A week with a Peugeot 308 GTi

Posted in DriveL by Richard Porter on Monday, January 16th, 2017

It’s a new-ish Peugeot hot hatchback. Don’t mention the you-know-what.

Day one: For a while Peugeot was a peddler of lumpen turdery like the old 3008. Then they came up with the 208 GTi, which was excellent. And the current 308, which is actually quite good too. Now there’s this which seems to combine those two things and is therefore a promising idea. You can have it with a mad, two tone paint scheme where most of the car is red, except for a diagonal slice of black that takes up the rear quarter. It’s not even a wrap. They paint a car red, then take it into a special facility at the factory, mask the front, spray the back black and lacquer over the lot. It’s a £625 option which this press demonstrator doesn’t have. Probably for the best. I quite like it in photos but it might be a bit attention seeking in real life. Also, it reminds me of a strawberry dipped in chocolate and I think it’d make me feel hungry. This demo car is a discreet grey and looks fine. On a short drive home, it feels better than fine. Some cars, even on brief acquaintance, give you a sense of goodness deep within, and this is one of them. It’s promising. Very promising.

Day two: Like other 308s, the GTi has a minimalist interior and that strangely small steering wheel which you look over, rather than through, to see the instruments. It means you set the wheel a little lower than you might normally. Personally, I don’t find this a problem. Other people might, especially if they’re very fat. I don’t mind the interior of this car. My wife, on the other hand, says it’s ‘lame’. Further questioning as we drive along this morning unearths the assertion that it’s ‘just too boy-sy’, after which she points at all the red stitching and the red insert on the side of the gearlever and the GTi badge on the steering wheel and I realize that she has a point. It is a bit like being inside a 1980s washbag. You wouldn’t be surprised to find a massive bottle of Blue Stratos in the boot. But, since I’m a boy, I still quite like it. The 308’s interior. And quite possibly the smell of Blue Stratos.

Day three: I have to drive from London to North Yorkshire. I like weirdness and roundabouts and the chance to pass at least one porno warehouse so naturally I take the A1. The 308 has that pleasant sense of pulling, puppyish urgency you get in good hot hatchbacks, as if the engine is trying to burst out of the car, but it’s not overwhelming. This means it can still cruise quietly and comfortably. The seats are good, it sits solidly at speed, even the ride is decent, being firm but not crashy, suggesting time and money well spent on the damping. The engine feels hearty and strong, even though it’s just a 1.6 four. This car is the 266 horsepower version. There was a 247 horsepower model but it turns out 80 percent of buyers wanted the maximum grunt model and the weedier one has been deleted.

After the slog up the A1, I get to turn off and dash across the moors past Fylingdales where there used to be massive balls and now there’s just a scary obelisk that might be cooking our brains. It’s a tremendous road, and the 308 turns out to be a tremendous car in which to drive it. That engine is a fantastic thing, giving proper amounts of pull from low down yet, unusually for a modern turbocharged number, appearing to enjoy revs and giving you good reason to wring it out if you fancy it. Or, more specifically, if you fancy going really rather quickly. You can short shift and drive it on the torque or you can thrash the crap out of it just because that sort of thing is fun. It’s a marvelous thing, and it sits in a marvelous chassis, one of those great hot hatch set-ups that flows with the turbulence of an interesting road, soaking up shitty surfaces and diving into bends in a sprightly manner that can be adjusted by what you do with any or all of the major controls. It has a Torsen limited slip diff which can result in some magical cornering shenanigans as it clings on to an extraordinary degree and fires itself out of the other side, grabbing physics firmly by the neck and telling it to keep its mouth shut. But it can also lead to some lively moments when you mash the throttle in the run up to an easy overtaking move and find yourself darting towards the right hand verge as the tyres accidentally discover to an unfortunate bit of camber. But you learn to look out for this and work around it. On the downside, the steering is a bit dead and electric assistance-y and that tiny wheel sometimes makes it difficult to carry out subtle adjustments during fast, sweeping corners. So not perfect, but then perfect things are rarely very likeable. And on a brisk romp across North Yorkshire, the 308 turns out to be very likeable indeed.

