Sporty Peu­geot 308 GT and GTi hatches duke it out

The Tribune (NZ) - - MID WEEK MOTORING -

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.

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