For years, the Volkswagen Golf GTI was the widely recognised king of the hot hatchback crowd – the best example of a regular, practical car with a powerful engine under bonnet.
On the face of it, this is Peugeot’s best chance of out-doing the Golf GTI, but how do things work in practice?
The Peugeot 308 GTi comes with a 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine – the same unit found in the RCZ-R sports coupe – and the Golf GTI comes with a 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine used across the VW and Audi range.
Both cars’ engines come in two different power outputs – the Golf comes in 217 and 227hp flavours and the Peugeot gets either 247 or 266hp. Unsurprisingly, the Peugeot is quicker – getting to 62mph from rest in 6.2 seconds with 247hp and 6.0 seconds with 266hp. Both 308s top out at 155mph. In comparison, the Golf GTI in 217hp guise covers 0-62mph in 6.5 seconds with a 152mph top speed, and 6.4 seconds and 155mph in 227hp form.
Even with these power figures, both cars can achieve 47.1mpg and emit just 139g/km of CO2. That’s more impressive than some ordinary superminis’ economy figures – although you’re unlikey to match those numbers given how tempting these cars are to drive fast.
The Golf GTI is incredibly comfortable when cruising at steady speeds on any surface, yet it can be driven fast down a twisty B-road with little body lean in corners and a big grin on the driver’s face. Together, it’s one of the most convincing all-round packages you can buy if you want a car that can be both fun and comfortable.
Even though the 308 GTI has an 11mm lower ride height than the normal 308, along with bigger wheels and stiffer suspension, it’s still a fairly comfortable car and it goes round corners extremely well. The 308 GTi 270 version comes with a limited-slip differential which helps you accelerate out of tight corners. The Golf GTI also comes with a limited slip differential when specified with the optional Performance Package.
Part of the Golf GTI’s appeal is that you can tell it’s a performance-biased vehicle but it doesn’t shout about it – as a result, it still looks like any other Golf. For those who want to sneak under the radar, it’s perfect but, for those who want a more exciting looking car, they should look elsewhere.
The 308 GTi employs the same philosophy. The ordinary 308 is already a good looking car so, even when the sportier bumpers, side skirts and dual exhausts are added, it’s still as good looking as ever. Again, however, it’s not one for the extroverts who might prefer a Volkswagen Scirocco.
Both cars have great interiors that employ the same philosophy of understated sportiness. They also have beautifully simple, well-designed cabins that are mostly made of high quality materials. The Golf GTI just edges the Peugeot on the quality front though – but only by the finest of margins.
The Peugeot’s layout is more impressive with a dashboard that’s not laden with buttons and has dials that ‘wrap’ around the driver adding to the sporty nature of the car. Overall, it’s the nicer place to sit of the two. The Golf GTI does have clearer speed and rev-counter gauges than the 308 GTi, however.
We’d recommend test-driving the Peugeot before ordering one, however, because some critics think the car’s small steering wheel feels a little awkward compared to the Golf’s normal-sized one.
Both cars are based on normal family hatchbacks, so they’re extremely practical. The Golf GTI has 380 litres of boot space and there’s enough room in the back to comfortably sit three full-sized adults. The 308 GTi gets 470 litres.
The Peugeot’s backseat is a little cramped compared to the VW’s, but average-sized adults should be fine for longer journeys. There aren’t as many cubby-holes in the Peugeot as there are in the VW either, and the glovebox is considerably smaller because it houses the car’s fuse box. That’s a win for the Golf, then.
Which one should I have?
If you want the cheapest option, then the Golf GTI is your choice because it costs from £25,845 while the Peugeot 308 GTi costs from £26,555 for the GTi 250 and £28,145 for the GTi 270. However, the Peugeot is the more powerful, so pound-for-pound the Peugeot is the better value-for-money option – the most expensive Golf GTI can cost up to £28,895.
If you want something a little bit different that’s incredibly comfortable and extremely quick, then why not go for the 308 GTi? If you want what is still one of the best regarded performance cars on sale, get the Golf GTI.
Pop either the Volkswagen Golf GTI or the Peugeot 308 GTi into our car configurator to see what discounts are on offer. For more options, head over to our deals page or, if you still can’t pick what car you’d like, check out our car chooser.