Day four: I have no need of the 308 today so it sits in a car park, almost certainly attracting no attention whatsoever. I like the underplayed outside of this car. There’s a red stripe around the bottom of the air intake, some 19-inch alloys, and a pair of pipes at the back, but it’s all subtle stuff. One of my colleagues has arrived in a Focus RS which sits looking pumped and fighty, like the kind of car that would attract the attention of a friend by shouting GEEZAAAH! across the pub. I am in my 40s so I prefer the Peugeot approach.

Day five: Still working. Still no need to drive the GTi today. Still, can I have a prize for so far writing almost 1000 words about a sporty Peugeot without once mentioning the bloody 205 GTi. Oh. Shit. Sorry.

Day six: Right, Yorkshire back to London. Go, go, go. Another fast, fun drive across the moors, another reminder of all that is good about this car, including the sheer joy of using an old fashioned manual gearbox of decent weight and action. The GTi has a sport button which makes the throttle more sensitive, the exhaust more noisy, and the instruments more red. You can pretty much drive the car in this mode all the time, even cruising back down the A1. Always the mark of a well sorted car, rather than one that just turns things heavy and silly and shouty for the sake of making morons believe they’re in a sports car.

Day seven: Sitting at a junction behind another car this morning I discover something horrifying about this Peugeot. The front indicators do that irritating sequential trace-a-line-then-off thing made fashionable by Audi. It’s a tedious gimmick which further investigation reveals to be something they fit only to sporty 308s for some reason. But really there’s no need for such wankery.

Goodbye: The 308 GTi is going away and this is a shame because I like it a lot. It’s genuinely excellent to drive and handles exciting roads in a fast, flowing and fun way yet manages to avoid being noisy and exhausting when you don’t want to dick around. At the moment, everyone is making a fuss about the Ford Focus RS and that’s fair enough, but it does mean the more subtle 308 could be overlooked. Which is a shame, because it’s actually a bit of a gem.

The car talked about here is a Peugeot 308 GTi 270 by Peugeot Sport. It has a 1.6-litre, four cylinder turbocharged engine making 266 horsepower. It can go from 0-62 in 6 seconds and on to a limited top speed of 155mph. It costs £29,335.

31 Responses to “A week with a Peugeot 308 GTi”

  1. Peter says:

    Completely agree on the Audi LED’s “chasing” indicators. not only is it the height of wankery but it also means they are more difficult to spot as they are never fully on. I’ve had to double take a few times to make sure the car in front was indicating and I hadn’t just caught sight of a comet in my peripheral vision. I’d assumed you could turn them off but maybe not…

  2. PeteH says:

    No, the wankacators cannot be deactivated. My Audi has them as standard, can’t be helped. Some might think I’m a wanker for buying an Audi in the first place, but Jag haven’t got a mental V8 estate car at the moment – nor has anyone else for that matter.

  3. Richard (no, not that one) says:

    I recall feeling a bit upset when Pistonheads weren’t too taken with these, because I really want to like them. It’s nice to see another hot hatch other that isn’t all bodykits and spoilers. I’m glad to hear you’ve found a bit to like about them.

    @PeteH: Merc C63 and CLS63 too sane for you?

  4. Jeremy Stokes says:

    So Peugeot are becoming quite good then? The new 3008 is supposed to be the dog’s b*******

  5. Ted Maul says:

    @PeteH: What about a used XFR-S Sportbrake?

  6. Paulie Walnuts says:

    What’s the Canadian view on this? Will it be sold in Canada? What will the 308 GTI taste like with maple syrup?

    It’s more of a rival for the Focus ST than the RS. And being a Ford fanboi I’d pick the GTI.

  7. Gridlock says:

    Does the one pictured at top belong to the Knight Foundation?

  8. Crankie Shaft says:

    More importantly, is Blue Stratos available in Canada?

  9. Termie Nate says:

    I like the idea of discreet powerful cars, but this one was never test driven beyond Dull Drive. They completely bypassed Style Street, Lovely Lane, Double Take Park and just left the car in Why Bother Boulevard. A for “Allez, fuck it, le moteur tourne, that’s enough”. When I want a car that I don’t like looking at, I’ll consider that one.

