Car group tests

Nissan Pulsar DIG-T vs Hyundai i30 Turbo & Peugeot 308 GT

Racy new Nissan Pulsar is set for a baptism of fire against Peugeot and Hyundai warm hatches

Warm hatchbacks are hot property right now. A growing group of family focused five-doors has emerged this year, offering a combination of improved performance without the hardcore focus of a full-fat hot hatch.

Best hatchbacks

The Nissan Pulsar DIG-T 190 is the latest on the market, with a 1.6-litre turbo engine making it the sportiest model in the range (until a Nismo performance version arrives later this year).

Yet it’s already facing stiff competition, as we’ve lined the Nissan up against our reigning warm hatch champion, the Peugeot 308 GT, and new competition in the form of the Hyundai i30 Turbo.

Best hot hatchbacks

Fresh from its victory over the Renault Megane GT 220 and Kia Cee’d GT in a previous group test, the 308 GT is looking to continue its hold over the class.

Hyundai is also hoping it can succeed where sister brand Kia’s Cee’d GT failed and rise to the top with its i30 Turbo. The flagship Turbo model is down on power compared to its rivals here, so it has its work cut out.

Will it be a hard job separating our trio, or will one contender stand head and shoulders above the others? Read on to find out.

Nissan Pulsar review

Hyundai i30 review

Peugeot 308 review

Click the links above for individual reviews, and scroll down to see which warm hatch is the hottest in this test...

Head-to-head

Running costs

The Nissan is the cheapest car to buy and will cost the least to run for private buyers over three years. Depreciation, fuel, insurance, servicing and tax add up to a total of £19,386. That’s marginally less than the i30’s bills, at £19,456, but nearly £1,000 cheaper than the Peugeot’s £20,173 three-year running costs.

Parts share

All three cars use engines from elsewhere in the line-ups. The Pulsar’s is a detuned version of the Juke Nismo RS’ engine, while the 308 GT’s unit comes from the 208 GTi. Hyundai’s i30 Turbo shares a powerplant with the 198bhp Kia Cee’d GT, but it’s oddly down on power.

Quality

The Peugeot’s air of quality is palpable inside. It’s a lot more upmarket than the budget-feeling Pulsar as well as the i30, which features questionable materials. So, the 308 justifies its extra expense with a top-notch ownership experience.

Verdict

1st place: Peugeot 308

The 308 GT is the most expensive choice here, but low CO2 emissions and generous kit help offset the purchase price. Competitive running costs are just the start, as the higher-quality cabin, more powerful engine and engaging chassis see the car deliver in almost every area. Rear seats are a bit cramped, but the biggest boot means there’s still enough practicality to win.

2nd place: Hyundai i30 

Hyundai’s tweaks have turned the sedate i30 hatch into something genuinely impressive to drive with this Turbo model. There’s lots of grip and an adjustability that hints at the potential underneath for a full-on hot hatch, but it’s not the full package – high CO2 emissions see to that. And while it’s good value with lots of kit, it can’t match the Pulsar’s price or frugality.

3rd place: Nissan Pulsar

A more powerful engine hasn’t done much to enhance the Pulsar’s appeal. It’s now the fastest model in the range, but the chassis alterations aren’t effective enough and the Nissan feels out of its depth in this company. Its affordability and efficiency help it claw back some ground, yet warm hatches have to deliver a decent driving experience, too. Unfortunately, the Nissan doesn’t.

Other options in this category...

Kia Cee’d GT Tech

Price: £23,400 Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl, 198bhp

Kia Cee'd GT Tech - front tracking

With lots of kit and more power than the i30 Turbo, Kia’s Cee’d GT is a sporty warm hatch with a sprightly chassis and lots of neat touches, like Recaro bucket seats. Claimed economy of 38.2mpg is a weak point, though.

