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Car reviews - Peugeot - 308 - GTi 270

Our Opinion

We like
Design, performance, handling, cornering finesse, grip, relative ride comfort, cabin, refinement, control, economy potential
Room for improvement
Long-throw gear shift, anti-clockwise tachometer, no auto option, no manual handbrake, no AEB availability (yet)

Gallery

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Peugeot logo14 Mar 2016

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

Price and equipment

PEUGEOT has been out of the C-segment small-car hot-hatch game for so long that nobody would care too much if the 308 GTi never happened.

Even that little ‘i’ sits awkwardly at the end of the badge, like it’s just been exposed as an interloper.

The fact is, despite the mythology surrounding the 205 GTi from way back in the 1980s, there hasn’t really been a legendary 3-zero-something rival for the genre-defining Volkswagen Golf GTI for the French to draw inspiration from.

Exciting as it was when new, even the revered 306 GTi-6 of 1997 to 2001 remains a fringe indulgence.

Further curbing our enthusiasm is the 308 GTi’s on-paper shortfalls. It costs $4000 more than its German nemesis, yet is both 500cc down on engine capacity and one transmission short. Three pedals and one clutch for the Peugeot please, not two pedals and two clutches.

But sometimes the sum of some things go far beyond the numbers making up their parts, and this is especially true for the $5000 more expensive and better-equipped GTi 270, starting from $49,900 plus on-road costs.

The extra dough nets you 20 extra metric horsepower over the standard GTi 250 (200kW versus 184kW on tap, though both at an identical 330Nm of torque), as well as Torsen mechanical limited slip differential, 19-inch alloys (that are 2kg lighter than the regular 18s), 235/35R19 Michelin Pilot rubber, bigger brakes, spine-spooning high-back sports seats, and a weight-saving tyre-inflation kit.

That’s on top of the standard GTi 250’s sports seats, sat-nav, reversing camera, parking sensors, Alcantara trim, keyless entry and start, aluminium trim, Sports Mode (for throttle, instrumentation, and exhaust), and rear privacy glass.

Note, however, that Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) is not available as yet on this series.

Ours also featured the $4700-extra Coupe Franche two-tonne paintjob. Needing up to 15 hours to apply, it certainly turns heads. But will the 308 GTi 270 change your mind?

Interior

Every single T9-series 308, from the base Access to the GTi, benefits from an intelligently thought-out interior.

Roomier than its diminutive exterior appearance suggests, and well-made using satisfyingly high-quality materials, the French hatch also has one of the most elegantly simple – and appealing –dashboard designs.

It’s one of the most controversial too, thanks to a low-wheel/high-instrumentation system that strives to improve the human/machine interface while reducing fatigue. A properly devised wheel/pedal/lever relationship is enhanced by excellent ventilation and thoughtful storage, though not everybody will warm to the colourful central touchscreen, which requires a two-button push for some functions, and isn’t always easy to pinpoint with your finger on the move.

So how does such a progressive fascia translate in the language of a hot hatch? Like it was designed to do so from the outset, since the look and layout is both sporty and strikingly contemporary.

Take the dials. A lovely white-on-black design theme, with crisp markings, it turns into searing red at a push of a sport button, bringing additional data (like a G-force meter), for an appropriately sporty GTi appearance. Note, however, that the anti-clockwise tachometer is just as annoying here as it is on the cheapest Access variant.

The high-back front seats, meanwhile, cosset and support with the best, and are finished in a stylish leather/fake suede combo that wouldn’t look out of place in an Audi RS4.

Compared to a Golf, the 308’s back seat area is neither as spacious nor as well equipped, but it remains class competitive in terms of accommodating two adults – three at a pinch – while the lack of rear face-level airvents is negated by the ferocity of the outlets up front and centre.

Additionally, the boot is one of the biggest in class, aided by a low and wide cargo floor – made possible by the removal of the space-saver spare found in all non-GTi 270 308s.

Without a squeak or a rattle to speak of, all-in-all then, the Peugeot’s interior design and presentation remains a class act.

Engine and transmission

After the wildly underrated 208 GTi and sizzling RCZ R, this is the third high-performance model to come out of the ever-improving Peugeot Sport in-house concern. And what the Sochaux engineers have created with the BMW co-developed 1598cc Prince powerplant is quite exceptional.

Featuring direct-injection, a 9.2:1 compression ratio, and what PSA Peugeot Citroen calls “strengthened mechanicals”, the all-alloy four-cylinder petrol engine delivers 200kW of power at 6000rpm and 330Nm of torque from 1900-4000rpm, for a 0-100km/h time of just 6.0 seconds and a 250km/h electronically limited top speed.

That’s quite an astounding result for a 1.6, making it one of the most powerful for its size on the planet. And while on paper, it is 0.8s shy of the terrific Golf R’s scorching 0-100km/h result, the way the 308 moves and feels will put a smile on the face of every driving enthusiast with a pulse.

Eager and energetic at idle, in regular mode, the GTi steps off the line quickly, and keeps piling on the acceleration forcefully all the way to the 6500rpm red line. Backed up by a fiery exhaust note, there’s just no letting up with your right foot pressed down. This is a properly quick small car.

