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Peugeot 308 GTI: The lion with a personality disorder

2015-10-27 05:00

BIPOLAR GTI? Peugeot's new 308 GTi is assertive yet docile at the same time. Still a hottie and it's headed to SA! Image: Peugeot

Ferdi de Vos

Aker was an earth-god in ancient Egypt depicted as a double-headed lion. With joint torso, but heads facing away from each other, the one was named Dauj (meaning yesterday), the other Sefer (meaning tomorrow, or according to some, today.)

So why the lesson in archaic mythology when this is supposed to be a car review?

Split personality

Well, it symbolises the personality disorder the latest aggressive cub from the pedigreed Belfort litter in France suffers from – further aggravated by its trainers deciding to slap contrasting colours on its flanks.

Image gallery: 2015 Peugeot GTI

This unconventional Coupe Franche separation-line design is a further, much more visual indication of the new 308 GTi’s personality problem.

The dissimilar colours – explosive red in front; split incisively from the pitch black rear – are indicative of the divergent roles expected from Sochaux’s new hot hatch.

On the one hand it needs to be assertive enough to take on hard-core challengers, on the other docile and refined enough to serve as comfortable everyday commuter.

So, how do you go about combining these seemingly irreconcilable personality traits in one car? You call in the experts. Peugeot Sport.

Best from the bloodline

Luckily the Peugeot Sport engineers, like Dauj, could look back to extract the best from its bloodline – the legendary 205 GTi, 405 Mi16, 306 S16 and the recent 208 GTi and RCZ R serving as references.

They also looked forward; combining lightweight chassis and suspension expertise with downsized engine and drivetrain technology to create a powerful, yet sublime package.

Built on PSA’s new EMP2 platform the 308 GTi by Peugeot Sport uses a small, but advanced 1.6-litre turbocharged THP petrol engine to develop either 184kW or 200kW, and 330Nm.

Compared to some of best 2.0-litre turbo’s in top performance hatches like the VW Golf R (206kW/400Nm), Renault Mégane RS 275 Trophy (201kW/360Nm), Opel Astra OPC (206kW/400Nm), Ford Focus ST (184 kW/360Nm) and Honda Civic Type R (228 kW; 400Nm), this small-capacity mill’s power delivery is nothing short of amazing.

Highest output in class

In 200kW form (known as the 270 variant overseas in reference to its horsepower rating) it boasts the highest power output in its class – 126kW/litre – and the best power-to-weight ratio in its segment – 4.46kg/hp.

To achieve these power ratings the small mill has forged aluminium pistons, strengthened con-rods and polymer-enhanced bearings, runs a compression ratio of 9.2, and has injection pressure of 200bar.

The pistons are cooled from below by a double oil spray system and the steel exhaust manifold can resist temperatures of up to 1 000 °C.

All this enables the hottest 308 model to sprint to 100km/h in a mere 6 seconds, and complete the 1km standing start test in 25.3 secs.

The 184kW model, also with six-speed manual ’box (no auto or dual-clutch transmissions are being considered), doesn’t lag far behind, covering the 0-100km/h run in 6.2 seconds, and dashing to1km in 25.6 seconds.

While indecently quick, Stop&Start technology and other engineering tricks make the young lion frugal too. According to Peugeot it produces only 139g/km of CO2 emissions and uses just 6 litres/100km of fuel in the combined cycle.

Unpretentious interior

While hot under the collar the exterior design of the young beast downplays its explosive potential; an exclusive black grille with gloss-black finishing, full LED headlamps, front spoilers with a red lip, door sill extenders, a black rear extractor and two ample exhausts distinguishing it from lesser siblings. 

Large 19" Carbone wheels with Reverse rims exposing solid red four-piston callipers, Michelin Pilot Super rubber and an 11mm lower stance add some extra menace.

Inside red stitching on the dashboard, high-quality upholstery, door panels, gear lever and mats, and aluminium Peugeot Sport and GTi motifs on the door sills, pedals, foot rest and gear knob continues the subdued, minimalistic theme.

Racing type seats provide outstanding support, and the small steering wheel, while not favoured by all, is a joy to use. 
The large touchscreen is seamlessly integrated in the instrument panel, adding flair to the unpretentious Peugeot i-Cockpit layout.

Getting to grips 

It may not be loud or brash inside or outside, but don’t underestimate this French GTi’s potential on road and track. 
Many improvements to the MacPherson type front suspension and a stiffened rear twist-beam system aids its turn-in performance, and its impressive levels of grip is further improved by a Torsen limited-slip diff (on the 200kW model).

The power steering system faithfully monitors driver input to enhance cornering performance and optimise acceleration out of bends.

Add to this a complaint ride and the brilliant engine’s flat torque curve and it was actually too easy to fast and effortlessly pilot the GTi over meandering mountain passes and the twisting Braca race track, close to the port city of Porto in northern Portugal.

On track the GTi’s most impressive attribute, besides its unflappable demeanour in corners, was its impressive brake performance. 

The system, with 330mm front discs and 268mm counterparts at the rear, was easy to modulate and deadly in application – adding more dynamic clout to the already accomplished all-rounder.

Also, the optional Driver Sport Pack added to the fun. Push the start button and colour of the display changes from white to red, more info is displayed on the central readout, the pedal mapping is changed and the engine growl turns into more of a snarl.

Final diagnosis

So, has Peugeot Sport managed to train this young runt with the huge personality disorder properly? For sure. 

While it may feel too civilised and lacking in visual and aural excitement for some, the 308 GTi by Peugeot Sport is a hot hatch for a new generation of car users – those wanting a rocket ship that’s also practical to live with daily.

The bad news is that it will only be available here from late next year (and also only in 200kW guise). And expect a price on the high side of R400k, dependant on prevailing exchange rates.

Is it worth the wait? Well, yes, if your personality allows for patience…


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