If you've always wanted a fast, front-wheel-drive hatchback, but view the ageing Renault Megane RS as a little too comprised and the venerable Volkswagen Golf GTI a touch too mainstream, then the 2016 Peugeot 308 GTi 270 could very well be your ideal road weapon.
If you’re anything like me, trying to review the all-new 2016 Peugeot 308 GTi 270 is a tough ask. You see, I really, really, seriously, dig the outgoing fourth-generation Renault Megane RS. I mean, it is, simply put, a cracker – an all-time classic. If you’re remotely considering a quick hatchback for under $50k, why would you even think of buying anything else? Right?
Problem is, for a great number of buyers eyeing off a respectably brisk, yet affordable, hot hatch, the current Megane RS’s three-door body style and archaic in-car infotainment credentials – among other idiosyncrasies – make it an understandably difficult proposition to justify in this modern era. And that’s fair enough.
Of course, if you want something more practical and easier to live with every day, there’s no question the five-door Mk7 Volkswagen Golf GTI – a car I also hold in high regard – is by far a smarter pick. But Golf GTIs are EVERYWHERE and perhaps a little ho-hum in terms of overall appeal these days.
So, what if there was a car that deliciously blended the Megane RS’s unquestionably hardcore nature and benchmark abilities, with the Golf GTI’s more user-friendly persona? Well, now there is. And, believe it or not, it’s a Peugeot.
Not convinced? Some facts to whet the palate perhaps…
Starting at $49,990 (before on-road costs), the flagship 200kW Peugeot 308 GTi 270 – sitting slightly above the $44,990 entry-level 250 – has 38kW more power than a base Volkswagen Golf GTI, and 5kW more power than a base Renault Megane RS265 Cup.
Based on PSA Peugeot Citroen’s EMP2 platform, the five-door 308 GTi is around 100kg lighter than a Golf GTI too, and almost 170kg lighter than a Megane RS. And, matching the Renault’s claimed 6.0-second 0-100km/h time, the 1205kg Pug is half a second faster to triple figures than a Golf GTI. Does it have your attention yet?
There are some catches that need calling out early, however.
Even with newly introduced drive-away pricing deals on both 308 GTi variants – pricing Peugeot Australia claims should see buyers save around $3000 on the usual gamut of on-road costs – the Peugeot ain’t cheap.
Based on manufacturer list pricing, the 308 GTi 270 is $9000 up on an entry-level, six-speed manual Golf GTI, $5990 up on a Megane RS265 Cup, $3500 up on the more powerful, six-speed dual-clutch DSG-only Golf GTI Performance, and even $3000 dearer than the most powerful production Golf GTI ever built, the incoming Golf GTI 40 Years edition.
Not helping the cause any was this week’s local launch of the 257kW/440Nm, all-wheel-drive monster that is the Ford Focus RS – an infinitely mental proposition, priced from $50,990 (before on-road costs).
Even keeping things in the realm of the two prominent front-drive hot hatches already mentioned though, propelled by an albeit heavily-turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, the 308 GTi 270 can’t out-grunt its 2.0-litre turbo rivals.
Given its size and capacity, the Peugeot Sport-developed engine does an impressive job to generate its 200kW of power at 6000rpm, but its 330Nm at 1900rpm falls short of the 350Nm and 360Nm offered up by any Golf GTI or Megane RS derivative, respectively. The lightweight Pug does pip the bunch for fuel consumption though, claiming 6.0 litres per 100km.
These aren’t race cars after all though, and a road car is about more than pure numbers.
Go for the 308 GTi and standard you’ll get keyless entry and a push-button start, an electronic parking brake, cruise control with speed limiter, front and rear parking sensors, a rear-view camera, dual-zone climate control, and a 9.7-inch infotainment touchscreen with satellite navigation, Jukebox music storage, and Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming.
Six airbags, hill-start assist, tyre pressure monitoring, rain-sensing wipers, and automatic LED headlights, tail-lights, and daytime running lights are also standard on the 250 and 270, with both variants leaving the factory with a red-stitched leather GTi steering wheel, drilled aluminium sports pedals, and Peugeot Sport GTi kick plates.
Opt for the 270 over the 250, and you score yourself red-stitched Peugeot Sport bucket seats, 19-inch ‘Carbone’ alloy wheels wrapped in ultra-sticky Michelin Pilot Super Sport rubber, a legit Torsen limited-slip mechanical front differential, and a Peugeot Sport-branded brake package, headlined by four-piston Alcon calipers up front with 380mm discs.
Particularly when finished in our test car’s Pearlescent White, the 308 GTi’s exterior may strike some as a touch more conservative than a number of other hot hatches doing the rounds – here’s looking at you Focus RS – but the subtle details are appealing.
Sitting 11mm lower to the ground than a standard 308, the GTi is highlighted by gloss black front intake surrounds, gloss black heated wing mirrors, and a gloss black rear diffuser with dual chrome exhaust tips.
A red front bumper accent and red ‘Peugeot’ lettering on the chrome grille-surround add to the picture, along with red and chrome ‘GTi’ badges on front fenders and rear tailgate.
Inside the clean, uncluttered, but very dark cabin, you’ll find a mix of brushed aluminium, chrome, gloss black, and red-stitched leather, as well as a 12-volt outlet, an AUX input, and two USB ports – one located in a handy shelf near the driver’s right knee.
Up front, the door pockets are large enough to be properly useful, though, a small centre console bin and even smaller glovebox are less so.
The 270’s part leather effect, part cloth, part Alcantara Peugeot Sport bucket seats aren’t as hardcore as the Renault Sport items you’ll find in a Megane RS275 Cup Premium or Trophy, but they’re still very comfortable and hold you in well enough.
