2016 Peugeot 308 GTi Review : Quick Drive

Not due to launch locally until early next year, we get a quick home-soil track drive of the new 2016 Peugeot 308 GTi...
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Think of a new, front-wheel-drive, turbocharged European hot-hatch. Now think of a French one. Now, what if you could combine the practicality of the five-door Volkswagen Golf GTI with the outright performance of the three-door Renault Megane RS? Well Peugeot, with help from Peugeot Sport, has tried to do just that, and the result is the Peugeot 308 GTi.

CarAdvice was lucky enough to test the new Peugeot 308 GTi at its international launch earlier this year. But now, thanks to the first couple of right-hand-drive models arriving into the country earlier than anticipated, Peugeot Australia has thrown us the keys to the five-door, five-seat performance hatchback for a couple of hot laps of Sydney Motorsport Park (formerly known as Eastern Creek International Raceway).

Priced from $44,990, the long-awaited 308 GTi will launch in quarter one of 2016 with two variants for hot-hatch fans to choose from: a 184kW 250 variant, and a $49,990 flagship 270 with 200kW.

Both are powered by the same turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine, both are bestowed 330Nm of torque and both are solely offered with a six-speed manual transmission. The differences?

The dearer 270 is gifted red-stitched leather and Alcantara Peugeot Sport seats, a Torsen limited-slip front differential, and 19-inch ‘Carbone’ lightweight alloy wheels wrapped in 235mm-wide, 35-profile Michelin Super Sport tyres. Under those wheels – up front anyway – are legit, 380mm ventilated front discs clamped by four-piston Peugeot Sport-stamped Alcon calipers.

Not to be wholly ignored, the 250 still comes standard with 18-inch ‘Diamant’ alloy wheels, 225mm-wide, 40-profile Michelin Pilot Sport 3 tyres and 330mm ventilated front discs with two-piston front calipers. And though the 270 claims 0-100km/h in 6.0 seconds, the 250 is only 0.2s slower, with the pair claiming identical combined cycle fuel consumption figures of 6.0 litres per 100km.

Unfortunately, as was the case with our international drive, we’re only given limited seat time in the top-shelf 270 – no bad thing but we’re super keen to see how the ‘entry-level’ 250 handles the 1.6 THP engine’s full 330Nm without the aid of the 270’s mechanical Torsen front diff.

Exiting Sydney Motorsport Park’s pit lane, we head straight out to tackle the circuit’s 3.93-kilometre Gardner GP layout. There’s a catch though: we have to wait to step up into the big boy GTi, starting instead with two laps in the standard 208 GTi, followed by another couple of laps in the front-diff-equipped 208 GTi 30th Anniversary Edition.

The idea isn’t an entirely bad one, with laps in the 153kW/300Nm Orange Power 208 GTi and two-tone Ultimate Red and Nera Black 30th Anniversary – an exclusive paint option dubbed ‘Coupe Franche’ – providing valuable sighting/learning time.

After four ‘warm up’ laps, finally, it’s batter up.

Out of the pits and on the throttle early, the 308 GTi immediately feels planted and positive.

Sitting 11mm lower to the ground on stiffer springs, shocks and bushings, and sporting a wider track front and rear compared with the standard 308, the 1205kg GTi seriously impressed us on the technical Braga circuit at the car’s international launch in Portugal. And only a few corners in on home soil, things are going the same way.

Arguably restrained in its exterior styling, with peak torque delivered from 1900rpm, the fiery Pug pulls strongly from low in the rev range. But with peak power coming in at 6000rpm, just before the engine’s 6500rpm rev limit, top-end poke doesn’t fall away either.

Driven only with Peugeot’s ‘Driver Sport Pack’ system engaged – activated via a ‘Sport’ button located next to the car’s start/stop button – the steering is light but accurate, turn in is sharp and responsive and the chassis is fun and capable.

Proving well more than mere cosmetic inclusions, the newest GTi’s brake and tyre package also shines, holding up trouble-free throughout the day, despite getting an ‘adequate’ workout by two groups of eager and highly competitive motoring journalists.

The strengthened six-speed MCM R manual transmission – as was our experience overseas – also teams slick throws with purposeful feel. And while only mild assistance from the top-spec 308’s trick front LSD is felt on track, there’s no denying the added confidence and poise it brings.

With the new Peugeot 308 GTi already repeatedly demonstrating solid performance and genuine ability, price and value is where the battle against its key rivals – the likes of the Ford Focus ST ($38,990), Holden Astra VXR ($39,990), Volkswagen Golf GTI ($40,990), Golf GTI Performance ($46,490) and Golf R ($52,740), Renault Megane RS275 Cup Premium ($52,990) and upcoming Ford Focus RS ($50,990) – will be won or lost.

How will it stack up against some of the segment’s best? We want to find out just as much as you do… Stay tuned.

Click on the Photos tab for more 2016 Peugeot 308 GTi images by David Zalstein.