AFTER A 15-YEAR absence from Australia, Peugeot has launched not one, but two, 308 GTi models, the 250 and 270.
Prices are $44,990 and $49,990 respectively, which pitches the five-door pair into the high end of the hot hatch segment.
The numerals refer to the respective horsepower of a pair of spirited, 1.6-litre turbo-petrol engines. Despite being down by 400cc, the 270 is a match for its key competitors in taking 6.0 seconds from 0-100km/h: Ford Focus ST and Volkswagen Golf GTi (6.5); JCW MINI (6.3); and Holden Astra VXR, Renault Megane RS 275 Trophy and RS 265 Cup (6.0).
It punches well above its displacement with a 200kW/330Nm engine that is not just free revving and largely devoid of turbo lag, but highly flexible. The ‘spoon’ to stir the pot is a six-speed manual gearshift (no auto is offered). Initially, the ‘throws’ feel a little long, but the shifter glides smoothly and precisely without fail, making it
an enthusiast’s delight.
Having just 1205kg of kerb weight to haul – on par with the JCW and between 108 (Golf GTi) and a substantial 338kg (VXR) less than the rest – gives the ‘Pug’ best-in-class power-to-weight
In terms of handling and ride, Peugeot has come up with a very acceptable compromise of sportiness and compliance.
Front end grip is plentiful and progressive without being overwhelming thanks to a Torsen limited slip differential directing power to the front wheels as required, and Michelin Pilot Super Sport 235/35 R19 rubber on all four corners.
Turn in is sharp and well-balanced, though the electric-assisted steering could do with a little bit more feel. Front 380mm, four-calliper discs and rear 268mm discs provide the stopping power.
The interior is an engaging, yet comfy place. Front sports seats finished in Alacantra and a plastic-coated fabric called TEP provide support and endure well, and the 308 GTi is largely devoid of the ergonomic niggles that sometimes blight French cars.
That said, the alloy gear knob can be ridiculously hot to touch under the Australian sun.
So there’s much to applaud and little to fault. If only the 308 GTi was a bit easier on the hip pocket nerve. At $49,990, it’s $11K dearer than the Focus ST and costlier than all the earlier-mentioned rivals, except the explosive Golf R and RS 275 Trophy.