Peugeot 308 GTi – Review
By Liam Bird
The very mention of the phrase hot-hatch has, err… now how shall I put this without risking offence? Persons-of-a-certain-age (of which these days, I’m one) turning all dewy-eyed and waxing lyrical about the likes of the now near-legendary Peugeot 205 GTi and the equally accomplished Volkswagen Golf GTi. Debate rages in certain circles to this day as to which of them was actually better than the other, and neither side is ever likely to concede defeat.
Since the launch of the 205 GTi, Peugeot have gone on to sell over 800,000 sportier variants of their family-oriented hatchbacks. There was the now rare 309GTi, 405 Mi16 and 505GTi; the 106 Gti, the 106 Rallye (I had one of those: Brilliant.), the 106 XSi (I had two of those too: brilliant), and more recently the 208Gti and RCZ-R, neither of which are perhaps quite so memorable. And now, there’s this car: The Peugeot 308 GTi.
On paper at least, and indeed in the metal too, it looks like the old French/German rivalry is back on. When the Peugeot 308 GTi turned up last week I was immediately told “It looks like a Golf”. It also looks a lot like an Astra and an Audi A3 in places too, but I’m pretty sure that was the idea. Great lengths have been gone to in order to make Peugeot’s latest 5-door only GTi look more purposeful whilst retaining its air of sophistication. It gains wider wheel arches to allow for a wider track, there’s a rear diffuser complete with twin exhausts, side skirts and a rear spoiler of course, 19” anthracite alloys, and it sits lower too – by 11mm to be precise.
Once inside you’re greeted by the obligatory GTi smattering of red stitching. There’s a flat–bottomed and almost comically small steering wheel. Despite its tiny size it still manages to block your view of the dials. There is an aluminium gear-knob and pedals, and, if you’ve paid the extra £1,600 to get the 270 bhp version (as tested; there’s a 250 bhp version available too). What else? Some heavily sculpted if slightly over-stuffed Peugeot Sport bucket seats trimmed in leather and alcantara. These come complete with a massaging function. You do still have to adjust them manually though – strange – and they eat into the rear passenger’s already limited legroom.
There’s also a Sport button. Like most, it turns the dials red apparently (my passenger told me), pumps gruffer artificial engine noises through the speakers, increases the steering weight, and well… does little else. All of the other functions: Bluetooth, navigation, DAB, climate etc, in what is a deliberately button-less interior are taken care of via by the 9.7-inch touchscreen that sits centre-stage atop the dash. It’s beautifully integrated but it does take a while to fathom. Plus, there’s no default home screen from which you can select all of its functions. Personally I’d prefer a few more tactile switches instead. At least there’s a knob to adjust the radio volume and overall the quality of all fixtures and fittings is good.
“Steering no feel”
So too is the 308 GTi’s engine. Despite displacing just 1.6 litres the turbo-charged 4-cylinder motor develops a whopping 266bhp and 244lbft of torque. As a result the Peugeot 308 GTi will hit sixty in 6 seconds dead and where allowed go on to 155mph. Stopping is no problem either. Peugeot have equipped the 308 GTi with front brake discs of the same diameter as those on the rear of a McLaren P1. There’s also (on the 270 exclusively) a Torsen limited slip-diff to help get you around the twisty bits. The result is a mightily rapid car that is also capable of carrying the shopping. The perfect hot-hatch…
Well, not quite. Peugeot’s Sport department have fitted stiffer springs and bushes and made that mighty little motor produce all of its torque at just 1900rpm. They’ve also made the gearstick too long. It should be short and snickety in a car like this, not long and lollopy. And they’ve given the steering virtually no feel at all.
As result on all but the straightest and smoothest tarmac the Peugeot 308 GTi is incredibly difficult to drive smoothly. Hit a bump and it bounces all over the place. Accelerate hard and it torque steers even when the road is dry. You feel as though you’re constantly trying to correct its course. And thanks to that frankly annoying tiny steering wheel you’ve no idea how fast you’re going while attempting to do so.
Peugeot devotees of course will relish the challenge. They’ll say the 308 GTi is a return to form, a future classic. In many respects I’ll concede it might well be.
These days though I’m a VW type of guy – I’ve switched sides. If it was my £28,000 being spent I’d buy a Golf GTi instead.
Peugeot 308 GTi 270
Engine: 1,598cc, 4Cyl, 16V turbocharged Petrol
Transmission: 6 Manual. Front Wheel Drive
Power: 266bhp @ 6000rpm
Torque: 244 lbft @ 1900 rpm
0-62mph: 6.0 sec
Max Speed: 155 mph
MPG: 47.1 combined.
VED Band: E
Price: from £28,155