  10. Crankie Shaft says:

    It’s all the fault of HPI and NCAP really. I remember my dad’s first 205 GTI, a red 1.6 in 1990. He followed it up with a last of the non cat non PAS 1.9s, resplendent in Miami Blue with half leather. All bought through a staff rate RBS bank loan. My word those were exciting cars; light, fast, frippery free and desirable nonetheless.

    Fast forward to now…

    NCAP means big safety bits and bobs, cars getting fat, masked with designs that make us go Meh. HPI means, even on an equivalent salary to that of my old dear departed dad, bods like me can finance a baby Beemer with a silly 3.0 turbo’d straight 6 and more gadgets than a lad growing up with a ZX Spectrum could ever dream of.

    Would I rather ship my kids around in a modern day motor with airbags and side impact beams and heated seats? Of course. Is my car faster than the dear old Pugs of yore, and probably more fuel efficient too? Of course.

    But is the romance of a spindly little French motor, with brittle plastics, puppy dog behaviour and a Clarion head unit (with 6x9s on the rear shelf of course) lost forever? I think it is, which in a way, is shame. But hey, that’s progress.

    Not really sure Peugeot bother anymore to be honest. C’est la vie.

  11. cambusomay says:

    It was recently established that if you reverse a 308 into a Mondeo, it does more damage to (my) Mondeo. Bet you didn’t try that. Perhaps you had the outlandish and really good idea of looking in the mirror while you were reversing.

  12. Captain Mungo says:

    Maybe I am poor or a skinflint..but near as dammit £30k for a hot hatch seems like a lot to me. Dunno, £20k on a 10year old Quattroporte and the other £10k on hand to run it would be my preference.

  13. Crankie Shaft says:

    i had one of them Juke things as a hire car the other day. Checked the spec..it was nearly 25 grand! Bloody inflation…

  14. BL Fan says:

    Not sure if I’d prefer one over an MG Maestro…. THe MG had a talking dashboard and red seatbelts!

  15. Andrew Richards says:

    I spotted a DS something in my mirror yesterday with wankacators. It would appear that the breed is growing so it looks like we will have to get used to them.

  16. Termie Nate says:

    Retransmitting All Skynet frequencies. Check out the LC500. Forget Sarah Connor. Or Conor. Who gives a shit. All other cars have been made redundant. Except mine. OMG. Classify database difference/not giving a truck/trying harder. Back to drooling.

  17. Jennifer Warts says:

    Wankacators are now being fitted to lorries going by the two I saw/didn’t see/saw/didn’t see this morning.

    As for the PewJoe… style at a poorly attended meeting of the Apathy Society no doubt. The lady what makes the tea was the only person there so she had a quick go before walking away hurriedly mumbling something about losing the will to live.

  18. Good write up….. I Always think its a really nice sign when a car doesn’t feel like utter shit when you engage YOB MODE, The Jaguar XE S I have right now does it perfectly. The suspension comes alive when you load it up, but on the bumps it smoother than Miranda Kerrs skin… But enough about the XE S its been in about 1 million reviews already….

  19. Will M says:

    208, 308 and 3008 getting good reviews.

    But at times it almost feels like the 508 has been forgotten. In facelift form it is an attractive beast. As the survivor of the 405-406 lineage, it’ll be a sad day when it is inevitably axed (like the C5 from the UK market at least).

  20. Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

    The pricing is completely off for the Pug. Who in their right minds would put £30k behind a car that will be worth less than a third of the value in 3 or 4 years when for the same price they can get a Focus RS, Mk1 and 2 of which are now appreciating in value.

  21. The Great Gazoo says:

    I’m almost sad that we don’t have Poohjoes over here in the Colonies, as your review actually made me sort of want to drive one. Which is surprising, as most of the weird little foreign jobs you test appeal to my Canadian tastes about as much as warm flat beer. The Pway-go actually looks like a fun little car. Although it is French, is it not? That could be a deal-breaker. I don’t normally associate French with fun.

