Peugeot’s hot hatch promises some fireworks

PEUGEOT manages to be two things at once with some aplomb.

The Peugeot 308 GTi
The Peugeot 308 GTi

On the one hand, it’s a creator of ever-so-sensible cars which are clean and green; on the other, it can turn out rip-roaring sports cars which are among the coolest cars on the planet.

It’s the latter type which we are concentrating on here because the 308 GTi is about to be launched.

The 308 is appealing to the mainstream market with some success because it is the top-seller in France and in the top three in its class across Europe.

But the GTi version - to be launched on November 5 - promises fireworks. No wonder Peugeot folk have an extra spring in their step at the moment.

This is a quick car - very quick, in fact - and it is among the most capable and keenly-priced hot-hatches on the market.

Of course, it needs to be for it is taking on some pretty good competitors such as SEAT Leon Cupra, Ford Focus ST and Skoda Octavia vRS.

But the Peugeot holds its own and, in some areas, pushes well ahead of its competitors. That should be no surprise given the success of some recent hot Peugeots such as the 208 GTi and RCZ.

The new 308 GTi has been created by Peugeot’s motorsports division which means this car is more than just a faster engine and sparkly bodykit.

It is a highly-engineered and hugely capable car. The suspension has been stiffened and lowered, the brakes and tyres improved and the performance given a huge boost.

It means it’s an incredibly quick and efficient motor, managing 60mph in six seconds, yet it returns excellent economy, averaging 47mpg on a run.

This is Peugeot’s first foray into the C-segment hot-hatch market since the 1990s and although this model is a macho sports car, it isn’t an ‘in your face’ model like the Honda Civic Type R or Renaultsport Megane.

In fact, from the outside it’s a pretty restrained affair. Some may say it’s too restrained but it is designed to appeal to the more mature hot-hatch enthusiast rather than boy-racers.

The test version is the 272bhp (badged as the 270) which costs £28,155 but there is a 250bhp model also available at £26,555.

On the face of it, the 250bhp is a good choice because it offers almost identical performance for £1,600 less.

But the 270 model comes with bigger and better alloy wheels, limited slip differential, better brakes and GTi bucket seats with red stitching, meaning that this is the one to go for without a doubt.

The limited slip differential may sound like boring tech-speak, but it does make a major difference to the way the car handles.

It is designed to improve cornering by channeling the power to the wheel with the greatest traction and it also makes it possible to drive faster around corners and enhance grip and handling.

The GTi is a car with great heritage. Products such as the 205 GTi and 309 GTi have acquired near-classic status in the decades since launch, and remain hugely popular with owners who appreciate their exceptional dynamic performance.

The 308 GTi is the fourth road car project in three years following the critically acclaimed RCZ R, 208 GTi 30th and 208 GTi.

The fact that it is based on the 308 is welcome, too, for this model was European Car of the Year in 2014 and is held in high regard.

Peugeot say the styling is ‘purposeful’. It is. It also sits 11mm lower to the ground than its siblings.

Aggressive new front and rear design elements have been added, with six distinctive exterior colours available. For the most eye-catching look, a ‘Coupe Franche’ two-tone design is exclusive to the 308 GTi 270, contrasting red with black. This is not a colour-scheme for the shy and retiring.

If the exterior is smart and sporty, the cabin is even more restrained. It has an elegant, minimalist style which is easy to live with and very good to use. It seems more like an upmarket saloon than a hot-hatch, though. The steering wheel - small and sporty - is excellent.

Standard equipment on the 308 GTi includes a Driver Sport Pack. Pressing the Sport button on the centre console switches the display colour from white to red, and shows additional information on the central read-out. It also enhances engine noise growl and changes the accelerator pedal mapping.

Also standard is red ‘PEUGEOT’ lettering on the grille, sports side skirts, new twin exhaust system with black diffuser, GTi badging, full LED headlamps, front LED indicators, reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, keyless entry and push button start, satellite navigation and DAB digital radio.

Peugeot 308 GTi 270bhp

PRICE: £28,155. The 308 range starts at £14,995

ENGINE: A 1.6 litre engine emitting 272bhp via six-speed manual gearbox

PERFORMANCE: Top speed 155mph and 0 to 60mph in 6.0 seconds

COSTS: town 34.9mpg; country 57.6mpg; combined 47.1mpg

EMISSIONS: 139g/km

WARRANTY: Three year warranty