Sporty Peugeot 308 GT and GTi hatches duke it out
Walk into one of those big blue Peugeot box showrooms and you’re immediately faced with a perplexing decision if seeking to buy a frisky compact sports-hatch.
There’s the $49,990 308 GT, a well-executed and fitted-out model, although the diesel engine makes it more of a super-tractor than a super-hatchback.
The latter tag is fully earned by the $58,990 308 GTi, a lower-volume product fettled by Peugeot Sport, a small PSA Group subsidiary that often finds the time to build and refine ordinary road cars into excellent driving machines between its current core business of competing in the Dakar Rally and other motorsport events.
In terms of New Zealand sales, the 2.0-litre diesel GT currently outsells the 1.6-litre turbo-petrol GTi by four-to-one, but are our sporty 308 buyers selling themselves short by favouring the more accessible model?
Besides the $9000 price advantage, the GT holds several Kiwi market trump cards over the GTi.
It’s better equipped with driving aids like blind-spot and lane monitors, and possesses what is perhaps the ultimate driver assistant – an auto-shifting sixspeed gearbox.
Meanwhile, Peugeot Sport obviously took a minimalist approach to the GTi, opting for a more Spartan level of standard equipment that promotes a more favourable power-to-weight ratio.
The GTi therefore tips a set of race-car scales to 1317kg, more than 130kg lighter than the 1450kg that the GT registers on the same set of measuring equipment.
What’s more, quite a bit of that weight saving occurs at the front of the car, where a 50kg-lighter sixspeed manual gearbox takes care of transmission duties.
This has a beneficial effect by giving the GTi a more even chassis balance, and helped by the standard-fit limited-slip front differential, the petrol-burner from Peugeot Sport is less prone to pushing straight ahead when the driver is powering it out of a corner. Not only does the 200kW/ 330Nm GTi make more power than the 133kW/400Nm GT, it is noticeably more adept at translating the additional engine performance into acceleration.
And can do so while retaining more accurate and agile steering.
Such are the driving dynamics of the GTi it makes you wonder why only one in every four sporty Peugeot hatchback buyers are opting for it instead of the GT in this country.
That has everything to with three-pedal driving format of the GTi, of course, despite the Peugeot Sport nutter possessing one of the easiest manual transmissions to get a handle on.
People say that they have to drive automatics in this country because of the traffic, but when was the last time they drove a manual?
I suspect many Kiwi drivers retain their preference for twopedal driving formats simply because they are unaware of just how easy the latest manuals are to drive.
The new 308 GTi is an authentic Peugeot Sport product, 1.6-litre turbo-petrol, manual-only.