Long-term test review: Peugeot 308 GTi
Final report: it's time to assess the 308 GTi's stay on our fleet
I could leave the Coupe Franche paintwork, but I’d definitely take the Peugeot 308 GTi as it’s proven a capable and understated fast family car during its time with us. The talented 308 brings back much of the magic instilled by the brand’s legendary 205 GTi. Peugeot Sport has found its mojo again.
Mileage: 9,394Economy: 36.1mpg
My time with the Peugeot 308 GTi is at an end. I’ve enjoyed the pace, poise and performance of the French hot hatch, and while I’ve had my frustrations, I’m actually rather sad to see it go.
Its startling mix of abilities has cemented its place as a firm favourite in the Auto Express car park over the past eight months – much more than I’d imagined, in fact. The peppy 1.6-litre turbo engine offered bagsof grunt, while the Brit-built Alcon brakes provided serious stopping power. We even grew to appreciate the innovative i-Cockpit dashboard set-up, with its small steering wheel and raised dials.
However, one thing I just couldn’t warm to was the extrovert and expensive £1,300 Coupe Franche paintwork. Red is fine, and so is black. But mixed together? I’m not sure. It’s a shame, because the car’s understated body means in the right colour the 308 GTi doesn’t attract the wrong sort of attention.
One thing I noted during my time with the 308 is how few GTis are on the road. While a hot VW Golf or Ford Focus isn’t a rare sight, it’s startlingly obvious that there aren’t many souped-up Peugeots around.
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Taking a different tack to manufacturers like Honda or Ford, the 308 GTi slips almost entirely under the radar. So unlike our stand-out example, in a normal colour, and even with the dual exhausts and big 19-inch wheels, it’s remarkably difficult to spot.
However, in my eyes this is a positive as that’s how a hot hatch should be – not like our 308 GTi with its try-hard paint job.
I’ve mentioned it on a number of occasions during my time with the 308, but its practical body is ideal for my circumstances. Effectively hiding a powerful 268bhp 1.6-litre turbo engine is part of the appeal, and the absence of wings, splitters or spoilers has its advantages.
I understand why buyers are drawn to the overblown styling of the Civic Type R and Focus RS, but the market for more demure, trinket-free sports cars is bigger than ever. The new Audi S4, for example, could be mistaken for a 2.0-litre TDI S line. It’s indistinguishable to the untrained eye.
It’s the same story inside the 308, actually. The comfortable and supportive sports seats offer just enough to let you know this is the ‘by Peugeot Sport’ model, while the small red ‘12 o’clock’ line on the steering wheel is a nod to its motorsport roots. Otherwise it’s almost entirely lifted from the standard car. The touchscreen is frustratingly slow, but there’s plenty of space and the boot is colossal with the rear seats folded flat.
So, Peugeot, please don’t take away my 308 GTi – just send it to the paint shop for a quick once over with the grey spray gun.
Peugeot 308 GTi: third report
We learn how French Peugeot 308 GTi relies on British brakes made by the firm behind the Ariel Atom’s stoppers
Mileage: 6,484Economy: 35.7mpg
But that feeling isn’t just down to Peugeot Sport. Delve a little deeper and you’ll find that Peugeot uses expertise from around the world to create an amalgamation of parts to deliver optimum performance.
Perhaps most interesting for British buyers is that instead of uprating the standard car’s brake calipers, pads and discs, the French car maker went back to the drawing board and employed Alcon, based in Tamworth, Staffordshire, for its high-performance stoppers.
Alcon has plenty of experience when it comes to developing eye-widening braking systems. Established in 1983 by engineer and racer John Moore, the company started life making brakes for Group B rally cars. Since then, it has provided parts for everything from F1 to Nascar, as well as making kits for road cars like the Jaguar XKR-S, Ariel Atom and Zenos E10.
In 2013, Peugeot called upon Alcon to develop the brakes for its RCZ R – a more focused version of its sleek two-door coupe. Such was its success that bosses asked the same for the 308 GTi, which we’re running on the Auto Express fleet.
To find out a bit more, we made the trip to Alcon’s headquarters, for a factory tour and a chat with the engineers, before heading to Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground for some demanding track tests.
The Alcon offices are full of pictures of project cars it’s helped develop over the years. There’s an armoured Toyota Land Cruiser on one wall, and a Noble M600 on the other. Above the marketing manager’s desk there’s even a McLaren P1, which Alcon helped develop the clutch for.
Downstairs, sales director Jonathan Edwards and senior R&D engineer Ollie Jackson walk us round the production facility, a place crammed with cutting-edge tech and highly skilled employees who machine the 308’s brake calipers from a single block of aluminium before sending them to be painted.
We join the team towards the end of the construction process, where today, the Peugeot line had been switched to make room for some huge carbon ceramic set-ups, due for installation in the next few weeks on a batch of Bentley Continental GTs.
The design process is a complex one that took almost two years to complete. Alcon also makes bespoke aftermarket brake kits for everything from BMW M3s to the Subaru Impreza, but Jackson tells us such a procedure might take only a tenth of the time necessitated for an OEM part like on the GTi.
