What's the used Peugeot 308 GTI hatchback like?
If you’re after a hot hatch these days you’re a little spoilt for choice. Now, you can take your pick from a whole host of beauties from the likes of Honda, BMW or even Hyundai, whereas years ago anyone seeking such a thing would have little choice but to head automatically for the door of their local Volkswagen or Peugeot dealership. Here, they’d hand over their dosh and drive away in either a Golf GTI or a 205 GTi, and it’s the diminutive Peugeot that, through a direct but slightly chequered lineage, brings us to this 308 GTi, its spiritual successor.
That it hasn’t set the world on fire in the same way as the 205 GTi did is because there’s more competition and, reflecting that chequered lineage, Peugeot rather lost the plot when it came to producing cars for the keener driver. However, the 308 GTi aimed to bring them back on track (no pun intended) with a relatively small but punchy 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine under the bonnet in two giddying states of tune: 247bhp or 268bhp. Its sporting intent is obvious: it’s lower and stiffer than the standard 308, with a wider track, and has sticky tyres on bigger wheels and high-performance brakes.
There is only the one trim level, and this includes sporty side skirts, a deep front bumper and rear diffuser, as well as a large twin exhaust system, parking sensors, LED headlights, and automatic wipers and lights. Inside, there’s cruise control, half-leather/half-Alcantara upholstery, heated and massaging front sports seats, dual-zone climate control and Peugeot's 9.7in touchscreen infotainment system complete with sat-nav, a DAB radio, a reversing camera, USB and Bluetooth capability.
On the road, it’s suitably thrilling. The engine sounds good and produces a flow of power right across its rev range that push this little Peugeot along at a decent lick. The steering is quick and there’s plenty of grip, too, even if little communication is actually fed back to the driver. It’s agile, though, and good fun. Only the six-speed manual gearbox, which isn’t the quickest or most precise, lets things down a little. However, considering the firmness of the set-up, the 308 GTi actually rides quite comfortably most of the time.
Inside are suitably sporting seats, too, to hold you in place. The bucket seats are trimmed in leather effect and Alcantara, are of a high perceived quality, and the perforated leather steering wheel feels supple in your hands. A Sport button on the centre console allows the driver to increase the responsiveness of the engine, change the instrument panel colour to red (from white) and display certain information such as acceleration, power delivery and turbo pressure.
However, the driving position is compromised by Peugeot’s 'i-Cockpit' control layout, which places the instruments high on the dashboard and incorporates a steering wheel no bigger than a coat button. In an effort to ensure you have correct line of sight, the seat is positioned slightly too high for a hot hatch, and despite this compromise, smaller drivers will still find the dials are obscured by the steering wheel rim.
Much of the interior benefits from smart trim, but there are some signs of cost-cutting, including a large swathe of hard, scratchy plastic beneath the centrally mounted touchscreen.
Space up front is fine, however, despite the high-set seats, but the rear seats are a tight fit for adults. Usefully, though, the boot is comparatively large and easy to access.
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