There has never been a better time to buy a hot hatchback. It may sound like a line from a late-night advertorial, but the 2018 Peugeot 308 GTi highlights why that’s true.
Although just updated with a new grille, infotainment system and active safety technology, Peugeot has also cut its pricetag by $4000 to $45,990 plus on-road costs and added a five-year warranty (up from three-calendar coverage).
This more-for-less strategy comes at exactly the right time, too, given that Hyundai (with its i30 N) and Volkswagen (cue its Golf GTI Original) have also worked hard in recent months to deliver more affordable hot hatches.
But while the time is right to buy a hot hatch, the question is, should a buyer best pick a Peugeot?
Vehicle Style: Hot hatchback
Price: $45,990 (plus on-road costs)
Engine/trans: 202kW/330Nm 1.6 four-cylinder turbo petrol | six-speed manual
Fuel Economy Claimed: 6.0 l/100km | Tested: 8.5 l/100km
Okay, so an i30 N costs $39,990 (plus orc) while a Golf GTI Original asks $37,490 (plus orc). But in the latter case if five doors are needed, $41,490 (plus orc) is the go. Either way, they are substantially cheaper than even this sticker-lopped 308 GTi.
But what the Peugeot aims to do is mix the Hyundai’s standard, cornering enhancing limited-slip differential (LSD) and sheer tyre grip, with the Volkswagen’s understated cache and class. It is astonishingly light, at 1198kg, and packs a turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine that delivers 200kW of power and 330Nm of torque.
By contrast a Golf GTI Original weighs 1304kg and makes 169kW/350Nm, while the i30 N figures a portly 1429kg but delivers 202kW/353Nm.
Indeed, not only is this French hot hatch’s 6.0-second 0-100km/h performance claim some four-tenths faster than its German rival and two-tenths speedier than its new South Korean foe, but it’s more economical – combined-cycle fuel usage of 6.0 litres per 100 kilometres leaves it 0.4L/100km and 1.3L/100km thriftier respectively. As with the pricing adjustment, it would appear that less is indeed more again.
- Standard Equipment: Keyless auto-entry with push-button start, multi-function trip computer, power windows and mirrors, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, leather-wrapped steering wheel, part-Alcantara seats with front electric lumbar adjustment and heating, aluminium gearlever and pedals, heated/folding door mirrors, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, and auto on/off wipers and LED headlights with auto up/down high beam.
- Infotainment: 9.7-inch colour touchscreen with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, USB input, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring and satellite navigation.
- Options Fitted: None.
- Cargo Volume: 470 litres.
Much nicer than an i30 N, slightly adrift of a Golf GTI Original, but with a bigger boot than both – that would be the neat summary of this 308 GTi inside.
From the part-leather/Alcantara seat trim draped over brilliantly bolstered sports seats, to the perforated leather steering wheel, alloy-topped gearlever, soft-touch dashboard plastics and mood lighting, the Peugeot certainly feels semi-premium.
And its pricetag may be higher than its rivals, but it also delivers more equipment.
Dual-zone climate control air-conditioning remains squeezed into the 7.0-inch – or 9.7-inch if the side tabs are included – touchscreen, but the whole infotainment unit has thankfully been updated to include speedier response times and Apple CarPlay or Android Auto smartphone mirroring technology.
It now all works neatly and quickly, although the screen itself remains a low-resolution unit, the 360-degree camera is frustratingly glitchy, a digital radio is absent and voice control for the otherwise excellent satellite navigation is unavailable.
Adaptive cruise control and autonomous emergency braking (AEB) are also disappointingly nowhere to be seen, despite the latter coming as standard on all other 308 model grades.
That said, the new inclusion of blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and automatic up/down high beam is welcome. The standard lane-keep assistance is, too, but it is too keen to ensure the vehicle is kept exactly lane-centred and pulls and pushes the steering wheel as a result. Such poor calibration will mean drivers will likely just switch it off.
Peugeot has also prioritised luggage space over rear-seat legroom in this generation of small GTi, and indeed the 470-litre boot volume is not only the best in its class by far, but it matches the BMW X2 small SUV and eclipses several others of that breed.
