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Driven: Peugeot 308 GTi by Peugeot Sport. Image by Peugeot UK.

Driven: Peugeot 308 GTi by Peugeot Sport
Peugeotís 308 GTi is still a very likeable and competent hot hatch, but it lacks pizzazz.

 



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Peugeot 308 GTi by Peugeot Sport

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5

Good points: good chassis, strong engine, attractive body, neat i-Cockpit interior

Not so good: awfully synthetic engine noise in Sport mode, doesn't look or feel special enough for £30,000, wealth of searing hot hatch talent available elsewhere right now

Key Facts

Model tested: Peugeot 308 GTi by Peugeot Sport
Price: 308 range starts from £19,180; GTi by PS from £29,050, car as tested £29,725
Engine: 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: six-speed manual, front-wheel drive with Torsen LSD
Body style: five-door hot hatch
CO2 emissions: 139g/km (VED Band 131-150: £205 in year one, then £140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 47.1mpg
Top speed: 155mph
0-62mph: 6.0 seconds
Power: 272hp at 6,000rpm
Torque: 330Nm at 1,900-2,750rpm
Boot space: 470-1,309 litres

Our view:

Peugeot has well and truly got its mojo back. Recent Lion-bearing products issuing forth from the company have really impressed us, not least the stunning 3008 crossover and similar, larger 5008 seven-seat SUV, as well as the gorgeous 508 D-segment contender. Thankfully, this rediscovered sparkle extends to an area of carmaking where Peugeot was once traditionally very strong - hot hatches. The expensive but brilliant 208 GTi by Peugeot Sport is one of the finest contenders in the B-segment and the last time we drove a 308 GTi, we loved it - even as the 250hp model without the torque-sensing (Torsen) limited-slip differential on the front axle.

Since then, the 308 range as a whole has been facelifted, the 250hp GTi has been dropped and the 272hp variant soldiers on, refreshed, with the 'by Peugeot Sport' legend appended to its nameplate. Visually, only subtle tweaks denote the 2017-on facelift GTi by PS: a radiator grille in matte black, a different shape bonnet, a deeper and more aggressive front bumper with larger air intakes, and a rear diffuser housing split, twin-pipe exhausts. Inside, the infotainment now sports Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and a TomTom 3D connected navigation system, but in essence the basic 308 upon which the GTi is based remains largely the same car it was nigh-on five years ago.

Which is not a bad thing, per se. We've always liked the handsome look of the 308 and we've always got on with its button-tiny-steering-wheel i-Cockpit, and all of that stuff remains valid. Also, with the big 19-inch wheels of the GTi and its oh-so-subtle bodykit, it's one of those discreet hot hatches that will please driving enthusiasts who aren't extroverts - see the Volkswagen Golf GTI for details. But that's the first problem, certainly on a car that's £275 shy of 30 grand as tested. It's maybe a bit too discreet. Without the striking two-tone 'Coupe Franche' bisected paintwork, externally the 308 GTi is underplayed to the brink of 'dull'. Same of the interior: there's a sporty sprinkling of items that gently remind you that you're not in a 1.2-litre PureTech Allure, and the dials turn red when you go into Sport mode, but - for all its quality and ergonomic excellence - it's not exactly screaming 'hot hatch' when you clamber in.

To drive, the 308 GTi is excellent, so much so that we did the thick end of 300 miles in it across a week. The Torsen diff and decent steering team with excellent damping and spring rates to make it a supremely controllable, super-rapid machine across ground. You never once think a 1.6-litre four-pot is not enough for a car like this, not when it can fire the 1,205kg Pug along at such a terrific rate of knots. The gearshift is excellent, the body control first rate and the general handling experience is well worth the robust entry fee. It's even good as daily hack, providing benign cruising manners with a palatable ride and notably excellent refinement, with the ability to give you almost 40mpg on a steady motorway/dual-carriageway run. But there's a major problem with the 308 GTi by PS and it manifests when you put the car into Sport mode. The problem is this: bluntly, it sounds awful.

In and of itself, we're not against carefully judged sound augmentation in performance cars, in the manner we know some other critics are. Truthfully, being annoyed with a fast motor for slightly pumping up its soundtrack is like being annoyed with the lead singer's microphone at a stadium concert - all it is doing is amplifying what is already there, to the benefit of the listener. However, if (for some terrifying reason that completely eludes us) you went to a Dane Bowers concert and, when the chunky lad started to sing, the microphone changed his stupid, reedy, autotuned voice to the rich, silky and magnificent tones of Marvin Gaye, then you'd be rightly peeved. Probably to the point of tearing up the arena's chairs and hurling them in the direction of the stage. Although, if you're at a Dane Bowers concert in the first place, then you get everything you deserve, quite frankly.

Ahem. Anyway, what we're trying to say is this is precisely what the 308 GTi by PS does. In normal modes, it has a fairly anodyne engine note but it's natural, organic, the noises that a small yet highly strung 1.6-litre four-pot typically makes. Ho-hum, that's fine. Switch on Sport mode and this thick, cloying, vaguely buzzy growl fills the cabin and it's simply horrid. About the best thing we can say about it is that it sounds a little like a racing car's synthesised engine note, taken from a computer game in the pre-Gran Turismo era. And, believe us, if this is its best feature, then you have an idea just how bad the noise is.

However, that ghastly racket alone is not enough to dislike the 308 GTi, which is another Peugeot which proves the company is right back on its top form. The thing is, while it was an appealingly leftfield vehicle three years ago, there are much more alluring machines in this class - and even the class below - which make the rather visually sedate and not exactly inexpensive Pug look a little lost. In a head-to-head battle with a Golf GTI, the Peugeot is the more entertaining steer and might just sneak a victory with its 272hp punch, but up against the likes of the Hyundai i30 N? The Honda Civic Type R? The Renault Sport Megane 280 Cup? Nah, it's not quite at the level required. Come on, Peugeot Sport, let's have that 400hp+ 308 R you keep teasing us with...

Alternatives:

Honda Civic Type R: about the only problem with this Japanese warrior is the way it looks, which puts some people (not us) off. Beyond that, it's absolutely sublime.

Hyundai i30 N: and here's another new kid on the block which makes the 308 GTi look a bit mundane - Hyundai's raucous and engaging i30 N is a storming hot hatch, and it's £28,000.

Renault Sport Megane 280 Cup: once the undisputed king of the C-segment hot hatch dynamic hill, the new 1.8-litre RS Megane is very, very, very good as a 280hp Cup... but the feeling is the forthcoming 300hp Trophy will be where the genius is at.


Matt Robinson - 30 Aug 2018









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2018 Peugeot 308 GTi by Peugeot Sport. Image by Peugeot UK.2018 Peugeot 308 GTi by Peugeot Sport. Image by Peugeot UK.2018 Peugeot 308 GTi by Peugeot Sport. Image by Peugeot UK.2018 Peugeot 308 GTi by Peugeot Sport. Image by Peugeot UK.2018 Peugeot 308 GTi by Peugeot Sport. Image by Peugeot UK.

2018 Peugeot 308 GTi by Peugeot Sport. Image by Peugeot UK.2018 Peugeot 308 GTi by Peugeot Sport. Image by Peugeot UK.2018 Peugeot 308 GTi by Peugeot Sport. Image by Peugeot UK.2018 Peugeot 308 GTi by Peugeot Sport. Image by Peugeot UK.2018 Peugeot 308 GTi by Peugeot Sport. Image by Peugeot UK.








 

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