By Jonathan Crouch
Ultimate super-hatches cost a lot to run. In Peugeot's 308 GTi, you won't be far off that level of performance - and you're promised handling that enthusiasts will love. Yet thanks to a light, hi-tech 'EMP2' chassis and a down-sized 1.6-litre turbo engine, you get a sensible set of running costs. It's a tempting package.
Peugeot has a strong history in family hatch-sized hot GTi contenders. Here's one of the most potent ever, a 'T9'-series 308 GTi model launched in 2015 that produces up to 272bhp and does battle in this sector with key hot hatch contenders from this period like Ford's Focus ST and the Volkswagen Golf GTI.
Having established its hot hatch credentials with the 205 GTi of 1984 and followed up this iconic model in the Eighties and Nineties with a string of other memorable shopping rockets, Peugeot rather lost its way after the turn of the century when it came to cars of this kind. By 2015 though, the marque's specialist 'Peugeot Sport' division had been showing signs of a return to form, with the introduction of cars like the 208 GTi and the RCZ R.
Two variants of this model were offered, one with 250bhp, the other with 272bhp. Both though, manage to deliver more performance than rival Golf GTI or Focus ST hot hatches from this era, thanks in no small measure to this Peugeot's superior power-to-weight ratio. As a result, this car can almost boast enough firepower to take on pricier shopping rockets with 300bhp or more, contenders like Audi's S3 or Honda's Civic Type-R. It's all quite promising.
All the competitors just mentioned so far though, have 2.0-litre turbo engines. You might reasonably wonder whether this 308 can actually deliver all it needs to in taking on these cars with a smaller turbocharged 1.6. It's worth a drive to find out, especially in the 272bhp version that was standardised after the facelift in 2017. The 308GTi sold until the end of the 'T9'-series MK2 308 model's production run at the end of 2020.
What You Get
There are two schools of thought when it comes to styling a hot hatch of this sort. Either you prioritise subtlety, as does Volkswagen's Golf GTI. Or you go for the all-out 'boy racer' look, as does Honda's Civic Type-R. In its standard form, you'd have to say that this 'T9'-series 308 GTi leans towards the less shouty end of the spectrum, but if that's a little boring for you, then seek out a model trimmed with the optional 'Coupe Franche' paint finish. This diagonally-split two-tone look that makes it appear as if the front of a red 308 GTi has been welded to the back of a dark grey one. If that's your sort of thing.
The 'Coupe Franche' paint job is exclusive to the top '270' version, a derivative distinguished by a package that was optional on the lesser '250' variant, namely 19-inch 'Carbone' alloy wheels with red-painted 'Peugeot Sport' brake callipers. Otherwise, the two GTi models are pretty much identical, both featuring a ride height lowered by 11mm and both only offered in the five-door hatchback body style. You don't get the three-door option that would be offered on a rival Golf GTI or SEAT Leon Cupra from this era, nor can you choose the kind of estate variant that Ford made available on its Focus ST in this period that Peugeot itself offered to buyers of its lesser 308 GT model.
As for the detail styling enhancements that set this GTi model apart, well we'll guide you through those. At the front, full-LED headlamps with jewel-like daytime running light strips flank a 'GTI grille' that features red 'Peugeot' lettering and a 'chequered flag' design. Lower down, the large air intake is fashioned in the same style and surrounded by LED indicators and a strip finished either in chrome or red. There are also two spoilers below the bumper to try and emphasise the ground-hugging stance.
Inside in the '250' variant, we're not sure if Peugeot did quite enough to differentiate this GTi model from commoner 308s. With the pricier '270' derivative, the GTi atmosphere is a little more overt, thanks to the deep, grippy 'GTI Bucket' seats you get in that version. Some '250' model owners added these as an option. To be fair, even the standard 'Peugeot Sport'-branded sports seats look quite smart thanks to leather-effect and alcantara red-stitched trim. There's more red stitching on the 'Mistral' leather steering wheel, with this item and the 'GTi' floor mats the only real giveaways that you're in the priciest 308 model.
Peugeot calls this car's 'at-the-wheel' design its 'i-Cockpit' and if you're not familiar with that, then four things immediately become apparent once you get acquainted: quality, lack of button clutter, the big centre-dash LCD infotainment screen and, most notably, the tiny steering wheel above which (rather than through which) you're supposed to view the instruments with their finely sculpted red needles.