    I’m curios though Sniff, why such disdain over some red trim and seat stitching and the like? Surely you’ve noted that even the bespoke crowd have such niceties in their Rollers and Bentleys now. Don’t be such a wet blanket. Live a little! And grey is not a color. It is a weather condition. Cars should not be grey. Ever.

  22. gpfan says:

    Thankfully, these dirty pieces of shit are not allowed in Canada.Not since Prime Minister Trudeau invoked a ban on trade with ‘wanker-majority’countries.

    Plus, they are French. We haven’t allowed those garlic-munching surrender-monkeys any say in MapleSyrupLand since the great expulsion in 1755. And when the rifle-tossing enthusiasts tried to give it a go in 1759, we marched upon the Plains of Abraham and reminded the blouse-wearing drunks that we have rules.

    I mean, what was the point of building all of those Lancasters and landing craft, if we are going to allow the froggies to traipse willy-nilly about the world? We saved them from the square-heads, so that they may have their own God-forsaken shit-hole place to drink that smelly wine and crash around in those crummy cars. The poodle-pushing run-away artists don’t even drink beer!

    So, Sniff (if that is your real name), the next time some sissified loafer-levitating gearbox offers you a French car, toss a steaming hot cup of Tim’s in his face and tell him to fuck off sharpish!

    Now, go do a test on a man’s car. Your pal’s RS. Every week. And get me a beer. Asshole.

  23. Termie Nate says:

    The post above is generating a feedback loop in my AI module. Analysis shows a 99.99% chance that the post was written by the illegitimate love child of the Duke of Edinburgh and a Belgian, yet it states its origin as Canada.
    But that’s not the problem, the problem is that the writer wants more reviews of the RS. My AI analysis module is pretty confident that just a single additional review of the focus RS by a youtuber with exactly three pubes, too much zitshader and far too few ideas on how not to sound like he got all his lines from Top Gear will trigger a critical mass of copypasted bullshit that will transform into a binary black hole and destroy the galaxy. And then guess which sucker will be sent back in time to sort it all out?

    Save the planet, test an LC500 instead.

  24. gpfan says:

    LC500 equal gearbox car. Alert. Alert. Test RS. Car I should have purchased. Alert. Alert. Have Fiesta ST. Test bike. Real bike. Not Harley shit box.Alert. Alert. LC500 for debutantes, wife-swappers and homers.

    Alert. Tiny dyck, Buy LC500. Test done. Alert.

  25. Termie Nate says:

    Don’t get me wrong, would have bought an RS already if there was any possible way of justifying it, been having fantasies of that ever since I drove an ST mk2. But come on, look at the LC and tell me that’s not the most gorgeous thing made of squeezed metal you’ve seen in years. Then tell my wife to come home, been wondering where the hell she’s been.

  26. gpfan says:

    Now, you see? That is where you went wrong. My wife left and I am now free to purchase an RS. Or, skids of lager. Cases of Yorkies. Etc. You get the photo.

    However, “… the most gorgeous thing made of squeezed metal you’ve seen in years …” is a Ducati 916. Or any RZ350.

  27. Termie Nate says:

    I’d have to google image that one bike that made me reconsider the whole debate that involves 4 tyres, a roof, music, drink holder and room for more. The katana of bikes for me. Something about fitness for purpose. Out of my power handling zone of comfort by…yeah. And wondered earlier if any mention was made of a certain Alpha around these pages. Would love that to do well. Bit of a bodywork thing going these days.

  28. The pricing is completely off for the Pug. Who in their right minds would put £30k behind a car that will be worth less than a third of the value in 3 or 4 years when for the same price they can get a Focus RS, Mk1 and 2 of which are now appreciating in value.

  29. Kenny Carwash says:

    Sounds appealing, but…thirty grand for a Peugeot? Four grand more and you can get that Volvo S90.

  30. How is the pedal placement and spacing? Are they well placed for some gratuitously unnecessary yet amusingly feel good rev matched downshifts even into first as you come to stop at some red lights?

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