£29,514 Price range
The Peugeot 308 GTi is the hot hatch version of the French firm’s small family car. It’s a 270hp alternative to the likes of the SEAT Leon Cupra and Golf GTI that comes with a minimalist cabin and a spacious boot for a car of this size.
Previously, the 308 was available with either 250hp or 270hp, but now you’re limited to just the more powerful model. This comes with more powerful brakes, bigger wheels and a pair of more supportive sports seats, alongside an upgraded limited-slip differential to maximise grip when you accelerate out of tight corners.
Besides a few red trim pieces in the front bumper, you might not be able to tell this high-performance Peugeot 308 apart from the rather sober standard model. Serious car geeks will spot the lowered suspension and twin exhaust pipes, but if that’s not obvious enough you can pay extra for the ‘Coupe Franche’ paint job – a two-tone red and black finish that makes the 308 GTi stick out like a sore thumb.
Peugeot 308 GTis in 270hp guise come with comfortable figure-hugging Alcantara and leather sports seats that hold you firmly in place in tight corners. You also get aluminium pedals, metal kick plates and lots of red stitching – tasty.
Unfortunately, while the Peugeot 308 GTi’s interior might look nice and modern, it doesn’t feel anywhere near as solid or as upmarket as a VW Golf GTI or SEAT Leon Cupra. There are plenty of hard, brittle plastics dotted around the dashboard and doors and nothing feels quite so solidly screwed together as in most alternatives.
The Peugeot 308 GTi’s infotainment screen is also rather disappointing. Sure, this 9.7-inch unit looks pretty smart (and helps minimise the number of unsightly buttons cluttering up the 308’s cabin) but it isn’t particularly intuitive to use and the sat-nav can be tricky to follow.
Peugeot 308 GTi passenger space
As with all of its rivals, there is plenty of space for adults in the front along with big door bins, a large centre cubby underneath the armrest and a tray behind the gear lever that’s big enough for a smartphone. Space in the back isn’t so good, however – six-foot-tall adults will feel packed in tightly if they’re sitting behind someone of a similar size and there’s noticeably less kneeroom than you get in a VW Golf GTI.
Peugeot 308 GTi boot space
Open the boot, and it’s clear where all that rear passenger space has gone. The Peugeot 308 GTi’s 470-litre boot is huge. You get 90-litres more space than you’ll find in a VW Golf GTI so there’s more than enough space to carry a large baby buggy or four suitcases with room to spare.
Flip the back seats down and the 308 GTi’s load bay grows to 1,309 litres – still significantly more than you get in most alternatives and comfortably big enough to carry a bike. You will have to remove one of its wheels first, however.
Since Peugeot dropped the 250hp model from the 308 GTi lineup, you now get a host of tasty performance upgrades as standard. Unfortunately, these aren’t quite enough to make it feel as agile or as sure-footed as the likes of the VW Golf GTI and SEAT Leon Cupra.
The standard limited-slip differential helps launch you out of tight corners as quickly as possible, but the Peugeot 308 GTi’s rather fast (but still fairly vague) steering means it doesn’t feel quite as planted as a VW Golf GTI.
This issue is somewhat compounded by the Peugeot 308 GTi’s rather soft suspension, Sure, its supple setup means it doesn’t feel overly firm at slow speeds and is actually quite comfortable to drive for long distances, but it wallows and bounces around more than a Leon Cupra, Megane RS or Golf GTI on bumpy country roads.
While the 1.6-litre engine’s 270hp grabs headlines – it gets so much from so little – the unit is equally impressive for the pulling-power it delivers at relatively low revs. This means the car feels eager, without the need to constantly change gear.
It helps make the 308 GTi significantly quicker than the VW Golf GTI, too. In raw numbers the GTi 270 gets from 0-62mph in just six seconds – that’s half a second quicker than the German machine.
Given the stats, it’s a shame that the Peugeot’s pokey engine isn’t a little more pleasing on the ear. From the outside, its exhaust has a likeable burble and even pops during full-bore gearchanges, but precious little of that noise makes its way into the cabin.
Running costs are impressive though, and despite having a 50hp power advantage over a Golf GTI, the 270 nearly matches it for fuel economy (47.1mpg versus 47 respectively). In normal driving conditions, you’ll more likely see a figure in the high thirties to low forties, however.
The PR team at Peugeot were keen to tell us that their GTi was built to beat its namesake from Volkswagen, and in many ways it does. It’s not only faster than the standard Golf GTI, it even edges out versions fitted with the rather expensive performance pack.
But it can’t match the Golf’s breadth of talents that cover everything, from its classy looks to its well-built and intuitive interior. Things such as these make the Golf GTI feel special even in the mundane cycle of daily life and are doubtless the reason it’s proven such a success story with UK buyers.