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Driven: Peugeot 308 GTi. Image by Peugeot.

Driven: Peugeot 308 GTi
Is 250hp enough for a hot hatch these days? Peugeot reckons so.

 



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Peugeot 308 GTi

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Good points: excellent engine, fantastic chassis, subtle styling

Not so good: synthesised exhaust note in Sport mode, lack of rear legroom, expensive

Key Facts

Model tested: Peugeot 308 GTi by Peugeot Sport THP 250
Price: from 26,555; 27,820 as tested
Engine: 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Transmission: front-wheel drive, six-speed manual
Body style: five-door hot hatch
CO2 emissions: 139g/km (Band E, 130 VED)
Combined economy: 47.1mpg
Top speed: 155mph
0-62mph: 6.2 seconds
Power: 250hp at 6,000rpm
Torque: 330Nm at 1,900rpm

Our view:

It's all a matter of perspective, really. When Peugeot launched the 308 GTi at the end of last year, a lot of the critical response to it was 'meh'. By 2015, hot hatches were already packing as much as 381hp and with even Peugeot's own sensational 208 GTi by Peugeot Sport having 208hp, it seemed reviewers thought its big brother was a little lacking in the firepower department, thanks to a choice of two outputs: one 308 GTi model is furnished with 250hp, the other packs 270hp.

But let's just analyse that for a moment, shall we? The waters of this whole marketplace have once again been muddied by Ford, in much the same way the Blue Oval offering the Fiesta ST for just 17,000 in the B-segment hot hatch game seems tantamount to cheating. The Focus RS has skewed everyone's viewpoint, because now there's a 350hp, four-wheel drive lunatic on sale for less than 30,000; the value for money factor is simply ridiculous. So, taking a proper mathematical viewpoint, you have to eliminate the extremes from the sample because they wildly affect the mean values.

Instead, consider the fact that all the rest of the 300hp+ 4WD hot hatches - the Volkswagen Golf R, its closely-related cousin, the Audi S3, and then the two main weapons, the Audi RS 3 and the Mercedes-AMG A 45 4Matic - are comfortably in excess of 30,000, or 40,000 in the case of the last two. They're a different breed. We need to focus on the front-wheel drive competitors only to make this fair.

Then, the Peugeot's 270hp maximum output looks wholly relevant. It's only in the past few months that the SEAT Leon Cupra has been increased to 290hp, with a concomitant hike in price to over 29,000, while the Megane Renaultsport 275 Trophy - one of the finest-handling front-drive cars you'll encounter - is not much more powerful than the 308 GTi THP 270. Vauxhall is currently between Astra VXRs at the moment, although the outgoing model had 280hp; while even with just 250hp, the 308 GTi matches the Ford Focus ST and easily sees off both the Volkswagen Golf GTI and either iteration of Skoda's Octavia vRS. Really, again it's an extreme (in the FWD category, this is represented by the 310hp, be-winged Honda Civic Type R) that has altered our perceptions, but the Japanese motor is in Golf R territory for price, which (like the Focus RS) separates it from the herd. The Pug can do 155mph flat out and does 0-62mph in 6.2 seconds with 250hp, or 6.0 seconds as the 270, and that seems more than fast enough for modern day needs.

Right, enough of the extemporising. Let's assume that we're happy with the Peugeot's clout and assess the car on its own merits. We're driving the 26,555 THP 250 model here, which brings LED headlamps, dual-zone climate control, a reversing camera with a full array of parking sensors, keyless entry and go, auto lights and wipers, satnav, cruise control and sports front seats, among much more. However, just three options - metallic paint (525), a panoramic glass roof (500) and Peugeot Connect SOS and Assistance (240) push the ticket up to 27,820; maybe we'll contradict ourselves later, but that's starting to sound like a lot for 250hp... anyway, opting for the 270 variant sees the base price climb to 28,155 and brings the power increase, 19-inch wheels, a Torsen limited-slip differential (LSD), red brake callipers with 380mm front discs and proper GTi bucket seats within.

The styling of the GTi is beautifully judged, but, as we shall come to see, like a lot of the rest of the car's character it's reserved in an age in which the turbocharged Civic Type R exists. There's a red pinstripe in the front lower air dam, a set of attractive 18-inch alloy wheels, some subtle side skirts and a pair of round exhausts spaced either side of a rear diffuser. The 308 looks great in pretty much any specification so the GTi is a cracking-looking machine, although many will lament the fact it appears to be barely any different to the 'warm' GT lower down the Peugeot range, or even the GT Line-spec 308 models.

Its interior is also very similar to the aforementioned 308 GT's, with the same i-Cockpit layout and dials that turn red when you engage Sport mode. You're either going to love or loathe that button steering wheel (I'm in the 'love it' camp), but the driving position and layout of the dash are both superb. Yes, some functional shortcut switches on the console might help and mean that you aren't permanently dealing with that high-mounted touchscreen, but otherwise the 308's cabin is like nothing else in its class. One word of warning, though: the attractive Alcantara and 'leather effect' sports seats in the front have bulky backrests, which impinge on rear legroom.

