The next big global launch for French carmaker Peugeot will be the 308 GTi – a hot version of the latest-generation 308 five-door hatch and due to arrive in market in October.
Peugeot Sport – meaning the performance arm of the Peugeot business. As reported by CarAdvice in June, two versions will be offered: the entry-level 308 GTi 250 with 184kW and 330Nm, while the range-topping 308 GTi 270 gets 200kW with the same torque output.
Both cars are powered by the same 1.6-litre turbo petrol sending power to the front wheels, and are available exclusively with a six-speed manual transmission, whereas the rival Golf GTI also offers a dual-clutch automatic gearbox.
Apart from the styling, the 308 GTi will rely on its impressive performance credentials to attract buyers. Tipping the scales at a skinny 1205kg (with fuel), it's more than 100kg lighter than the Golf, giving it the best power-to-weight ration in its class.
Peugeot claims the 308 GTi 250 is capable of dashing from 0-100km/h in 6.2 seconds. The more powerful 308 GTi 270, which borrows its engine from the Peugeot RCZ R needs just 6.0 seconds flat for the same run.
Head of Communications for Peugeot UK, Kevin Jones, spoke exclusively to CarAdvice about the incoming 308 GTi at the recent Goodwood Festival of Speed.
On paper the 308 GTi looks to be the business, but what makes it more special than its rivals?
“For starters, our 1.6 turbo petrol engines develop considerably more power than the Golf GTI, even with our base model engine tune. By comparison, the base model Golf GTI is powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine developing 162kW/350Nm – enough to reach 100km/h in 6.5 seconds in manual guise, or 6.4 seconds with the optional DSG auto transmission. That’s well down on the 308 GTi.
"The 308 GTi 270 also gets a Torsen differential, so when you’re on the ground, going around corners, the Torsen, which is a mechanical differential, deploys all its traction to the outer, more grippy wheels. So cornering is enhanced, grip is enhanced, and balance is kept in check.
"The roll bars are actually thinner, as we wanted more grip through the pliability of the chassis – in the true spirit of why the 205 GTI was so popular, because it had a fluidity and when you’re changing direction quickly, it’s all very well to have bone-jarring ride, but sometimes you want grip more than you want to lessen the angle of lean.
"I mean this car has very little body roll anyway. The Torsen diff ensures the grip goes to the outside wheels, as well. With good tyres and an excellent chassis set up, this is a very, very quick vehicle.
"The 308 GTi 270 also has floating-hub brakes (aluminium hubs and steel discs), as on the RCZ R, and heavily bolstered bucket seats, so you feel completely shrouded in the vehicle.”
So, Kevin, why set your sights on Volkswagen and Ford with the 308 GTi?
“We do target Volkswagen; I’ll be perfectly honest. The sector is dominated by Golf and Focus, and yet we’ve got a car in the 308 that in dynamic terms, quality terms, interior aesthetics and function terms, we think it's got everything over and above these competitor cars. We just need to make people more aware of our vehicles.
"It’s all about desirability, and also GTi last year, as you might know, celebrated 30 years with Peugeot - so the brand is on this journey that includes GT Line, which is the GT look, we have GTs and now we have GTi.
There’s now a strand of sportiness that is manifesting itself at the top level with Peugeot Sport development, and it’s a strong strategy."
What about the all-new Ford Focus RS and Golf R, do you have a 308 GTi rival aimed at the pointy end of the performance hatch segment?
“Well, yes, what we have here on the stand at Goodwood is the 500hp 308 R Hybrid (above), which makes its European debut here.
"It’s billed as being a car for the future, but we’re not calling it a concept, because it’s not a question of if, it’s more a question of when we might produce such a car.
"There's got a hybrid motor both driving the front and rear axles – so it’s four-wheel drive, combined with the 270hp 1.6-litre engine from the 308 GTi – for a combined 500hp (373kW) and 730Nm of torque. Not only can it go from standstill to 100km/h in less than four seconds, it also has a remarkably low CO2 output of 70g/km, so this is the future."
"It’s also got a number of drive modes that utilise its dual motor versatility and extra power.
"You’ve got ZEV for driving with ultra-low emissions, Ultimate grip for for the maximum 500hp, along with many other selective modes like Road, Track and Hot Lap for high grip and maximum acceleration conditions, for example".
It sounds like something far more niche than the Golf R and Focus RS, so what will it actually compete with?