When it comes to motorsport Peugeot Sport makes for formidable opposition. Flick through the pages of history and you will find their name engraved upon WRC, endurance racing, Dakar rally, Pikes Peak, Formula One, and the Indy 500. Recently these talented men and women have been exporting their know-how into road cars. First we had the eye opening Peugeot RCZ R, then the 208 GTI 30th Anniversary which was so successful its mechanical changes formed the 2015 208 GTI, and now we have the much anticipated Peugeot 308 GTI by Peugeot Sport. The French company has been absent from the hot C-Segment hatchback arena for a while, so can this GTI stand up to its highly competitive counterparts?
This new car comes in two distinct breeds. Firstly there is a 250HP model which is endowed with everything that makes this a GTI. Suspension that is stiffer and 11mm lower, 10mm wider front track, and that potent turbocharged 1.6 litre engine from the RCZ R. Opt for the 270HP variant and in addition you will receive sportier seats, 380mm brakes, a Torsen differential, lighter alloy wheels, and of course more power.
The standard 308 is a handsome car and so the 2015 Peugeot 308 GTI by Peugeot Sport has had its pick of the gene pool to start with. Add in some LED lighting, more aggressive intakes, some sharp new alloy wheels, exhaust pipes with the same diameter as the English Channel, and voilà. It is a good looking car which knows the power of the understatement, unlike some competitors in its class. Whilst not overt, unless you option the “coupe franche” red and black paint, it is when you look closer that the GTI reveals its details. Red branded brake callipers peek out from the spokes, Peugeot tattooed to its nose in red, by Peugeot Sport annotations hidden around the car.
Inside, the 308 GTI acquits itself well providing occupants with a stylish interior that has clearly had a lot of time put into it. Supportive and highly adjustable seats mean that every driver will find a comfortable seating position. Sculpted surfaces form the dashboard and the centre console wears a notable lack of buttons. Instead most of the controls for things such as air conditioning now live within Peugeot’s touch screen infotainment display. However, just like the standard 308, rear leg room is not as plentiful as in its rivals. Option the glass panoramic roof and the cabin is flooded with natural light. The boot is a good useable size for family outings and a weekly shopping trip. Contrasting red stitching and a bold GTI badge on the base of a chunky little steering wheel reminds you that this car isn’t just about design.
Hit the starter button and away you go. About town the 308 GTI is perfectly polite doing a good job of being compliant with our rough British roads. Engine and wind noise are also hushed making this a car you could spend a great deal of time in. Apply some throttle and the responsive 1.6 litre engine comes out to play. Push the Sport button to engage the desired increase in throttle response and steering weight. Letting the dials turn red and placing you foot to the floor reveals the 2015 Peugeot 308 GTI to be a quick hatch indeed. Whilst I’m not a fan of synthesised engine noise, the GTI does sound good and its acceleration goes from brisk to frantic after 4,500 rpm. It is nice to see that Peugeot has stuck with the enthusiasts choice of a six speed manual as opposed to paddle shifters. Quick steering teamed with a small wheel makes this GTI feel very nimble. Something highly impressive is the way in which the GTI handles its lateral load through corners, body roll is at an absolute minimum and this gives the car a sense of confidence. In the 270 that differential fights against understeer well, but obviously if you steam into a corner too quick that will be your eventual outcome. But be progressive and the cars high levels of grip mean that you can maintain a lot of momentum through a bend. Also of note is the 270’s larger brakes which have good feel and work a treat when driving at a pace.
Whilst the 2015 Peugeot 308 GTI might not be the pinnacle of engagement, primarily due to needing more steering feel enabling increased driver connection, it is arguably the car in its class you would want to live with. As well as being quick and fun to drive, it does all of the day-to-day family stuff very well with an added dose of French style. You can have a well equipped 308 GTI 250 for £26,555 or, we recommend stepping up to the Torsen equipped 270 for £28,155 that also includes more luxuries as standard.