Renault Megane GT 220

Price: £23,250 Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 217bhp

Renault Megane GT 220 - front tracking

Plenty of power and sparkling handling mean the Megane is thrilling to drive. Ageing Renault might be more focused and fun on the road, but it doesn’t have the premium feel of the marginally more expensive Cee’d GT, and isn’t as fresh.

Key specs:

 Peugeot 308 GT 1.6 THPHyundai i30 Turbo 1.6 T-GDINissan Pulsar Tekna DIG-T 190
On-the-road price/total as tested£24,095/£26,450£23,000/£23,000£22,345/£22,645
Residual value (after 3yrs/30,000)£8,325/34.6%£8,052/35.0%£7,824/32.6%
Depreciation£15,770£14,948£15,061
Annual tax liability std/higher rate£1,010/£2,019£1,268/£2,537£988/£1,977
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)£1,895/£3,159£1,930/£3,216£1,671/£2,785
Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost26/£570/D/£11021/£538/H/£20518/£512/E/£130
Cost of 1st/2nd/3rd service£13pm (3yrs/35k)£349 (3yrs)£149/£219/£149
    
Length/wheelbase4,253/2,620mm4,300/2,650mm4,387/2,700mm
Height/width1,457/1,804mm1,470/1,780mm1,520/1,768mm
Engine4cyl in-line/1,598cc4cyl in-line/1,591cc4cyl in-line/1,618cc
Peak power202/6,000 bhp/rpm184/5,500 bhp/rpm187/5,600 bhp/rpm
Peak torque285/1,750 Nm/rpm265/1,500 Nm/rpm240/1,600 Nm/rpm
Transmission6-spd man/fwd6-spd man/fwd6-spd man/fwd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel53 litres/space saver53 litres/space saver46 litres/repair kit
Boot capacity (seats up/down)470/1,309 litres378/1,316 litres385/1,395 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight1,200/590/1,400kg1,380/490/1,400kg1,307/470/1,200kg
Turning circle/drag coefficient10.4 metres/N/ACd10.6 metres/N/A10.2 metres/N/A
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery3yrs (60,000)/1yr5yrs (unltd)/5yrs3yrs (60,000)/3yrs
Service intervals/UK dealers20,000 miles/30020k miles (2yrs)/16212k miles (1yr)/225
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.10th/5th21st/17th28th/29th
NCAP: Adult/child/ped./assist/stars92/79/64/81/590/90/67/86/584/81/75/68/5
    
0-60/30-70mph7.7/6.7 seconds7.9/7.3 seconds7.9/7.1 seconds
30-50mph in 3rd/4th3.3/4.2 seconds3.4/4.3 seconds3.7/5.0 seconds
50-70mph in 5th/6th6.0/7.1 seconds6.1/7.9 seconds7.2/8.1 seconds
Top speed/rpm at 70mph146mph/2,750rpm136mph/2,500rpm135mph/2,500rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph50.1/33.0/9.2m47.0/34.6/8.9m51.1/37.6/9.6m
Noise levels outside/idle/30/70mph56/50/66/71dB67/51/67/75dB65/52/65/70dB
Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range33.5/7.4/391 miles32.9/7.2/384 miles38.0/8.4/385 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined38.2/61.4/50.4mpg29.4/47.1/38.7mpg36.7/58.8/47.9mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined8.4/13.5/11.1mpl6.5/10.4/8.5mpl8.1/13.0/10.5mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket226/130g/km/21%230/169g/km/28%172/138g/km/22%
    
Airbags/Isofix/parking sensors/camSix/yes/yes/yesSeven/yes/yes/yesSix/yes/no/yes
Auto gearbox/stability/cruise controlNo/yes/yesNo/yes/yesNo/yes/yes
Climate control/leather/heated seatsYes/£1,200/£1,200*Yes/leatherette/yesYes/yes/yes
Metallic paint/xenon lights/keyless go£525/LEDs/yes£530/yes/yes£550/LED/yes
Sat-nav/USB/DAB radio/BluetoothYes/yes/yes/yesYes/yes/no/yesYes/yes/yes/yes

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