Moving from people space to package room, let's consider the boot, accessible via a low loading sill and a wide opening. How can the smallest car in its segment still offer the largest trunk? Answers on a postcard please. In total, there's 470-litres on offer at the back, provided you include the useful 35-litre underfloor section with its divided storage compartments in that calculation.
What to Look For
There were a number of issues that came out of our ownership survey. One owner had an issue with roaring from the exhaust; plus a rattle from the driver's side mirror, a persistent suspension creak and a grating sound when the car turned right. Other owners had issues with various engines faults. Plus we had reports of faulty brakes, faulty tyre valves, faulty keyless entry, faulty steering rack, faulty brake callipers causing binding of the brakes, faulty suspension components, squeaking doors (worse in winter) and a whistling noise from driver side window. Plus the exterior plastics are very fragile and pick up scratches very easily.
There was only one 308 product recall in this period - for cars made in November 2017 because their airbags might not deploy. Otherwise, it's just the usual things; check the interior for child scrapes - and the wheels and rear bumpers for parking scratches. And insist on a fully stamped-up service history.
(approx based on a 2018 308 GTi excl. VAT) Expect to pay around £4-£10 for an oil filter, around £7-£21 for an air filter and around £7-£16 for a wiper blade. A fuel filter is around £9. Front brake pads sell in the £34-£56 bracket. Rear brake pads vary in price between £22-£91 for a set. For front brake discs, think around £82; for rears, think £44-£105. A radiator costs in the £136 bracket. A water pump is around £66.
On the Road
On the move, this car offers a potent package of virtues. It's a hot hatch with the lower running costs of a supermini shopping rocket. Yet performance that approaches that of a potent, pricey super-hatch. All for the price of an ordinary Golf GTI or Ford Focus ST from this period. Sounds promising doesn't it? Two 308 GTi models were initially offered, both powered through their front wheels by a 1.6-litre petrol turbo engine. This develops 250bhp in the standard 'GTi 250' variant, enough to get you to 62mph in 6.2s. Or it puts out 272bhp in the top 'GTi 270' version, a car that comes complete with larger 19-inch wheels shod with stickier tyres, bigger brakes and a Torsen limited-slip differential to help you get the power down through the corners. After the 2016 facelift, only the 272bhp model was offered.
Through those turns, the 308 GTi feels taut and responsive, with body roll well controlled, despite a suspension set-up that's also tuned to be compliant over broken surfaces. Enthusiastic drivers will want to press the 'Sport' button that ramps up the engine note, sharpens the throttle response and turns the instrument lighting from white to red. For this kind of progress, you'll want to perfect gear change shifts you'll have to make via a 6-speed manual transmission - there was no paddleshift auto option. And you'll need to get used to the low-set sports steering wheel that was part of this Peugeot's unique 'i-Cockpit' cabin design. As for efficiency, well; both engines do well here by class standards, managing 47.1mpg on the combined cycle and 139g/km of CO2 (both NEDC figures).
The Peugeot Sport division seemed to be rediscovering a little of its hot hatch magic here. The 208 GTi showed us that the company still knew how to build a decent shopping rocket and this 'T9'-series 308 GTi model confirmed that belief. For the full-fat experience, you really need the 'GTi 270' version, but even with the lesser '250' variant, there's much to like. True, there are certainly better track cars in this segment from this period, but few of them strike a better balance between competition-style thrills and day-to-day usability. Other things we like include the impressively efficient running costs facilitated by the hi-tech EMP2 platform. And the 'i-Cockpit's' tiny wheel suits light, chuckable handling that's complemented by the 'Sport' mode button's potent roar.
Of course, there are also things we like less about this car - the fiddly infotainment screen, the slightly restricted rear seat space and the relative lack of some of active electronic safety features. All of these though, are things you could easily live with. In summary, what we've got here is a hot hatch certainly good enough to join the notable models in Peugeot's GTi back catalogue. And a shopping rocket accomplished enough to severely frighten a few distinguished rivals from this period too. If you're shopping in this segment for a hot hatch from the 2015-2020 era, it's one you need to try.