IT HAS BEEN 15 YEARS SINCE THE REVERED GTi BADGE HAS BEEN AFFIXED TO ANY OF PEUGEOT'S '3' SERIES RANGE. And, rather than deliver something half-baked, Peugeot handed development of its newest GTi over to its in-house motorsport division, Peugeot Sport.
The result is not one, but two GTi variants to pick from; the day-to-day and quite rapid GTi 250, or the very rapid enthusiast-spec GTi 270.
While the visual changes are subtle compared to the mainstream 308 models, the difference on the road (and the track) is immense - just like a good hot hatch should be.
Vehicle Style: Small performance hatch
GTi 250 $44,990 (plus on-roads)
GTi 270 $49,990 (plus on roads)
GTi 250 184kW/330Nm 1.6 4cyl turbo petrol | 6spd manual
GTi 270 200kW/330Nm 1.6 4cyl turbo petrol | 6sp manual
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.0 l/100km
When you think of hot hatches, your default reaction is likely to be the Volkswagen Golf GTI, and why not - it’s been a benchmark for the genre for years.
But, with Peugeot’s GTi contender now here and ready for battle, and with more power than the Volkswagen warrior across its two model range, there may be a shuffling of the guard in the hot-hatch hierarchy.
The two model range encompasses the fierce 184kW GTi 250, and the utterly bonkers 200kW GTi 270. The latter is aimed at weekend track stars and adds 'track stuff' like beefier brakes, grippier seats, stickier tyres, and a mechanical limited slip differential
- GTi 250: Dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, sports seats, sports steering wheel, alloy pedals, cruise control with speed limiter, automatic lights and wipers, rear privacy glass, multi-function trip computer, cooled glovebox, 18-inch alloy wheels
- GTi 270 (in addition to GTi 250): Peugeot Sport front seats with lumbar support and massage function, 19-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 9.7-inch touch screen, 6.9GB music hard drive, 2x USB ports, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, satellite navigation,
- Options available: 19-inch alloy wheels (GTi 250), Peugeot Sport seats (GTi 250 $1300, Metallic paint $990, Ultimate Red tri-coat paint $1700, Coupe Franche two-tone premium metallic paint (GTi 270) $3000, panoramic sunroof $1200
- Cargo volume: 470 litres minimum, 1309 litres maximum
The regular 308 range provides the template for the 308 GTi, utilising the same high-set i-cockpit instrument cluster, small steering wheel, and touchscreen interface for the majority of interior functions.
Detail changes includes a sporty-profile steering wheel featuring a flat bottom, red centre marker, and GTi logo, along with red contrasting stitching on the seats and door cards. A chunky metal gear knob and sports pedals complete the picture.
The gauge pack also features a checkered flag finish, colour display mounted between the speedo and counter-rotating tacho, and red illumination when the sport mode is engaged.
Opt for the GTi 270 and the front seats are replaced with a set of even grippier sports seats (optional on GTi 250) that offer a full body-grasp and include a massage function. Wider frames will feel particularly snug in these, while short drivers may experience some shoulder interference.
The rear bench is as per the regular 308, meaning a large square opening for ease of entry, and decent room for two adults in the rear, or three kids. There are still no rear face-level ventilation outlets, and the lengthy front seat travel can jeopardise legroom slightly.
Boot space and interior storage are unchanged from the more pedestrian 308 models, with the boot offering 470 litres, growing to 1309 litres with the rear seats folded. In the cabin, there’s a single fold-away cup holder that reveals a large centre storage bin, along with a lidded console, but a typically tiny golvebox.
ON THE ROAD
- GTi 250: 184kW/330Nm 1.6 litre four-cylinder turbo petrol
- GTi 270: 200kW/330Nm 1.6 litre four-cylinder turbo petrol
- Transmission: Six-sped manual, front wheel drive (Torsen LSD for GTi 270)
- Suspension: ‘Pseuedo’ MacPherson strut, hollow 21mm anti-roll bar front, torsion beam rear
- Brakes: 330 x 30mm ventilated front disc (GTi 250) 380 x 32mm slotted ventilated front disc (GTi 270), 268 x 12mm rear
- Steering: electric speed-sensitive power steering
Climb into the GTi 250, thumb the starter button, and… it’s much less grumbly than you might expect - there’s no more sense of occasion than you’ll find in the rest of the petrol 308 range.
But, dip the weighty clutch and shift the chunky, tactile gear lever into first and the change is immediately apparent. The GTi 250 moves off with real urgency - where the 308 GT feels able, the GTi 250 is much sharper again.
Under the bonnet beats a 1.6 litre four-cylinder turbo engine that produces 184kW of power at 6000rpm and 330Nm between 1900 and 4000rpm. That allows for a 0-100km/h time of 6.2 seconds.
