Car reviews - Peugeot - 308 - GTi
Fierce engine, smoother steering and brakes, suspension control at speed, cornering agility, large boot, improved value and infotainment
Room for improvement
Lacks ergonomic finesse and storage space, excessive road noise, low-speed ride, absent active safety technology
With so many hot hatchback options, Peugeot renews its pitch to pick the 308 GTi
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24 Aug 2018
A FRENCH hot hatchback has long needed to offer a certain joie de vivre, or to paraphrase in English, ensure its owner feels joyful to be alive. But in Australia at least the Peugeot 308 GTi must now provide buyers with a compelling raison de posséder. Direct translation? A reason to own it.
The current-generation 308 GTi launched locally two years ago in two model grades, an 184kW version called the GTi 250 and a 200kW model grade dubbed GTi 270. However, with this facelifted version only the latter remains, complete with a handy $4000 discount.
In addition to a beefier new front grille and freshened LED headlights, it also gains a higher level of infotainment and active safety technology for its lesser ask, all in attempt to fend off new or revised hot hatches arriving into market, while turning a sales trickle into a stronger tide.
Add smoothened-out driver controls to the mix, and this facelifted 308 GTi (which has no longer been tagged 270) certainly appears more compelling than ever before.
Price and equipment
Now priced from $45,990 plus on-road costs, the 308 GTi costs $1000 more than the previous entry-level GTi 250. Yet it still includes all mechanical extras from the GTi 270 despite wiping $4000 from its former pricetag.
Mechanical highlights over the old base model grade include 19-inch alloy wheels (rather than 18s), a mechanical limited-slip differential (LSD) and enormous 380mm front disc brakes. Meanwhile, keyless auto-entry, part-leather interior trim, dual-zone climate control air-conditioning, automatic reverse-park assistance and even a massage driver’s seat with electric lumbar adjustment remain.
New features with this facelifted Peugeot include the addition of Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring technology to the renewed 9.7-inch touchscreen, which still includes satellite navigation and a reversing camera, but still lacks voice control and a digital radio.
On the safety front, a blind-spot monitor, lane-departure warning with lane-keep assistance, auto up/down high-beam and speed-limit signage recognition have been added as standard. Yet, curiously, autonomous emergency braking (AEB) is unavailable on GTi – despite being included on all other 308 model grades.
The 308 GTi continues to play a game of two halves inside, but that is only partly to do with front and rear accommodation.
However, from there this Peugeot enters a murky middle ground with an infotainment system that thankfully now includes smartphone mirroring, simply because the home-brand interface has only been slightly improved. The screen itself is a low-resolution unit, and the rearview camera is grainy.
Tightly supportive front seats are not complemented by a perfect driving position for all shapes and sizes, either, owing to an otherwise brilliantly tiny steering wheel that must be positioned low so as to not obstruct the high-mounted speedometer and tachometer cluster.
The lack of storage space will grate whatever the driver (and passenger) size, with a shallow centre console storage bin, tiny glovebox and only a single flip-down cupholder having been made available.
Engine and transmission
On first acquaintance around town, Peugeot’s 1.6-litre four-cylinder feels unremarkably like any other highly-strung turbocharged engine from the hot hatch segment.
However, from about 5000rpm to where its 200kW of power is made at 6000rpm, and then onwards to its 6600rpm cut-out, this engine takes on a more rapid and angry personality that becomes addictive.
Appreciation must also go to this French five-door’s slender 1178kg tare weight, which makes it comfortably the lightest small hot hatch. It allows the engine to build its speed without becoming bogged down by excessive mass, and it is what makes this little turbo-petrol so exciting when being caned.
The only real problem is the long-throw gearshift, which can feel rubbery and sometimes baulk when shifting quickly. That is not a deal-breaker in and of itself, but teamed with the pre-facelift 308 GTi’s bitey brakes and overly light steering, it added to a complete control-weight mismatch.
Ride and handling
Peugeot may not have addressed the long-throw gearshift of its small hot hatch, but feel through the brake pedal is notably more progressive than before, while greater steering weight in Sport mode has reduced the feeling that a driver is playing Daytona at the local arcade-game hall.
Thankfully the front-end of the 308 is still a highlight of its dynamic character, with an immediacy to turn into corners then aided by the superb grip of Michelin Super Sport tyres.
Despite utilising a torsion beam rear suspension set-up – in lieu of the more sophisticated independent rear suspension (IRS) of other rivals including the Golf GTI and i30 N – the 308 GTi has also clearly been set-up to handle the patchiest country roads.
Its control over enormous bumps and undulations at speed is unwavering, a trade-off for medium- and low-speed ride quality that never truly settles. In concert with loud road noise, this Peugeot never really segues to a calm, touring personality like its Volkswagen so expertly can.
Safety and servicing
Six airbags (including dual-front, front-side and curtain), ABS, electronic stability control (ESC), front and rear parking sensors with reversing camera, blind-spot monitor, and lane-departure warning with lane-keep assistance.
The Peugeot 308 GTi achieved five stars and scored 35.82 out of 37 points when tested by Euro NCAP in 2014.
Annual or 20,000km intervals, at a reasonable capped-price $3965 to five years or 75,000km.
It is quite apt that the 308 GTi now costs $46K, because in some ways it reaches up closer to the Golf R rather than the Golf GTI, and the Honda Civic Type-R rather than the aforementioned i30 N.
Its tenacious grip is complemented by LSD-enhanced traction, an angry engine, smoother steering and brakes, a gorgeously lightweight body that feels petite and frisky through bends, and it is all wrapped around a stylish five-door design with a high-quality cabin and ultra-large boot volume.
Those dynamic virtues may not soundly beat the Hyundai, for example, but the extra cabin polish will justify the extra spend for many including this tester – ergonomic quirks and lack of storage aside.
Add in a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty and it all means that, finally, Peugeot has given buyers a clear reason to own a 308 GTi.
Hyundai i30 N from $39,990 plus on-road costs
Value packed way into a quick racetrack star, but it is also heavy and feels cheap inside.
Volkswagen Golf GTI from $41,490 plus on-road costs
It is the all-rounder, but do not let that fool you into thinking this is not fun. Oh my, it still is…
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