Volkswagen Golf GTI 2023 review
The Volkswagen Golf GTI is still one of the benchmark hatchbacks out there. But it's getting very pricey.
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It doesn’t feel like that long ago that small hatchbacks were everywhere on our roads. In fact, it was one of the biggest market segments in Australia by sales.
Thankfully, for those of us that don’t need or want a high ride height, and prefer sitting closer to the ground, a few carmakers have kept the faith.
But there is another niche of semi-premium brands, like Cupra, Mini, Peugeot and Volkswagen, which have also remained faithful to the many hatchback fans still out there. And Peugeot has some history here - from the classic 205, to popular models like the 306 that morphed into the 307 and now the 308.
And that’s what I am driving for the next three months.
Peugeot launched the new-generation 308 in late 2022, and given the famed French brand’s semi-premium positioning, you won’t find a base model in this new line-up. This is now firmly in high-end hatch territory.
The range includes four variants, including GT hatch, GT Premium hatch and wagon and GT Sport plug-in hybrid hatchback that tops the range at $64,990 before on-road costs.
The version I am living with is the GT Premium hatch which is priced from $48,990 before on roads.
That puts it in contention with the likes of the Audi A3 35TFSI ($47,700), the BMW 118i ($54,800), Cupra Leon VZ ($51,990), Honda Civic VTi-LX ($47,200), Mercedes-Benz A180 ($51,400), Mini Clubman Cooper S Classic ($53,250), and the Volkswagen Golf 110TSI R-Line ($40,490).
Unlike some of the higher-end German models mentioned above, the Pug comes with a healthy standard features list. So much so that there are no options fitted to the test car.
Just some of the standard kit includes keyless entry and start with a proximity key, a panoramic glass sunroof, black Nappa leather trim, heated front seats with massage function, power-adjustable driver’s seat, green stitching to match the striking 'Olivine Green' exterior paint colour throughout the cabin, leather steering wheel, ambient lighting, auto-dimming frameless rear-view mirror, electric, heated and power-folding exterior mirrors, automatic air conditioning, Matrix LED headlights, LED 3D ‘claw effect’ tail-lights, and 18-inch alloy wheels.
Those funky head and tail-light signatures are pretty cool at night. And with the proximity key, I never have to use the actual key to get into the car. A lot of these systems are patchy but the Peugeot’s works flawlessly. That massage function, too, is very affective!
Parking is made a lot easier thanks not only to the size of the 308, but the inclusion of parking sensors front and rear and a 180-degree colour reversing camera with a clear display.
The 308 also gets a lengthy list of standard safety gear.
Autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with low light pedestrian and cyclist detection, rear cross-traffic alert, long-range blind spot detection, adaptive cruise control with ‘Stop & Go’ function and ‘Intelligent Speed Adaption’, ‘Active Lane Positioning Assist’ for semi-autonomous driving, lane keeping assist, speed limit recognition, a driver attention warning, hill start assist, auto post-collision braking, two rear ISOFIX fittings, and a suite of airbags.
What it doesn’t have, however, is a five-star safety rating from crash safety watchdog, ANCAP. The 308 was tested in early 2023 under the strict 2022 guidelines and it scored four stars due to a less than stellar result in the adult occupant protection test. It also misses out on the front centre airbag that helps prevent further injury in a side-impact crash.
Whether this makes it a deal breaker or not will be up to the individual buyer. But given the level of equipment in this car, make no mistake- the 308 is still a very safe car.
We will go into more detail on this in part two of our review, but the 308, like all current Peugeots, is fitted with the brand’s ‘i-Cockpit’. It means the focus is very much on the driver and it’s supposed to feel, as the name suggests, like a cockpit. That means the steering wheel is set lower and the digital instrument cluster peers out above the wheel.
It’s a controversial set-up, and a lot of my colleagues do not care for it. But I am a fan. A big one. The ergonomics of it all make you feel nicely ensconced in the 308 and the car sort of wraps around you. I think it builds a greater connection with the car.
Elsewhere inside the 308, the ‘GT Premium’ badge certainly lives up to its name. The comfortable, but supportive front seats, with their appealing pattern, the green stitching, soft touch materials, gorgeous little steering wheel and levelled dash scream European cool. And it’s not over the top, either. It feels more premium than the likes of the Audi, BMW and Mercedes, and it’s way more interesting than the Cupra or Golf’s cabin.
That visual appeal extends to the exterior. I think the 308 is by far the most striking looking small car on the market today. It’s sleek and bold and has interesting angles but it just works.
On the road, the Peugeot continues to impress. Under the bonnet is a sweet 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine offering up power and torque of 96kW and 230Nm, respectively. It’s paired with an eight-speed torque converter automatic driving the front wheels.
I have just done my first road trip in the Pug and I will detail performance, handling and ride in more detail in the next 308 review. But suffice to say, it’s a solid and incredibly capable car.
In terms of efficiency, Peugeot says the 308 consumes 5.3 litres per 100 kilometres on the combined cycle. I drove 371km for the first review, and my fuel use was 8.9L/100km - quite a bit more than the official figure, but I did have a lot of fun driving this car so I am not super surprised.
Acquired: April 4, 2023
Distance travelled this month: 371km
Average fuel consumption this month: 8.9L/100km
$39,990 - $54,900
Based on 6 car listings in the last 6 months
Based on 6 car listings in the last 6 monthsVIEW PRICING & SPECS
$39,990 - $54,900
Based on 6 car listings in the last 6 months