Road Test: Peugeot 308 GTI 270
Despite the muscular performance on offer, the 308 GTI makes a fairly sensible purchase, reckons Alex Grant.Sector: Lower Medium Price: £28,155 Fuel: 47.1mpg CO2: 139g/km
Hot hatches might sound like an unlikely beneficiary of carbon tax, but that practical, relatively frugal motoring with a wild side has arguably never been more relevant. And it’s leading to an incredible muscle-flexing session in this class, pushing power to supercar levels and meaning Peugeot’s 308 GTI has a real fight on its hands.
That’s not helped by slotting between two halves of this segment. At 268bhp, it’s brawnier than the traditional hot hatch crowd – typically between around 200 and 250bhp. Yet it’s also not quite as hardcore as the emerging blistering-hot hot hatch, the 300+bhp machinery such as the Golf R, the Focus RS and the premium-brand bruisers such as the A45 AMG, RS3 and M135i.
That’s not to belittle its on-road pace. The 308 is an effortlessly quick machine, particularly in the all-important mid-rev-range, despite also having the lowest-capacity engine of its competitors, and there’s a sure-footed confidence to the way it holds the road. The Peugeot Sport-tuned chassis features retuned suspension, big brakes, high-performance tyres and a limited slip differential channelling the power to the wheel with the most grip, and there’s never a sense that it’s trying to launch itself into the nearest hedge.
Actually, it’s aggressive enough that the Sport button seems a little unnecessary. It’s a bit of a novelty at first, turning the dials red and flashing up all sorts of additional bar charts in the instrument display, but the enhanced exhaust note piped into the cabin spoils the experience. The turbocharged 1.6-litre engine is vocal enough without needing the Nineties video game soundtrack.
But the 308 has a few tricks up its sleeve. When it’s not being stretched, the small engine offers an economy advantage which, in turn, means this is one of the lowest-CO2 hot hatches on the market, as well as having a lower P11d than almost all of its competitors and some less-powerful rivals. For that alone, it’s worth up-speccing to the GTI 270 over the lower-powered version, adding the better brakes, tyres and the limited-slip differential to make the most of the additional power.
Ultimately, yes, even then it’s a little less of a driver’s car than the likes of the Civic Type R, and the Honda is as efficient under real-world conditions. But the Peugeot also more comfortable and a lot more understated. Perhaps, if anything, a little too understated given how similar it looks to the diesel-powered 308 GT.
But the 308 GTI is a proper hot hatch – as easy to cover long distances in as any other part of the range and capable of returning almost 40mpg, but with the muscle to make the commute fun when it needs to. It’s a worthy part of Peugeot’s performance lineage.
Brawny performance in a subtle package, the 308 GTI falls in like with the rest of the range with its pseudo-German understatedness. But – pointless exhaust synthesiser aside – it’s the genuine article at a very reasonable price.