Looks – 9/10
Peugeot has deliberately understated the styling of the 308 GTi. There are no lairy arches or axe-wounded panels here. At the front you get LED headlights with integrated daytime-running lights. There are subtle air intakes to cool the brakes and a slightly lower, sportier front bumper. But that’s about it. At the side 19-inch “Carbone” alloy wheels are finished in satin black with silver flashes. Gloss black wing mirrors and privacy glass offer contrast to the wonderful Ultimate Red paint (£675). At the back you barely notice the subtle roof spoiler, or the diffuser in the rear valance. Twin exhausts are about all that give a nod to this being a hot hatch, and by the time you’ve seen them it’s too late. There is some appeal to the subtle approach, although I know some will find it boring.
Step inside the GTi and you will find a set of delightful, sculpted bucket seats. Finished in part-leather, part-alcantara and brandishing the Peugeot Sport logo they look fantastic. The way the shoulder supports meet the headrests is very fluid. The dashboard has a similar feel to it, and it appears to have been sliced away in the middle to reveal the 9.7-inch multimedia touchscreen. The small steering wheel is becoming a familiar sight in Peugeots now, and this one is perforated with red beneath black. There’s a red ‘centre’ mark at the top, and a GTi badge at the bottom. The dials in the 308 both start from the outside and move in opposite directions, with the rev counter going counter-clockwise. The dashboard looks pleasantly uncluttered, as even the heater controls are operated via the touchscreen.
Handling/Performance – 9/10
The engine is a 1.6-litre, turbocharged petrol engine. It comes with 250PS as standard, but I was testing the more powerful version. It has 270PS and 330Nm of torque. Power goes to the front wheels, via a 6-speed manual gearbox. There’s a Torsen limited-slip differential to help use that power, and the GTi will hit 0-62mph in 6.0 seconds. Top speed is limited to 155mph. To say this is a smaller engine than other hot hatches in this class, I think it performs rather well. Power delivery is punchy, and you can easily forget this is only a 1.6. The gearshift is lacking a little precision for me; I would have preferred a more precise short throw gearstick. That being said you can work it to keep in the power band, and yet it is civilised in 6th gear on the motorway. There is a sport button too, which sharpens the car up and adds an induction sound symposer. It’s not the best system, but does add a little bit of character.
At 1,205kg the 308 GTi is rather lightweight; a Focus ST is 1,437kg for comparison. That makes a lot of difference to how it drives. It feels nimble, darting from corner to corner on its tiptoes. The steering is direct, and with that small steering wheel the GTi feels particularly ‘chuckable’. The driving position is great, and those bucket seats keep you firmly where you should be. There are no adjustable dampers here, but the 308 doesn’t need them; the standard suspension setup is a lovely compromise between performance and comfort. On motorway drives the 308 sleeps, with a smooth, quiet drive. Once you wake it up on a B-road, it feels planted and composed. The Torsen differential helps reduce understeer, and the whopping 380mm front brake discs with 4-piston callipers provide more than enough stopping power.
Economy – 10/10
IF anybody thinks that the 1.6-litre engine puts the Peugeot at a disadvantage in terms of performance, then I will swiftly add that it gives a hefty advantage when it comes to economy. Start stop technology and the smaller engine mean CO2 emissions of 139g/km, putting the 308 GTi in VED band E. Road tax is £130 in the first and subsequent years, which will feel kind to your wallet for the performance on offer. It’s a similar story with fuel consumption; refrain from hooning around and the 308 will return a combined 47.1mpg. Not too bad at all for a hot hatch; suddenly opting for a 1.6-litre engine makes sense…