, noticeably so, than the Golf GTi in a straight shootout with 100km/h arriving in just 6.0 seconds. Meanwhile, the top speed is limited to 250km/h. Around a technical circuit, though, its advantage over the venerable German is more difficult to determine.
But while the century figure arrives quicker in the fast Frechman, its 6-speed manual transmission could mean that achieving that time will be less consistent that the quicker and more precise DSG dual-clutch box in the Golf.
Also, despite its considerable power advantage, the 308 GTi doesn’t sound as angry as the numbers may suggest, at least to those in the car. To its credit, though, the motor is still quite economical with a claimed 6.0-litres of petrol consumed over 100km in a combined cycle. Provided, of course, your right foot is sufficiently light.
“The leather bits are fake, you perch too high, but they look great and offer daily driver comfort with good lateral support. Peugeot underplays the standard massage function.” - CAR Magazine
There’s still the i-Cockpit gauge cluster and steering wheel arrangement, a minimal dash with a centrally mounted touchscreen infotainment system which also controls HVAC functions, and overall still exudes a modernity that rivals just cannot grasp yet.
Build is good too, like the standard car, and materials feel decidedly premium - a definite step up over the previous Peugeot Sport product of comparable size and foot print on the road, the RCZ R, which was based on the previous generation 308.
Over the standard car, the GTi’s cabin expectedly comes with a sportier touches such as red contrast seams along the leather steering wheel, body hugging Alcantara leather sports seats, gear lever, floor mats, and door panel trim. There’s also an ‘Anthracite’ black roof and door pillars as well as drilled aluminium pedals.
Passenger space is unchanged, meaning it’s still a a bit more cramped for rear occupants compared to class rivals. However, there’s an ample boot at 435-litres.
Behind The Wheel
“Direct, accurate, and super-sharp, the 308’s variable electric power-assisted steering is very light, and feels even more video game-like thanks to being directly attached the Pug’s small-diameter steering wheel.” - CarAdvice
Those more adept at driving fast will be the first to appreciate just how important the standard limited slip differential is to rein in the torque bombarding the front wheels. It’s one of the very real differences between the standard car and the GTi and helps transform it into a different machine altogether on the road.
It also helps to give the driver some much needed feedback from the quick if often muted steering and keeps understeer at bay even while accelerating hard out of corners by managing the distribution of power to whichever front wheel has the most grip, which it now has more of thanks to the wider track.
Body roll is kept to a minimum and the car’s revised suspension and uprated components have given the front end much more bite upon initial turn in as well, but is overall not too firm to have lost the 308’s plaint edge on most roads.
Safety and Technology
“The Torsen limited slip differential is only fitted to the GTi 270 and for many drivers, this alone will justify the increased cost.” - Autocar
It inherits the maximum 5-star ANCAP safety rating and the full active anti-collision tech that the 308 premiered with. As standard, there’s 6 airbags, stability control, reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, and cruise control. What it does miss out on, also like the top-spec 308 GT hatch is the radar-assister adaptive cruise control which also enables autonomous emergency braking (AEB).
The in-built 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system now has a unique ‘Redline’ theme to match the interior accents, but that doesn’t save it from being less intuitive to use than other systems in the class. It’s more of a shame for the 308 in particular because Peugeot has shoehorned as many cabin functions into it, including controls for the climate control.
It does, though, include the extra functions of the Drive Sport Pack, meaning it can display digital G-force monitoring, throttle map recalibration, exhaust note amplification, and power/boost/torque readouts.
The 308 GTi takes the basic aim of the Volkswagen Golf GTi of accessible performance and everyday practicality and gives it a swirl of French joie de vivre.
Its still the stylish, comfortable, well built hatch we knew before, but now that it has more power and a more capable suspension, perhaps this is the best expression of the second generation small Peugeot hatch. Though, it comes with a steepish price. If you don’t opt for the more free spirited paint options, there’s really no compromises in everyday driving except for a somewhat firmer ride over the standard car.
But now, since it is one of the most powerful hot hatches currently on sale, at the prod of the throttle, you’ll have the luxury of leaving everyone on the highway behind in your 200kW impulse machine.
CAR Magazine - 4/5 - “Not just good enough to live up to Peugeot’s GTI back catalogue, the new 308’s good enough to worry any other car with a GTI badge you care to mention. Happy days are here again.”
Drive.com.au - 7/10 - “That premium price and lack of automatic option could limit the 308 GTi's appeal to many Australian buyers, which would be a shame because it is another excellent French hot hatch to add to the already lengthy list of great Gallic pocket rockets.”
CarAdvice - 8/10 - “The 2016 Peugeot 308 GTi 270 is more practical than the more performance-focussed (and soon-to-be-replaced) three-door Renault Megane RS. It also offers buyers a more exciting, slightly harder-edged driving experience than the Volkswagen Golf GTI.”
CarsGuide - 4/5 - “With some serious tech, like a mechanical limited-slip differential, four-pot racing brakes and massive 380mm rotors, it's the wild child spiritual successor to the original cat among the pigeons, the Alfa Romeo 147 GTA.”
Autocar - 4/5 - “Despite its dynamic limitations, the 308 is a more vivacious and interesting driver’s car than the Golf GTI and runs it close enough as an ownership prospect to just about seal the deal.”
EVO - 4.5/5 - “Compared to the hard-edged 208 GTi by Peugeot Sport, the 308 GTi is slightly softer and more friendly. But, while it might not lead the class in terms of dynamics – that title going to the Megane 275 – it still does a fine job of being fun to drive.”
Practical Motoring - 95/100 - The GTi badge is sacrosanct to Peugeot fans, so any vehicle that wears it has to measure up. The 308 GTi does.