When it comes to the dynamics, personal taste is a commodity of variance and we can see why some people might be left a little cold by the Peugeot's unruffled demeanour. Driven sedately, the 308 GTi is a wonderfully refined machine that will give you fuel economy in the mid- to high-30s most of the time, maybe more on the motorway. The ride is good, the car is exceptionally quiet and its controls are all well weighted. Press the Sport button just behind the gear lever and as we've already said the dials glow red, but even on maximum attack the 308 never becomes raw. Many will be deeply annoyed with the extremely synthetic, growling exhaust note of the car in this mode (augmented by sounds piped through the speakers), the steering lacks the final levels of nuance and detail required to mark it out as great rather than good and there seems less inclination for the GTi to adjust its cornering stance on the throttle in the same way the smaller 208 GTi by Peugeot Sport is oh-so-willing to do.

However, we really gelled with the 250hp Peugeot. Different driving styles require different machinery and maybe the 308 GTi just flattered my ham-fistedness, but it proved to be a thoroughly entertaining steer. It is indecently quick and supremely composed across ground at pace, with only full throttle in second gear out of tight corners eliciting any scrabbling from the nose. With just 1.6 swept litres of capacity over the front end, the light, 1,205kg 308 very rarely understeers on the way into bends and even without the LSD of the 270 it finds mammoth traction to fire you out onto straights. The gearbox is a delight to deal with, the brakes are superb and on a connected note, if you've never tried heel-and-toe before, or you have and you're rubbish at it (like me), then drive a 308 GTi THP 250. No semi-normal car we can think of has better spaced or modulated brake and throttle pedals, meaning you can blip the turbocharged 1.6 revs on the way into a curve and rev-match perfectly for the next ratio down the gearbox. Sure, there could be a little more rear-axle interactivity and less artificiality to the weight of the steering, but this is a damn sight more enjoyable to hustle along than a Golf GTI - and it's less unruly and scruffy than a Focus ST, too. Is 250hp enough for a hot hatch these days? In the case of the 308 GTi, we'd say yes. Emphatically, yes.

The outcome of all of the above is that, on the theme of personal taste once more, you end up with a Peugeot 308 range that's rather like the choice on a curry house menu. If you like the herbs and spices in the cuisine, but really don't want anything too fiery, pick a korma (any regular 308 - the 1.2 PureTech should suffice). Anyone who wants something a bit hotter should opt for the 205hp 308 GT, which provides tikka masala levels of warmness. This GTi, to us, is like a jalfrezi - hot enough to make it worthwhile having chosen an Indian (er... Peugeot, is what we mean in this convoluted analogy), yet it's not so hot that you can't enjoy any of its flavoursome goodness. That leaves room for a 308 R 'vindaloo', which some people will want to order just so they can show off their bravado to their mates.

However, we love the classy, slightly restrained air of the 308 GTi and the rival it is most like in terms of its personality is the Volkswagen Golf GTI. The French motor looks nicer outside than the Volkswagen, has more power, a more involving chassis and remains about comparable on list price, although you'll get more equipment for your money than going German. So what's not to like? Yes, there's a whole band of 300-381hp hyper-hatches out there that would show it the way, but they're more expensive, more extreme to live with and harder on the old go-juice. Which is why we reckon that the 250hp 308, even more so than its harder, LSD-equipped, 270hp sibling, is a fantastic performance car, pitched at just the right power and price point in the marketplace. It's one of our very favourite hot hatches of the moment, mainly because we absolutely adore a really good jalfrezi. Pass the naan bread, please.

Alternatives:

Ford Focus ST: makes the same 250hp as this 'entry' 308 GTi, but no one seems to complain about that. Great chassis, but Focus Mk3 is getting on a bit now.

Honda Civic Type R: has eclipsed the SEAT Leon Cupra 290 as the FWD hot hatch king of pace, although at 30,000 and with wild bodywork, the CTR is not cheap.

Volkswagen Golf GTI: Performance Pack-equipped model still not as powerful as the Pug, while Clubsport coming later this year will be very costly and limited in numbers.


Matt Robinson - 21 Mar 2016









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2016 Peugeot 308 GTi. Image by Peugeot.2016 Peugeot 308 GTi. Image by Peugeot.2016 Peugeot 308 GTi. Image by Peugeot.2016 Peugeot 308 GTi. Image by Peugeot.2016 Peugeot 308 GTi. Image by Peugeot.

2016 Peugeot 308 GTi. Image by Peugeot.2016 Peugeot 308 GTi. Image by Peugeot.2016 Peugeot 308 GTi. Image by Peugeot.2016 Peugeot 308 GTi. Image by Peugeot.2016 Peugeot 308 GTi. Image by Peugeot.








 

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