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For fans of hot hatchbacks, one brand is synonymous with the birth of the genre, and that’s Peugeot.
Its 205 GTi of the early 1980s, for example, is still used as a yardstick of performance today, while the legendary 205 Turbo 16 – built to satisfy rallying’s Group B rules – is one of the most amazing hot hatches ever conceived.
It’s been a relatively lean patch for Peugeot for a while now, but the 308 GTi of 2015 showed glimpses of the magic the French company was capable of. So, what does this mid-life update bring to the 308 GTi? Not much, actually…
|Peugeot 308 2017: GTi 270|
|Engine Type||1.6L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
We’re still waiting on confirmation of the final price from Peugeot’s new Australian importers (we’ll find out in October when the rest of the 308 range is launched), but an educated guess would be around the $52,000 mark.
This would represent a slight uptick over the car’s current $49,990 figure, and account for the upgraded equipment on-board.
Available in just one mechanical spec, the 308 GTi uses a 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine to drive the front wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox.
The huge 380mm front brakes peer through Michelin-shod 19-inch rims, while this 270 version of the car (now the only variant, after the GTi 250 was axed) also gets a Torsen limited slip differential.
Standard gear includes automatic lights and wipers, reversing camera with front and rear sensors, keyless entry, a 6.9GB media drive and revised 9.7-inch multimedia touchscreen with sat nav.
There are also bespoke sporty seats, what might be the smallest steering wheel in a production car ever, and dual zone climate control.
Changes for this facelifted version are minimal, with a light makeover to the grille and bonnet, as well as the addition of a driver’s aid suite including AEB, lane departure warning, and adaptive cruise control.
There’s something about a five-door hot hatch. Is it really a reflection of the best small front-drive car a brand can produce? The bold, sharp lines of Peugeot’s modern 308 lends itself well to being hot-hatchified, though, and this update’s very rudimentary external upgrades – a new grille, headlights and bonnet up front, tinted taillights around the back – don’t do anything to spoil the effect.
There’s an optional two-tone finish, too, but we’d predict solid colours will do better locally.
Inside, the only change of note is the graphics on the multimedia screen. Peugeot’s 'i-Cockpit' design, which uses a smaller steering wheel and an instrument display that sits over the top of it, definitely polarises opinion. Unlike Goldilocks, not everyone is going to find a seat height and steering wheel location that is just right.
The dark interior and sports seats are well executed, though, and the 308 GTi feels like a premium product.
The traditional five-door hatch bodystyle does give the 308 GTi an advantage over something like VW’s new three-door GTi Performance 1, while its squarer profile is also more cargo-friendly than something like the Ford Focus RS.
It’s a roomy, comfortable car, too, though three across the back seat will be a tight fit. ISOFIX child restraint mounts adorn the outside rear seats, and there are cupholders up front and bottle holders in all four doors.
There's a category-acing 470 litres of luggage space with the seats up, and 1309 litres with the 60/40 split/fold seats dropped. Note, though, you can't actually tow anything with the GTi version, thanks to its rear end layout.
Storage up front is a bit hit and miss, with small, oddly shaped receptacles for phones and the like between the seats. There’s a USB port up front, but nothing for rear seaters in the way of chargers or vents.
The front seats are great, with large side bolsters and a grippy suede material keeping you pinned in place.
Our testing was limited to multiple laps of the Ascari private racing track in Spain, but given the material changes between the current and incoming cars are largely cosmetic in nature, we weren’t surprised to find the updated 308 GTi is every bit as competent and entertaining as the one it’s replacing.
The throaty little 1.6-litre turbcharged engine delivers a lot of bang across its operating range, though it does its best work in the middle of the rev range. It can be caught off boost, shifting between third and fourth, for example, and there’s little point revving to the redline because the power party is pretty much over by then.
The six-speed shifter is a let-down, sadly, feeling flimsy and inaccurate, especially at pace.
At speed, the 308 - which is equipped with MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam set-up in the rear - is neutral and easy to adjust with the throttle, with plenty of front grip and rear end support.
With such low profile tyres, it can impart a firm ride, but PeugeotSport’s suspension experts have breathed their magic into the dampers to impart a lovely sense of refined compliance into the final mix.
With the Sport mode comes a synthetic soundtrack (played through the audio system), that isn’t terrible… but it’s obviously not the real deal, either.
The 308 GTi uses unique front end componentry to accommodate the Torsen diff, so the steering feels is notably different to the stock 308's. It's overly light for a sporting hatch, and even switching into Sports mode doesn’t change that.
It’s a different beast to a Golf GTI, or even a Focus ST, favouring a balanced, slightly touring-biased feel, that’s accentuated by its big, burly brakes and supple suspension tune. We'll need to drive it on the road in Australia to get a final read on it, though.
The 1205kg 308 GTi uses Peugeot’s popular 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine that makes a healthy 200kW/330Nm. It’s backed by a six-speed manual gearbox and a Torsen (torque sensing) limited slip diff.
No auto? Not in this model cycle. The engineers at Peugeot Sport had to choose between modifying the car’s modular platform to accept an auto or a diff, but it couldn’t have both. The auto got the boot, which is a shame for markets where the self-shifter is the more popular option.
Our testing was carried out at the top of the rev range on a hot, Spanish summer day, so an indicated figure in excess of 20.0L/100km isn't exactly representative of what the 308 GTi can offer.
The current car is claimed to return 8.1L/100km on the combined fuel economy cycle, and it has a 53-litre tank that will need premium unleaded.
3 years / 100,000 km warranty
The 308 range holds a maximum five-star ANCAP rating from its 2015 launch, and the 2018 GTi has been updated with AEB, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and blind spot warning.
It’s also got seven airbags, front and rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera as standard.
Peugeot offers a three-year/100,000km warranty, as well as a fixed price service plan that covers the first five services.
The costs range between $649 and $692, and services are scheduled every 12 months or 15,000km. This is far from the cheapest in the category, with the $3000-plus total more than $1000 dearer than servicing a Focus RS over the same period.
If, by some miracle of exchange rate economics, Peugeot can keep the 308 GTi below $50,000, it’s still got a player in the game, despite renewed competition in the hot hatch space.
However, that competition is fierce and focused, and the 308 GTi’s inherent disadvantage of only being available with a manual gearbox will continue to play against it.
|CC Allure Turbo||1.6L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO||$35,970 – 42,790||2017 Peugeot 308 2017 CC Allure Turbo Pricing and Specs|
|Access||1.2L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO||$10,100 – 15,290||2017 Peugeot 308 2017 Access Pricing and Specs|
|Active||1.2L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO||$14,900 – 21,010||2017 Peugeot 308 2017 Active Pricing and Specs|
|Allure||1.2L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO||$16,000 – 22,220||2017 Peugeot 308 2017 Allure Pricing and Specs|
|Price and features||7|
|Engine & trans||7|