Peugeot 308 GTi 2015 review
Firebreathing new Peugeot 308 GTi hot hatch takes fight to SEAT Leon Cupra
Don’t write the Peugeot 308 GTi off from its spec sheet alone, as from behind the wheel it has all of the characteristics of a great hot hatch. It’s fast and responsive when you’re driving hard, but composed and comfortable when you’re taking it easy. It may lack visual drama and the playfulness of some of its rivals but it demonstrates Peugeot can still deliver a cracking hot hatch.
The hot hatchback class becomes more competitive every year. Newcomers become more powerful, sharper to drive, and generally bigger and better. You just need to take a look at the BMW M2, Honda Civic Type R or Ford Focus RS to see that.
In contrast, the new Peugeot 308 GTi looks a little down on power next to these rivals, with a scant 266bhp power output. But don’t write it off yet. Peugeot has a long and fairly illustrious history of producing fast and fun hot hatchbacks, and after driving it we have to conclude that the 308 GTi lives up to the same heights as its predecessors.
The new 308 GTi 270 has been developed by the same Peugeot Sport team responsible for the 208 GTi and rapid RCZ R, and shares those cars’ 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine. In the 308, it’s tuned to develop 266bhp and 330Nm of torque, which is sent through to the front wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox – there’s no slick-shifting dual-clutch automatic gearbox available, as in rivals like the SEAT Leon Cupra.
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What the Peugeot 308 GTi lacks in power, it makes up for in lightness. While it’s down by 40bhp compared to the Honda Civic Type R, it’s also 180kg lighter – and that makes a big difference. While it can’t compete on outright pace, it makes for a more fun and chuckable car.
The suspension on the GTi has been lowered by 11mm and the springs and dampers stiffened, while sticky rubber now wraps new 19-inch alloy wheels. Add in the limited-slip differential and it amounts to a very agile and responsive hot hatch.
Our test car is the pricier of the two Gti variants on offer, with a 247bhp version being £1,600 cheaper. That model comes without the front differential, larger and lighter wheels and figure-hugging bucket seats.
But this more potent version is worth the extra outlay as it’s the limited-slip differential that really lets you get the best out of the GTi. The small steering wheel – which can restrict your view of the dials – begins to make sense, making the 308 feel light on its feet and more responsive to inputs.
The steering is quick, but the feeling is rather numb which can leave you guessing as to how much grip there actually is. But thanks to the diff and sticky tyres, grip is one thing the 308 isn’t short of. Even in wet and slippery conditions you can really lean on the front axle which will see the front wheels dig into the tarmac with unrelenting bite.
Mash the accelerator mid corner and the diff shuffles power to where it can best be deployed and the 308 spits you out at the other end – 0-62mph is over in just 6 seconds. However, the gearbox is a bit of letdown as the throw is too long and feels limp.
It’s very fast and very well resolved but the 308 goes about its business without much drama, which is kind of the point of a hot hatch - the Focus ST feels more erratic and alive on the road.
Ease off and the GTi begins to show its softer side, which is perhaps reflected in its more understated and inoffensive looks. While notably firmer than the standard model, the GTi has a lovely suppleness to its ride quality, allowing it to shrug off the worst of a battered British b-road. It’s probably the best-riding hot hatch this side of a VW Golf R.
Elsewhere, the 308 retains the 470-litre boot form the standard model but rear-passenger space isn’t as generous as you’ll find in some rivals, namely the Golf. The GTi treatment hasn’t transformed the 308’s cabin, but you do get a set of rather supportive and comfortable bucket seats and some decorative red stitching. A reversing camera, climate and cruise control as well as navigation are all standard features, too.