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by Tegan Lawson

Since launching in Australia four months ago, the Peugeot 308 GTi has certainly garnered a lot of praise within the CarAdvice office. With this in mind, I swiped the keys to the entry-level 250 variant, and spent a week with the most affordable Peugeot 308 GTi you can buy.

Priced at $49,990 (before on-road costs), the top-spec Peugeot 308 GTi 270 has already claimed victory against the Volkswagen Golf GTI Performance in a hot-hatch face-off, and impressed both on road and on track. But at $44,990 (before on-road costs), the slightly less-hardcore Peugeot 308 GTi 250 still has plenty offer.

Regardless of which version you choose, there’s just something about the new 308 GTi that resonates. Peugeot has brilliantly mixed performance, comfort, and everyday drivability, to serve up a small car with enough game to challenge its rivals in the hot-hatch segment.

Both the 184kW 250 and 200kW 270 were developed with Peugeot Sport, and while the 270 is very much the track-focussed model – with its mechanical limited-slip front differential, bigger brakes, and 19-inch wheels with Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres – you’ll find the 250 far more amenable around town.

The Peugeot 308 GTi 250 is a spicy little hot hatch that can be urged to perform when desired, or offer a comfortable commute – and it can do both in equal measure. Although mine for an entire week, it doesn’t take long for the sporty Pug to impress me with its prowess and pulchritude.

2016 Peugeot 308 GTi 250:: Week with Review

As one of my philosophical colleagues put it, just because a guitar is expensive and made from high-quality materials, that doesn’t mean it will suit everyone’s strumming style. For me though, I found the punchy Peugeot a perfect fit.

From its styling, to its contentious driving position, to the placement of the gear shifter, to the touchscreen-driven infotainment system. For me, it all just worked. As an alternative to the ‘usual’ hot hatches, over the course of my week with it, I found more and more to like.

Powered by a reworked version of the turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine seen in the RCZ R and 208 GTi, the 308 GTi 250 might be down 16kW on the 270, but its 330Nm of torque, front-wheel-drive layout and six-speed manual transmission are a match for the dearer of the pair.

In an era where hot hatches are expected to be ‘sizzling’ and not ‘lukewarm’ – though the opposite is sometimes true – the Peugeot 308 GTi brings a slice of panache and performance to the table. It’s been well engineered and delivers an engaging drive on every level. The gearshift is smooth, the suspension well-tuned, and it’s light at just 1205kg – thanks to its new platform.

Even a quick trip to the shops became a bit of an adventure, with the Perla Nera Black Pug drawing its fair share of stares and glances from passers-by, helped in no small part by its pleasing exhaust note.

2016 Peugeot 308 GTi 250:: Week with Review

The start/stop function doesn’t cause delays – it’s quick to kick back in – and the hill-hold system is brilliant, ensuring not a single millimetre of rollback. I certainly put that system to the test tackling weekend traffic up and down the steep hills of Sydney’s eastern suburbs.

From its stance on the road, its refined (but still French) exterior styling, and its solid build quality, there’s a lot to love about the 308 GTi. The headlight/daytime running light combination looks fantastic and the sporty, chequered grille works well with the contrasting red-coloured lip. I can’t help but feel the design of those wheels let it down a little though…

The interior is delightful. The use of quality materials, beautiful finishes and attention to detail are all evident in the cabin, making it an enjoyable place to spend time. Everything from the music to air conditioning is controlled through the 9.7-inch touchscreen, sweeping away the clutter of buttons and dials to leave the centre stack looking minimalist, neat, and fresh.

The lack of buttons and dials didn’t take me long to get used to and the system is clear and concise – not too distracting when you’re attempting to change the temperature while on the move. It’s reasonably spacious inside too, although you will find the occasional typically French quirk, such as a slightly-odd-shaped cup holder hidden away under a sliding cover.

2016 Peugeot 308 GTi 250:: Week with Review

It’s the attention to detail and those finishing touches that really up the ante in the cabin though. The contrast stitching is eye-catching and a standout design feature, along with the perforated leather on the doorhandles and steering wheel.

Generous lashings of chrome enhance the dash, steering wheel and doors, plus the sports seats feature super-soft Alcantara. The driver’s seat is also beautifully comfortable, well-moulded and impressively supportive.

We all know red goes faster and when you pop the 308 GTi into ‘Sport mode’, the instrument cluster switches from glowing white to glowing red. The radiating scarlet light puts a smile on your face and your right foot develops a mind of its own. Sport mode also pumps an enhanced exhaust sound through the speakers, ensuring you’re fully immersed in the experience.

Peugeot Sport engineers had a big hand in the 308 GTi, and the level of detail put into everything from the sports seats, to the on-point engineering and suspension tune all come together to make this a hot hatch worth a closer look – even in 250 guise.

After spending a weekend with the Peugeot 308 GTi 250 there was very little I didn’t enjoy about it. Could I live with it everyday? Quite possibly. The 270 may be the slightly more raucous one, but the 250 is the more refined option for most drivers. Unless you plan to spend time on the track, the 250 will certainly serve you well. Plus, you’ll also save a bit of money…

2016 Peugeot 308 GTi 250:: Week with Review

Click on the Photos tab for more 2016 Peugeot 308 GTi 250 images by Tegan Lawson.

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