Peugeot's 308 GTi takes on strong rivals at the top of the family hatchback shopping rocket segment but it's well prepared for the task. Jonathan Crouch drives it.
Peugeot has a strong history in family hatch-sized GTi contenders. The brand's 308 GTi model is one of the most potent ever, a hot hatch that produces up to 270bhp and in this improved form, is even more ready to do battle in this sector with the Ford Focus ST and the Volkswagen Golf GTI.
Ever since the launch of the 205 GTi, Peugeot has been a go-to brand for hot hatch fans. The company's shopping rocket models include a roll-call of outstanding performance cars: the 309 GTi, 206 GTi, 306 GTi-6... and so on, right up to the more recent RCZ R, 208 GTi 30th and 208 'GTi by Peugeot Sport' models. Back in 2015, that same 'Peugeot Sport' division brought us this car, the 308 Gti, a model now usefully updated. In a sector filled with impressive hot hatches, the 308 GTi is aimed at the very top of the tree. That means its rivals include the Volkswagen Golf GTI, the Ford Focus ST and the Renaultsport Megane. It'll have to be very good indeed to succeed in this exalted company.
The 308 GTi is aimed at the enthusiast end of the market - in every way a red-hot hatch. Hence the effort that's gone into tuning both the chassis and the 1.6-litre THP turbo engine, a unit now offered only in its top 270bhp guise. Performance is strong, this model quicker over the benchmark sprint than a rival Ford Focus ST. This 308 will get from a standing start to 62mph in 6.0 seconds, en route to a top speed of 155mph. The kit tally includes a hi-tech Torsen limited-slip differential, this channelling the power to the wheel with the highest grip. That makes this Peugeot deceptively quick through the bends. Through those turns, this car feels taut and responsive, with bodyroll well controlled, despite a suspension set-up that's also tuned to be compliant over broken surfaces. Enthusiastic drivers will want to press this 'Sport' button that ramps up the engine note, sharpens the throttle response and turns the instrument lighting from white to red. For this kind of progress, you'll want to perfect gearchange shifts you'll have to make via a 6-speed manual transmission - there no paddleshift auto option.
This 308 GTi certainly looks the part, offered with clean lines that build on those of the standard car. Changes to this revised model include the adoption of a new bonnet, a re-styled grille and revised headlights and rear lamp clusters. As you'd expect, this top hot hatch has more road presence than its siblings, with a muscular stance and plenty of enhancements to the exterior to make it stand out from the crowd. This includes exclusive styling front and rear and a lowered ride height that sees this car sit 11 millimetres lower to the ground than the standard 308. The nose features full LED headlamps, flanking a smarter black radiator grille with a horizontal chequered pattern and gloss-black finishing. The same motif is echoed on the air intake, which is surrounded by sequential LED indicators and a red detail strip. Below the bumper, two front spoilers boost aerodynamic performance. In profile, the redesigned door sills hint at the car's aggressive nature, while the sleek rear design features a gloss-black section housing the twin exhaust pipes. With a wider track of 1,570mm at the front and 1,554mm at the rear, this GTi has been engineered to offer exceptional grip. Buyers get dynamic 19-inch 'Carbone' light-weight wheels. Jump inside and you'll find a Peugeot i-Cockpit cabin enhanced to reflect the sporting nature of the car, with additional detailing to signify this performance version.
List pricing for the Peugeot 308 GTi pitches in at around the £29,500 mark. That makes this model considerably more expensive than a rival Ford Focus ST, but probably cheaper than an equivalently-specced VW Golf GTI. You certainly get plenty of equipment. For example, inside, there are Peugeot Sport 'bucket' seats upholstered in Alcantara with red stitching, these providing cosseting lateral support. The compact steering wheel carried over from the standard car is here offered with a full-grain leather design featuring the GTi logo at the bottom and a red centring mark at the top. The cabin has the 308 model's now familiar i-Cockpit instrument layout and customers can also opt for a Driver Sport Pack. This gives you a 'Sport' button on the centre console: press it and the instrument display changes from white to red. At the same time, you also get extra information on the central read-out (details on power, torque, boost, lateral and longitudinal acceleration). Plus the 'Sport' mode enhances the engine's throaty growl and changes accelerator pedal mapping for a more engaging driving experience.
Running costs can be steep when it comes to hot hatches but the 308 GTi is actually quite impressive here. The engine is arguably the most efficient in its sector, as you might expect given that it's just 1.6-litres in size (rivals use 2.0-litre units). CO2 emissions are rated at 139g/km, while combined cycle fuel economy is figured at 47.0mpg. What else? Well the three year, 60,000 mile warranty isn't as good as some other rivals offer and, predictably for a hot hatch, insurance will be pricey, rated at group 34E. That's up from the Group 26E rating applied to a Peugeot 308 GT model with the de-tuned 205bhp version of the same 1.6-litre petrol turbo engine. As for residual values, well no, you can't expect these to be up to Volkswagen Golf GTI standards but these days, Peugeot is certainly getting there in this regard.
Peugeot seems to be rediscovering a little of its hot hatch magic. The 208 GTi showed us that the company's 'Sport' division still knew how to build a decent shopping rocket and this improved 308 GTi model seems to confirm that feeling. This may not be as good a track car as, say, the Renaultsport Megane but it'd probably be an easier hot hatch to live with - and enjoy - day-to-day. If you're buying a car in this segment, it's a model you need to try.
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