A six speed manual is the sole transmission available - a possible misstep in the automatic-obsessed Australian market, but in terms of shift quality and clutch balance, the manual makes a very persuasive case for itself.
On some of Tasmania’s most tightly wound tarmac the GTi 250 tracked faithfully, laid its power down cleanly, and offered responsive, agile steering. Yet again, the small diameter wheel really adds to the racy impression but the steering itself offers great feedback and feel.
While the GTi 250 is such a great car in isolation, the GTi 270 justifies every cent of its $5000 upgrade price.
Thanks to the Torsen limited-slip differential, the GTi 270 feels like it’s glued to the road, even across mid-corner sprays of loose gravel, or in the wet.
The uprated power output (200kW at 6000rpm) and more flexible torque (still the same 330Nm, but available from 1900 to 5500rpm) gives the GTi 270 an even friskier feel from behind the wheel, while cutting 0-100 km/h sprint times by 0.2 seconds.
Bigger 380mm front brake discs and four-piston calipers give the GTi 270 an extended ability on the racetrack, but even with the GTi 250’s smaller 330mm rotors we couldn’t find the limit of braking.
The ride of both cars surprised with high levels of bump absorbency. We expected the 18-inch wheels of the GTi 250 to be the comfort stars, but between it and the 19-inch shod GTi 270, we could barely pick the difference.
Yes, both are firm, but even on severely decaying tarmac the GTi twins maintained their superb balance and never once rattled their occupants. We’re looking forward to more time in an urban setting to test that balance over a wider range of roads.
Certainly noise - or, rather, the lack of it - is the disappointment here. For both vehicles, engine and exhaust involvement is almost non-existent. You can press the Sport button which enhances the performance soundtrack via the stereo speakers, but, somehow, that just doesn't wash.
Road noise however is quite noticeable at highway speeds - not a deafening roar, but certainly more pronounced than it needs to be.
Around Baskerville Raceway the GTi 270 demonstrated its reason for being. A string of tight bends and a need to get on the gas quickly would have unsettled a lesser hatch, but the GTi 270 simply grips, hangs in tight and refuses to drift into understeer or lift an inside wheel in anger.
As proof of that incredible chassis security we were treated to a piping-hot lap, with a professional driver behind the wheel, and all electronic aids switched off. No traction or stability control - just car and driver.
It was under these conditions that we learnt the 308 GTi’s true nature - free of rampant wheel spin and stubborn understeer, the finely honed chassis of the GTi 270 really is the star, not the electronic safety net. Something increasingly rare, even among performance vehicles.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - this model scored 35.82 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: Six airbags (dual front, front seat thorax and full-length curtain airbags) as well as switchable stability control, traction control, ABS, EBD and brake assist. Front and rear park sensors, and a reversing camera are also standard.
Front seatbelts are fitted with load-limiting pretensioners, outboard rear seats carry load limiters and ISOFIX child seat anchorage points.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
With a bargain price, and a rorty engine, the Ford Focus ST makes an attractive opening bid. Volkswagen’s Golf meanwhile comes in GTI and GTI Performance flavours to tackle Peugeot’s GTi 250 and GTi 270, although both are down on power.
The Renault Megane RS range delivers sparkling front-wheel-drive dynamics, but only arrives as a three-door with a price range that stretches below and above the GTi range.
The upcoming Ford Focus RS is set to really shake things up though, set to arrive with a price just $1000 above the GTi 270, the Focus RS will deliver a potent 257kW engine and all wheel drive, although it won’t approach the near-premium feel of the 308’s interior.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Drive the 308 GTi 250 and you’ll be impressed. It delivers scintillating performance, a grippy balanced chassis, decent ride comfort, and an interior that rivals, and even exceeds, more expensive prestige offerings.
If it were the sole model to arrive in Australia we’d hardly pine for the more powerful GTi 270, however the GTi 270 lifts the standard yet again, somehow finding even more grip thanks to its Torsen differential.
Built to be a track star, the GTi 270 doesn’t compromise its on-road performance. But, thanks to upgraded brakes and stickier tyres, it will hammer out a weekend track day with ease.
It will blister any track in the hands of a skilled driver, and has thesuperb balance and performance to flatter lesser drivers.
Then for something truly different, try the Coupe Franche (which translates as clean cut) paint option for the GTi 270. Combining tri-coat Ultimate Red up front with Nera Black encasing the rear, it is hand finished in a 15-hour process.
Although a $3000 option, it gives the 308 a unique look.
Fancy paint-jobs aside, it’s the superb balance and willing nature of the 308 GTi range that really shines, making this car one of the stars of the hot hatch genre.