Pushing the Sport Mode beside the gear lever sharpens the throttle response significantly, accompanied by a much buzzier sound piping in (artificially, it must be said), creating a visual (with the red instruments) and aural symphony of sound, accompanied by what feels like a sensational boost in speed.

Basically, this GTi 270 grows an extra large pair of horns, with its performance soaring from fast to frenetic. The revs just pile on effortlessly, soaring relentlessly to the 7000rpm cut-out in the four lower gears. This explosive little engine is a maniacal miracle.

Which makes the long-throw and at times notchy six-speed manual transmission all the more disappointing. It’s not a deal-breaker by any means – we’d still rate it a solid 6.5 out of 10 – but since so much else about the GTi 270’s set-up rates a nine (or more), a better shifting gearbox is deserved. Peugeot ought to get a Ford Fiesta or Focus ST in to see how great it can be.

Finally, there’s the efficiency potential. Driven with delirious and demented delight in constant Sport Mode, our economy (on 98 premium unleaded petrol) average shot well above 10L/100km, but that can be almost halved, due to the GTi’s relative light weight (just 1205kg) and efficiency focussed engineering (including a fast-acting idle stop system).

Ride and handling

Soaring engine performance is only one part of the GTi’s impressive hot-hatch story, since the chassis, too, is an outstanding piece of engineering.

As with all T9 308s, this car employs PSA’s strong yet light EMP2 platform.

Already precise and surefooted in the regular models, this architecture seems born for its role beneath a pocket rocket, bringing alacrity, control, and suppleness in equal – and at times intoxicating – measure.

Unique to the 270 is its standard Torsen LSD, a mechanical device that ensures exceptional traction through corners. Backed up by perfectly weighted power steering, as well as a sportier set of suspension components that include an 11mm lower ride, wider tracks, increased front wheel camber, firmer bushes, stiffer springs, thicker anti-roll bars, and specialised (non adaptive) dampers for the MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear ends, the GTi 270 is not just a one-trick pony.

Indeed, point it corner-wards, and the French tearaway turns in with pointed immediacy, handles with an unflappably planted attitude, and yet soaks up bumps and road irregularities with astounding aplomb. Yes, the ride can seem firm-ish in places, but it never feels hard or brittle, and there isn’t that constant tyre droning that we’ve come to accept in rival products.

If dynamic poise is your poison, the 308’s adrenalin-inducing ability to string together a ribboned piece of road will have you beaming like the winner at a beauty pageant.

The feedback and feel from the helm is a reminder of the good old days of the hot hatch, with the wheel coming alive in your palms in a way that most of the premium-branded uber hatches like the otherwise supersonic Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG (conveniently on-hand at the time of this test) just can’t manage.

That the GTi 270 can do all this while braking with forceful insistence (380mm x 33mm ventilated carbon front discs, boosted by red-painted four-piston callipers), and without pummelling your backside, shows that the French brand has rediscovered its mojo.

And, remember, all without the aid of complicated adaptive dampers, on 235/35ZR19 tyres. Athleticism and comfort are not mutually exclusive.

Safety and servicing

Like all 308s, the GTi scores a five-star Euro NCAP rating, while in Australia, diesel the regular diesel 308 was awarded a five-star ANCAP rating.

Fixed-price servicing is also available – at every 12 months or 15,000km – whichever comes first. The warranty is officially three years or 100,000km, though there is currently a five-year time-frame promotion on at the moment.

Verdict

Congratulations, Peugeot, the GTi 270 deserves to sit alongside your hall-of-famers like the 205 GTi, 405 Mi16, and 306 GTi-6.

As with those, it evolves the breed with breathtaking ambition and can-do spirit, and makes us so very, very glad you finally remembered us enthusiasts, after more than a decade in the wilderness.

Delicate and full of finesse yet fierce, strong, and rewardingly fast to boot, the flagship 308 is nothing short of Volkswagen, Ford, and Renault’s worst hot-hatch nightmare. Revel in its glory, and enjoy.

Rivals

Volkswagen Golf R 4Motion from $52,740 plus on-road costs
Arguably the greatest Golf ever, the flagship hot-hatch is an abject lesson in quality, design, and obsessive engineering, for all-weather handling and roadholding brilliance that even your grandma can enjoy. Ultimately lacks character and charm though.

Renault Megane RS 275 Cup Premium from $53,000 plus on-road costs
Raw, visceral, and incredibly interactive, this is perhaps the most track-focussed, driver-obsessive hot-hatch, turning the adrenalin meter up to 11. The fact it lacks the all-round comfort abilities of the Golf and 308 equivalents won’t matter to the hardcore.

Subaru WRX STi from $49,490 plus on-road costs
Not strictly a hot hatch, but a boy racer extraordinaire nonetheless, this Impreza-based scorcher has phenomenal rally-bred AWD grip, backed up by stonking performance and amazing control. But the lack of driver feedback and feel, and cheapo dated cabin, detract.

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