If lifestyle activities and Bunnings runs are more frequent than rear-seat visitors, then the 308 should be right up your aisle. It certainly isn’t cramped behind the front seats, but it is average, while the bench is short and firm, and air vents are lacking.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 202kW/330Nm 1.6 4cyl turbo petrol
- Transmission: Six-speed manual, FWD
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear
- Brake: Ventilated front and rear disc brakes
- Steering: Electrically assisted mechanical steering
It proved illuminating to steer the 308 GTi on the same bit of twisty, sinewy, smooth, bumpy, bit of challenging Australian country road as the i30 N and Golf GTI Original only weeks earlier. Sporty vehicles have nowhere to hide on this road.
Wearing 235mm-wide, 19-inch Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres, the Peugeot feels endlessly grippy yet always light on its feet – much more so than the Hyundai. But it isn’t quite as balanced between its axles as the Volkswagen, which loves to pivot its rear end through tight corners (and best helps make front-drive cars feel fun).
What becomes clear is that there are three distinctly different but broadly excellent flavours of hot hatchback among this trio, the i30 N being hard and fast, the Golf GTI finessed yet playful, and this 308 GTi light, frisky and grippy.
A single fixed suspension set-up is definitely biased towards control over comfort here. While the French hot hatch forms iron-clad guarantee with its driver that it can tackle any surface while keeping its body flat, however, at under 70km/h on arterial and urban roads the constant jiggling and excessive road noise can become tiring.
The steering seems hugely improved compared with the pre-facelift GTi, though, with what feels like extra weight in Sport mode helping to bolster the arcade-game-lightness of before. The epic, 380mm front brakes also now link with a smoother, calmer middle pedal.
So while the long-throw six-speed manual transmission remains, the previous driver-controls mismatch – of long gearlever, darty steering and touchy brakes – has been eased significantly, contributing to a far more cohesive driving experience.
There’s no automatic transmission available, but the close-ratio manual does a sterling job of keeping the tiny 1.6-litre on boost on a country road. While a fraction laggy down low, it thrives between 5000rpm and 6250rpm where it turns angry, snarly and fast – the finest hot hatch engine of the aforementioned trio.
Plus, that light mass contributes to on-test economy of just 8.5L/100km. For such a quick hot hatch that was driven spiritedly, that’s excellent.
NCAP rating: 5-Stars - the Peugeot 308 range scored 35.82 out of 37 possible points when tested by Euro NCAP in 2014.
Safety Features: Dual front, front-side and three-row full-length curtain airbags, ABS and ESC, 360-degree camera with front and rear parking sensors and automatic reverse-park assistance, blind-spot monitor, and lane-departure warning with active lane-keep assistance.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Five years/unlimited kilometres.
Servicing: Superb annual or 20,000km intervals come with a capped-price cost of $3965 to five years or 100,000km – or an average of $793 per service.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The Focus ST and WRX are cheap, but they do feel dated compared with newer rivals such as the 308 GTi.
Conversely, the Civic Type-R is the best hot hatch on-sale today, but it costs $50,990 (plus orc). If you can make the stretch, though, it’s worth it.
The i30 N will appeal to racetrack junkies and those who enjoy hard and fast handling, although it does weigh a lot and feels cheap inside. The Golf GTI may be slower in a straight line, but its all-roads suspension, playful handling and brilliant interior still makes it the all-things-to-all-people pick.
- Ford Focus ST
- Honda Civic Type-R
- Hyundai i30 N
- Subaru WRX
- Volkswagen Golf GTI/R
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The facelifted 308 GTi is enormously improved compared with last year’s version.
A combination of a longer warranty and reduced pricetag, an improved infotainment system and extra active safety technology, plus smoothened out driver controls all help make this primed Peugeot a far more appealing package than before.
Ultimately it is expensive, especially given the lack of AEB. Its arterial and urban road ride quality and road noise falls short of rivals, and while its engine and dynamics are at least as good as such competitors, it doesn’t gap them by a significant margin.
In context, this French hot hatch is about $6K pricier than an i30 N or Golf GTI, but only $5K more affordable than a Civic Type-R – and yet it sides closer to the former group than the latter. But only just, to be fair. The 308 GTi remains a rewarding and endearing choice that happens to now be a better buy and better car than before.
- Interested in buying Peugeot 308? Visit our Peugeot 308 showroom for more information.