Long-term test: Peugeot 308 GTI

Long-term test: Peugeot 308 GTI
Long-term test: Peugeot 308 GTI

Living with the, Peugeot 308 GTi 270. Or, to be more accurate, living with two 308 Gti 270s

The 308 GTi 270 is Peugeot’s offering in the Ford Focus ST/VW Golf GTI market. For the last seven months, in order to find out if it’s a genuine alternative to those established stars, we’ve been running one.

Well, actually we’ve been running two. Our first 308 GTi gave us a first-hand demonstration of the superb effectiveness of its crumple zone when it was written off in a serious accident.

The replacement hadn’t been here long before someone decided it might be fun to stove in its window on the front passenger side. We’re still not sure why, as nothing was removed from the cabin.

Not even the yoga mat on the passenger seat, which was a missed opportunity as the culprit might have benefitted from its calming effects.

Anyway, now that the car has left our fleet, it’s time to reach a few conclusions about it. The overall feeling is sadness as it’s been a dependable, practical and – considering its performance – pleasingly low-profile companion. This is a hot hatch, after all, so plenty of different drivers borrowed the keys for a shot in it, generating almost as many different opinions.

Peugeot 308 GTI

One point of universal agreement was the merit of this 266bhp turbocharged 1.6-litre engine is. Many, if not most, GTI-level cars go for 2.0-litre engines. The Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport 40 has 261bhp and the Ford Focus ST 247bhp.

The Peugeot’s downsized capacity gives it superior fuel economy and lower emissions. As usual though, the advertised figures never quite matched up to the reality. Officially, the 308’s combined figure is 47.1mpg, but our average over the seven months was 34.2mpg, which is nearly 30 per cent lower.

In its defence, pottering around would not be the typical usage profile for a hot hatch, and our 308 was no exception to that general rule. Using the same engine as was used in the now-obsolete RCZ R coupé, albeit retuned to create a wider torque band, it never felt short of performance. There was plenty of consistent and enthusiastically-provided power right through the rev range.

Steering was a topic of more heated debate, and not just in the usual area of steering feel, which for the record was well-weighted for medium-speed driving but too light at motorway speeds. Definitely room for improvement in terms of feedback to the driver – who would possibly be cursing about another aspect of steering, namely the wheel itself.

Peugeot has been sticking with its reduced-diameter wheels on the basis of them being “compact” and providing “natural grip and flawless precision”. That’s debatable, but what wasn’t was the amount of opposition to it in our office. “I just can’t get on with that stupid wheel,” noted one user.

Peugeot 308 GTI interior

The regular custodian had no problem with the wheel’s size, having become accustomed to it in other Peugeots, but even she struggled with the driving position it created. No amount of adjustment of either seat or wheel would produce a position that would deliver both a view of the instrument panel and a reasonable level of driver comfort. The only driver who wasn’t bothered by it was the tallest man in the office.

London life punishes cars, but the 308’s suspension coped well despite having to look after 19-inch alloy wheels and low-profile Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres. You need to mind those alloys on high London kerbs too: they’re pretty vulnerable.

On fast open roads or on the Anglesey race track we’d have preferred a Focus ST or a Renault Mégane RS for handling sharpness, but the GTi delivered a mature halfway-house type of handling that endeared it to most drivers. The clean, calming design of the interior (including comfy massage seats) was another bonus on long trips.

The downside was the clunky 9.7-inch touchscreen infotainment system, which had a persistent and annoying delay between inputs and response and a non-intuitive menu system that is shown up by the equivalent system on Volkswagen Group cars. The good news is that the second-gen system, already featuring in the new 3008, is much better.

Peugeot 308 GTI infotainment

A slight shortage of rear head room apart, the 308 was surprisingly accommodating, two six-footers being able to sit one behind the other without discomfort. Getting child seats in and out is easy too, and the boot is up there with the class best, topping both the Golf and Focus with 470 litres as against their 380 and 316-litre capacities.

We liked the Sport button, not only because it modifies the throttle mapping but also because ramps up the exhaust note, but we were less impressed by the floor mats starting to crumble plastic inside the first six months.

In the final analysis, other cars do the hot hatch thing better than the 308, but that’s not to say you won’t enjoy Peugeot GTi ownership. Making such speedy progress in such a practical and unflashy way delivers a different kind of pleasure.

 

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