This precision and dedication shows when we take the car out on the road. We’ve covered more than 6,000 miles in our 308, and the brakes are showing no sign of losing any of their trademark stopping power. They’re as sharp as the day they left Tamworth, and it’s fitting that we’ve brought them back to see how they’re made before giving them a proper performance test.
Out on track, we perform a series of stops from upwards of 100mph. Time after time, the car continues to amaze with its ability to shave speed in an instant. It’s no wonder that manufacturers like Peugeot – and indeed Ariel, Noble and Zenos – have shunned big brands like Brembo in favour of these British magicians.
Peugeot 308 GTi: second report
Second report: Peugeot 308 GTi hot hatch is still a star, but garish looks mean we don’t want to be seen in it
Mileage: 2,883Economy: 33.9mpg
In my last report, I raved about how our Peugeot 308 GTi was doing a great job of settling in to the rigours of daily life. The beauty of a true hot hatchback is its ability to fit in to your schedule without compromise, and the fast Pug was going above and beyond in an attempt to fulfil that brief.
Three months in, and it continues to impress, but with one big niggle – I just can’t stand the way it looks. More precisely, it’s the Coupe Franche paintjob that grates. The Ultimate Red front end looks great, as does the gloss black rear, but sandwiched together, it whiffs of aftermarket vinyl wrap. It’s also not the right finish for keeping a low profile, meaning I now have to dress like a celeb who’s trying to avoid the paparazzi.
What makes it more galling is that it spoils the 308’s otherwise strong kerb appeal. The Peugeot is one of the most handsome looking hatchbacks, particularly when it’s embellished with subtle GTi cues.
The chrome-laced grille, sharp LED daytime running lights and scrolling indicators give it real menace, while the huge 19-inch wheels look great in profile. The rear end is nicely finished, with the all-black rump complemented perfectly by the twin exhausts, badging and fake diffuser.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. The turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol engine is truly special, providing effortless performance in any situation. The tiny steering wheel definitely heightens the sense of agility, and I’m pleased Peugeot offers a six-speed manual box instead of a fun-sapping dual-clutch auto. It remains a pleasure to thrash down a motorway slip road, while stop-start town driving doesn’t grate like it might in a Renaultsport Megane.
Elsewhere, the sizeable load area continues to swallow everything we throw at it, including bikes, rubbish and the weekly shop, while even the minimalist button-free dashboard is growing on me. The climate control is alarmingly effective, too, and in the scorching weather we’ve been enjoying over the past few weeks, it has managed to keep both driver and passenger cool and unflustered.
Up front, there’s a set of perfectly contoured sports seats, which offer adequate support both in spirited driving and on longer motorway stints.
The sticky Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres are great for twisty sections, but kick up a nasty rumble on some of the lengthy concrete sections of the M25. It’s a common problem on larger wheels, but a change of rubber could be necessary sooner rather than later. So there’s just one final thing – can I swap our 308 for a white one, please?
Peugeot 308 GTi: first report
From Le Mans to daily commute, hot hatch is a big hit
Our Peugeot 308 GTi by Peugeot Sport had just 650 miles on the clock when it arrived on the Auto Express fleet, but it didn’t take long for the miles to pile on. After only a week of pootling around London, I packed my bags and headed for the Channel Tunnel – for a three-day, 800-mile round trip through France.
We detailed our initial adventures as part of our Peugeot Sport Race to Road feature in the magazine, taking our GTi back to meet its maker at Peugeot Sport HQ in Paris, before visiting the legendary Le Mans race track.
Since returning, the 308 has settled nicely into my daily schedule, which is far from routine. This can involve a stop-start journey into London, or an airport dash for an early morning flight. The car has even doubled as a small van on the occasional trip to the tip.
The beauty of a hot hatchback is its ability to fit into your life without compromise. There’s a huge 470-litre boot and enough space in the back to seat adults comfortably. The Peugeot’s compliant suspension is soft enough to stop jolts from entering the cabin, yet it doesn’t feel sloppy under more power.
It has powerful 385mm race-inspired brakes, 19-inch alloys with Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres and a limited-slip diff, too, transforming this from a family runaround to a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Well, almost.
You see, our car’s two-tone Coupe Franche paintwork is hardly subtle. The front glimmers in a classy red metallic, while the rear third is a mean gloss black.
The idea first appeared on the Onyx concept in 2012, then was transferred to Peugeot’s quicker roadgoing models like the 208 and 308 GTi. It’s a £1,300 option, which strikes me as a lot to spend on a car designed to blend into the background.
Otherwise, apart from the £240 Peugeot Connect SOS and Assistance package – which can call the emergency services in the event of an accident – this GTi is completely standard. It’s very well equipped, with touchscreen sat-nav, climate control and Bluetooth connectivity all included.
You’ll even find a pair of contoured sports seats – although why Peugeot has decided to fit a massage function ahead of any kind of heater element is beyond me. The car also features the now-familiar i-Cockpit interior, including the small steering wheel and raised dials to keep in your line of vision.
The fiddly touchscreen might take some getting used to, though, especially in the summer months when both driver and passenger require more frequent access to the air-conditioning controls.
Regardless of this niggle, as the miles roll under the Peugeot’s wheels, it’s shaping up to be a firm favourite on our fleet.
*Insurance quote (below) provided by AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old living in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.