Peugeot 308 GTi THP 270
“Oh, I see you’re a chav now,” sighed my better half as she negotiated herself into the awkwardly low-slung passenger side bucket seat. She’s wrong: I’m not a chav, I’m a boy racer.
Much like a bowl of Rice Krispies, the Peugeot 308 GTi snaps, crackles and pops with aplomb. Underpasses and tunnels suddenly become an opportunity to conduct a brief orchestra (less Bach, more DJ Kammy). Its twin exhaust pipes serve as a double-neck Gibson SG, and the accelerator pedal my plectrum. I can sense underground car parks around Swindon quaking in their boots at the mere sight of this black-on-black hot hatch. Maybe I should buy a New Era flat peak and a Kappa shell suit for good measure.
But unlike the modified Vauxhall Nova with a drainpipe hanging off its rear end, the 308 GTi offers more than just noise. Those bucket seats are there for a reason, as are the enormous blood red brake calipers. Against the contrast of its dark two-tone ‘Carbone’ alloys, those 380mm discs at the front are the size of dinner plates, and serve up neck bothering stopping power.
Its 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine eeks out a staggering 270bhp, with a surprising amount of low-down torque to boot. Armed with a ‘go faster’ Sport button – which improves engine response and displays real-time output for things like boost, G-force and power – the dials turn red, and knuckles turn white.
It’s an assault on the senses for the average driver, and (stay with me on this) I’m not sure there’s need for any more power. Already, the 308 GTi is on the edge at times. Hard acceleration can tempt a significant amount of torque steer and make overtakes somewhat squirrely. But that's what I like about the 308 GTi: you can use all it has to offer, with very little to spare.
It reminds me of a conversation I had with a Nissan GTR owner, who swapped the supercar out for a Golf R after just a few months of ownership. His justification: “I was scared I’d either lose my license or crash – it’s too fast, and I couldn’t use it enough.”
No such problems for the 308 GTi on that count. At heart, it is a five-door hatchback with a relatively small petrol engine. It has a tight turning circle, a reverse parking camera, extremely light steering and a deliciously smooth six-speed manual gearbox. Parking is a doddle, but take care not to mark those 19-inch alloys, which protrude slightly from the GTi’s swollen arches.
Inside lie all the creature comforts expected of a modern family hatch, with a digital touchscreen infotainment system and Apple CarPlay. The cockpit is refreshingly uncluttered and clean, with physical buttons and knobs few and far between. Things like air conditioning and navigation are controlled via the touchscreen, instead. Unfortunately, it lacks Peugeot’s fantastic i-Cockpit that is prevalent on other models in the range like the 3008 and 5008.
The seats are comfortable, I’m sure, but as with most bucket seats I tend to lie with the outer edges digging into my shoulder blades, rather than nestling comfortably. The ‘compact’ steering wheel is pretty unique: compared to most cars it is tiny, but it feels right somehow.
Some performance cars can be lurchy at low speeds, on edge and geared toward acceleration off the line. By comparison, the 308 GTi hides its capabilities brilliantly when navigating a car park or crawling in traffic. There are no judders or harsh unintended braking, and I’m fairly confident my 88 year-old grandmother would be comfortable driving to the garden centre.
It is also not particularly thirsty; a week of ‘spirited driving’ returned a surprising average of 35mpg. This can easily dip to the low 20s on a short run, however. Extra-urban fuel consumption is listed as 57.6mpg, but I'd forget about that if you intend on enjoying the car for what it is: a hooligan.
Our test model’s OTR retail price comes to £30,000 when including optional metallic paint (£525), a few grand cheaper than the Volkswagen Golf R and with more kit as standard. The Golf R is faster on paper and will likely hold its value better, but on the road the gap in performance is almost indiscernible. The 308 GTi also trumps the Golf on interior quality, in my opinion. Also worth considering is a Chutzpah favourite, the Hyundai i30 N, which starts at just £25,760.
We spoke of the Suzuki Swift Sport as being a Japanese wasp, capable of annoying most competitors at the traffic lights and with a fair sting to its tail. The Peugeot 308 GTi is in no uncertain terms a European hornet that should be treated with respect by all.