IN THE RED CORNER . . .
Peugeot unveils a contender for that other hot hatch, writes JOHN CAREY
THIS French hot hatch has the grunt and good looks to take on Golf ’s GTI but does it have appeal?
GTi or GTI? It’s a question hothatch buyers will be asking from early next year. That’s when fast and feisty version of Peugeot’s best new car in years, the 308 hatchback, will join line-up Australia.
The French company admits that its targets a great German, Golf GTI.
As with Volkswagen, Peugeot has aimed for balanced blend of power and practicality. 308 GTi comes only as five-door car. There are few visual hints that it packs something hyperactive in its engine bay. It sits a little lower to the road (11mm), has big wheels tyres (18 or 19-inch), wears different front and rear bumpers and has a pair of big exhaust pipes. It’s low-key approach high performance, which is also the Golf GTI way.
But unlike VW, Peugeot has a solution for anyone who wants their GTi to scream its status on streets. The optional two-colour paint job Peugeot will offer is eye-catching. The coupe franche treatment — French for “fresh cut” leaves the front two- thirds of the car red, but with a black back end. It will only be available on
high-power version, and won’t cheap.
While 308 GTi comes a 1.6-litre turbocharged four, Peugeot will produce the engine with 184kW and 200kW outputs. Metal parts are identical, including forged pistons from German specialist Mahle, heattreated aluminium block and Borg Warner twin-scroll turbo. Engine management software alone is responsible for the power difference.
Developed by Peugeot Sport, which constructs company’s race rally cars, engine of 308 GTi a little beauty. Though smaller than the 2.0-litre turbo four in Golf GTI, French is more powerful the German. Depending on precisely which versions are compared, gives its driver 15kW to 38kW power than a GTI.
Peugeot presented the 308 GTi to international media in Portugal, with driving time on both road and racetrack, but only 200kW version.
As well as extra power, this version is equipped standard larger 19-inch Michelin tyres, a Torsen limited-slip differential and bigger front brakes from English company Alcon. The engine delivers great shove on a circuit, feels effortless when cruising at the speed limit. It has real muscle, yet is smooth and quiet, too.
tyres are superb, making the steering feel sharply responsive, brakes powerful. But Peugeot pairs this great turbo four only with a six-speed manual gearbox.
Its innards are toughened to handle the engine’s high torque, but it’s not the kind of slick shifter something like 308 GTi deserves. A bigger problem is most Australians prefer autos, even in hot hatches, and Peugeot has no plans to offer one in the GTi. The 308 GTi has a simple torsion-beam axle the rear, which theory is inferior to Golf ’s multi-link suspension. But Peugeot Sport’s engineers have done a good job disguising disadvantage with the stiffer springs and shock absorbers they chose.
The 308 GTi turns into corners with real eagerness barely any body roll. And rear end faithfully follows the front. While the handling is outstanding, ride comfort good for such a sporty car. suspension firm, but it takes edge off road impacts.
The interior of 308 GTi as understated as its exterior, and equipped with pair excellent leather and Alcantara-trimmed sports seats. steering wheel instrument layout the shares with other 308s are less easy to like. The
is small low-set, while main instruments are mounted high. Looking at speedo and dials over top of wheel, as you must, can feel weird. The simple, good looking dashboard also pushes many commonly used functions to the touch screen in its centre. Those who prefer to adjust ventilation with real buttons, levers and rotary controls won’t like this.
The 308’s interior is fine; nicely made from quality materials, and practical. rear seat isn’t quite as spacious as Golf ’s, but the 400 litreplus boot is a good size. While 308 GTi can match
GTI in some key areas, like performance and handling, its lack of auto, interior layout slightly more squeezy rear seat will prove a showroom challenge when it arrives next year. But price be the biggest
for GTi. These are not yet fixed, but official line from the importer is basic and high-power versions will somewhere $45,000 to $55,000. In other words, more expensive than Golf GTI.
Even with its power edge, it’s hard to see the GTi doing anything but eat the GTI’s dust.
While the 308 GTi comes only with a 1.6-litre turbocharged four, Peugeot will produce the engine with 184kW and 200kW outputs