Perhaps offering less backseat space than a rival Golf, the 308 GTi’s rear bench is firm though comfortable. And while toe room is tight beneath the front seat rails, there’s plenty of head room and adequate leg room. Two map pockets, two grab handles, a fold-down centre armrest, and a ski port into the boot are all positive inclusions, however, the lack of rear air vents is a sore omission given the model’s segment and likely buyer set.
The 308’s 470-litre boot (expandable to 855L) is impressive – trumping the Golf (380L), Megane (344L), and Focus (260L) – but in order to gain 35L of capacity over its more affordable twin, the 270 trades the 250’s full-size spare wheel for a puncture repair kit.
With a wider track, model-specific springs, shocks, bushings, and anti-roll bars, there’s no escaping the fact that the 308 GTi 270’s ride is firm.
You do have the option to engage a ‘Driver Sport Pack’ (read: Sport mode) – which sharpens throttle response, turns white instrument backlighting red, automatically brings up readouts for power, torque, boost pressure and G-force, and floods the cabin with an almost comically artificial sounding exhaust note – however, due to the GTi’s fixed-spec, non-adjustable suspension, things will be firm regardless of the mode selected.
Everything from course-chip surfaces and tram tracks to minor road imperfections will be picked up and transferred to at least the driver, while tyre roar also easily penetrates the cabin. The plus side is, the car sits super flat and is impressively stable.
It does pick up a lot of what’s going on beneath it, but it rarely gets upset by any of it. Body control is very taught and settled, and if you do hit a bump, you’ll feel it, but the car settles quickly and gets on with getting on.
I’ll say right now, though, if you’re more likely to test out the 308’s tidy 10.4-metre turning circle while in ‘Normal’ mode than consistently give it beans in ‘Sport’ mode, save some cash and put your money down on the slightly tamer and cheaper 308 GTi 250. But if you’re likely to consider taking your GTi out for an occasional track day or high performance driver training day, then the 270 is definitely worth the step up.
Dynamically speaking, driven at pace, the 308 GTi 270’s handling is out of sight.
The car may not be blessed with the adaptive dampers of the Golf GTI and Ford Focus (even now a feature on the 2016 Volkswagen Polo GTI), but the 308 GTi 270 makes its setup work and work well – provided your preferred balance between comfort and performance preferences the latter over the former, that is.
Polarising seating position, baby 351mm-diameter steering wheel, and a handful of French-car eccentricities aside, the Peugeot is a fun place to be when charging through some smooth blacktop out in the hills.
Direct, accurate, and super-sharp, the 308’s variable electric power-assisted steering is very light, and feels even more video game-like thanks to being directly attached the Pug’s small-diameter steering wheel.
Drivers aren’t afforded huge amounts of feedback either, and unless a heavy throttle application has triggered some fighting between the two front wheels – even with the diff – the car tends not to communicate a great deal of what the front tyres are experiencing back to those behind the wheel. Sport mode adds weight to the steering, but this isn’t joined by improved feedback.
No ifs, ands, or buts though, the engine is top shelf.
Smooth, super flexible, and gutsy throughout its rev range, the little turbo 1.6-litre consistently feels like a much bigger unit than it is, and it’s just as happy cruising around between 1500-1800rpm as it is revving out beyond 6500rpm.
In town there’s rarely ever a need to go above 3500rpm, and if you do, you get to enjoy some seriously tasty mid-range poke. Pair this with the highly capable 308 GTi 270’s understated ability and slightly remote feel, and it makes for one deceptively fast car.
It can’t match a Megane RS for outright intensity, communication, and driver engagement, but it’s far easier to not realise just how much genuine hustle it does indeed have, and just how fast you’re actually going.
Doing their bit here too is the slick-shifting six-speed manual transmission, light but nicely matched clutch, and progressive and natural-feeling brakes.
The pedal setup isn’t perfect for heel-and-toeing – the brake pedal sits up quite a bit higher than the throttle – but you can make it work, and the confidence attached to the middle pedal’s impressive stopping power is excellent.
Grip from the Michelin Pilot Super Sports is also terrific, with a proviso. Make sure the road is warm, or the tyres are warm, or both. Drive the 270 when the tyres are cold, or when the road is cold – say a wintery mountain road – and, even with the diff, the car can struggle to keep understeer at bay. But get a bit of heat into the brakes, and heat into the tyres, and you’re gifted with loads of lateral grip, making the 270 very pointy and very accurate.
When it’s at its best, the 270 easily feels more planted and more capable than a Golf GTI.
The 2016 Peugeot 308 GTi 270 is more practical than the more performance-focussed (and soon-to-be-replaced) three-door Renault Megane RS. It also offers buyers a more exciting, slightly harder-edged driving experience than the Volkswagen Golf GTI.
But… And it’s a big but. At $49,990 (before on-road costs), the pricey Pug struggles in its pricing and specification proposition. For this money, you’d rightfully expect to see blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning, a proper head-up display, a level of autonomous braking technology, adaptive cruise control, and adaptive or somewhat adjustable suspension – not to mention electric heated seats, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and voice controls for phone and/or infotainment elements.
Its standard three-year/100,000km warranty with five years roadside assist and five years capped-price servicing isn’t bad, but realistically the 308 GTi, particularly in 270 guise, is a niche car that will only really appeal to a niche buyer. A buyer who specifically wants a high-performance, manual-only, hatchback Peugeot… and not a Golf.
However, if that is in fact you, the 2016 Peugeot 308 GTi 270 is a genuinely phenomenal little car.
Click on the Photos tab for more 2016 Peugeot 308 GTi 270 images by Tom Fraser.