First drive: Peugeot 308 GTi
The Peugeot 308 GTi is another foray by the French manufacturer into the burgeoning market of the hot hatch. With uprated power and firmer suspension, the 308 GTi is aimed at drivers who seek more involvement in their drive, a much more room in comparison to its smaller sibling – the 208 GTi. But with strong competition from its rivals, the 308 GTi has to be on top form to win us over.
What is it?
The 308 GTi is Peugeot's largest hot hatch – one notch up from the 208 GTi. That means five doors, a larger boot and more room in the rear. But bigger doesn't necessarily mean sensible; not in this case, anyway. With a lower ride height and sportier styling, the 308 GTi has not problem standing out from the rest of the Peugeot range. Based on the successful 308 hatch, the GTi is a faster variant to go against the likes of the Golf GTI and Renaultsport Clio.
What's under the bonnet?
The 308 GTi comes in two specifications, GTi 250 and GTi 270. Powered by a 1.6-litre turbocharged engine, the smaller of the two produces 247bhp, while the larger model pumps out 268bhp. This power is transferred to the road through a six-speed manual gearbox, which will come as welcome news to driving enthusiasts.
With two engines available, there's not a huge amount of choice. However, both units produce 139g/km of CO2 and can spring from 0-62mph in 6.0 and 6.2 seconds. Topping out at an electronically-limited 155mph, the 308 GTi certainly has enough pace and poke to keep up with the rivals.
What's the spec like?
For a hot-hatch, the looks are everything. So with the 308 GTi, Peugeot has really gone to town, draping the hatch in alcantara and red stitching. The base 250 comes with a GTI grille with chequered flag design, twin exhausts with a black diffuser and plenty of GTI badges. Looking inside, it's equipped with aluminium pedals, GTi style mats and a leather-trimmed sports steering wheel. Technology wise, the 308 GTi has a 9.7-inch touchscreen display with satellite navigation and Bluetooth connectivity.
Upgrade to the 270 and customers will receive 19-inch 'Carbone' alloys wheels, red brake callipers with 380mm front discs and GTi bucket seats finished in leather effect material and alcantara. More importantly, the 270 adds a big mechanical upgrade - a Torsen limited slip differential.
The hot hatch market is fiercely competitive, as manufactures continue to battle for the ultimate performance hatchback. From Ford, there's the impressive Focus ST, while Volkswagen places its bids on the ever-reliable Golf GTi. If Peugeot is looking for an easy win, it's certainly not going to be found here. But the French carmaker does have something that, despite being dwelled upon by other manufacturers, is important - heritage.
The firm has always had excellent form in producing short, snappy hatches. You need only cast your mind back to the likes of the 205 GTi, 309 GTi and 206 GTi to know that when it puts its mind to it, Peugeot is usually bang on the money when it comes to satisfying the needs of a sporty car enthusiast.
What's it like to drive?
The powertrain, for starters, is excellent. Power is plentiful, and there's spades of torque provided from the turbo to drag the 308 GTi out of corners. It feels genuinely quick, and should definitely be enough to scare off a Focus ST. The gear change isn't awfully precise, but navigating through the six gears is smooth and satisfying. The brakes are sharp, and the 380mm discs at the front don't suffer from too much fade. The steering however, is a different thing all together.
Unfortunately, the power assistance is too overpowering - the 308 GTi lacks the precision handling to be able to accurately place the car where you want it. The ride is firm, and does tend to crash over low-speed bumps. Get up to a decent speed though, and the 308 GTi has genuinely impressive grip, holding well through quick bends, as the limited-slip diff hooks up to provide enough traction in any corner.
Sadly, motorway stints feel heavy and listless. This is fed back to the driver through a steering wheel, which is notably small. Had the steering provided a little more feel, and the wheel had been a slightly larger, this could have been a competitive package.
AOL Cars Verdict
The 308 GTi is a sporty hatch that's a little off the boil. Unfortunately, itdoesn't have the crazy styling, nor 'fizzy' driving feedback, to challenge rivals. This car will certainly sell, there's no doubt about that. But it sadly lacks characteristics one would expect from a feisty pocket rocket.
It's certainly quick enough and is definitely an attractive proposition for someone looking for a standard hatch with a little more power. But for those looking for a genuinely spirited car – one worthy of a GTi badge – they may want to look elsewhere.
Model: Peugeot 208 GTi 270
Engine: 1.6-litre turbocharged
Max speed: 145mph
Top Speed: 155mph
Economy: 47mpg (combined)