Peugeot may be targeting the new 308GT/GTi models at the guys yearning for a city car with enough grunt to make windy country roads a hoot – but honestly, we think girls can have just as much fun with the new hot hatches from France.
Skip the line, book a test drive here.
Checkered past meets checkered flag
It’s been a long time; no strike that, a VERY long time since Peugeot has had a GTi hot hatch in its fleet that they really want to (and should) shout about. There have been several near misses as you start to work your way backwards but in the 80’s they had their iconic 205GTi. It was one of the original true hot hatches and in my mind was one of the world’s most desirable and yet accessible street sports cars – we all wanted one! It came in 1.6L and 1.9L with the latter being the one that made the mouth really water. 97kW of power and 161Nm of torque, it only had a kerb weight of 875kg’s and shot from 0-100 in 7.6 seconds. However there was a down side, as it was fast and agile it became a ‘go to’ getaway car and put the joy in joyriding.
Thirty years later (and on a day that the temperature was aptly sitting around 30); what could be better than getting out on the track with Peugeot’s long awaited new red hot hatches – we were about to be introduced to the new 308 GT and 308 GTi.
Upon arrival at Hampton Downs we were greeted by a lineup of sporty lions with a pristine black 205GTi leading the pride. There was just enough time for a quick look around the vehicles before heading up to the new hospitality rooms for a briefing and full introduction.
Both the 308GT and GTi by Peugeot Sport have called on the brands heritage and of course all the racing pedigree they have on offer. The 308GT possesses all the strong features of the award winning 308 range but it now has a sportier look. It has been built to be an efficient daily driver that roars into a bundle of fun at the press of a button. The new GT is fitted with a 2.0-litre BlueHDi 180 (diesel) engine, strapped to an EAT6 automatic transmission, combined they deliver 133 kW with its maximum torque of 400 Nm coming in at just 2000 rpm. 0-100 is 8.4 seconds and with exceptional fuel consumption of just 4.0l /100km (combined), the GT offers up the best of both worlds; driving pleasure and efficiency.
It has LED lamps all round (running, head and claw tail) and above its new air scoops are the GT’s directional indictors (they sequentially light from inside to out). Up front the lion logo is in the grille with three horizontal blades on either side of the emblem. The car has been visibly widened and its ride height has been lowered by 7mm at the front and 10mm at the rear as it sits on 18’’ Baptised Diamant alloys. Round back it has a lacquered black diffuser and decorative twin tail pipes. The GT signature is integrated in the grill, the tailgate and the front wheel panels should you forget what you’re in.
The sporty theme continues inside, both roof lining and upper window pillars are finished in anthracite colour along with red stitching punctuating the upholstery trim and TEP / Alcantara comes as standard. Red stitching is also found on the dashboard, door panels, gear lever gaiter and on the floor mats. Aluminium can be spotted on the pedals and stainless steel sill finishers in the door apertures.
The driving position has been ergonomically perfected thanks to the PEUGEOT i-Cockpit. You can adjust the height and reach of the compact perforated leather steering wheel for optimum comfort. The instrument panel has a new ‘chequered flag’ motif background and it has head up display too.
At the push of a button the Driver Sport Pack adds to the cars sportiness with the likes of an amplified and sportier engine noise; the instrument panel displays the power and torque delivered, turbo pressure, longitudinal and transverse acceleration; it gives firmer and more responsive power steering; more responsive accelerator and gearbox and has steering mounted paddles.
Then comes the 308GTi. Think all of the above but on steroids! Since it’s been developed by Peugeot sport; from head to toe it roars out speed. It has a class leading power to weight ratio (4.6kg/HP), the front grille has a ‘Chequered flag’ design and the ride height has been lowered 11mm. It has a performance tuned 1.6L turbo S&S engine producing 200kW and 330Nm, coupled with a 6-speed manual gearbox so you can really get involved with driving the car.
It has a Torsen® limited-slip differential, increased chassis tuning and a sportier ESP which means that the GTi handles corners brilliantly but still gives you enough leeway for a controllable slip. It does 0-100kph in a mere 6.0 seconds but it is also the most efficient in its category, capping CO2 at 139 g/km or 6.0 L/100km. There are a multitude of refinements inside too; here are a couple to start you off – the seats are GTi Buckets and they also have a massage function. A 9.7” touchsceen delivers up all the infotainment you could need and can even house 7gigs of driving music.
The day’s fun events consisted of a slalom challenge followed by a drag race and ending in two forms of full track driving – a ‘follow the leader’ style (alone in the GT following behind a lead car) and a couple of laps with a racing professional beside you offering up tips as you tear around the track.
The slalom was a tight course of squealing tires and (ideally) using your cone avoiding skills, obviously a chance for the GTi to show off its handling prowess. It was a quick launch off the mark and into 2nd gear as soon as you can (and remain in that gear for the exercise). The 308 danced between the cones with ease, engine roaring and tires slipping; thrilling and yet completely controllable. The biggest surprise for me was the cars turning circle, it’s tiny!
With the smiles still fixed on our faces it was on to the drags and into the GT. A side by side drag race along the home straight at Hampton but the exercise was more about our reaction and off the mark times rather than winning the drag (but it was a bunch of motor journalists so of course there would be bragging rights). The Diesel GT in Sports Auto mode feels a little slow off the mark and yet the times we achieved didn’t agree with this at all. My first run was a .22 and my second was a .044 (I managed to even impress myself).
On to the main event – big track time. With the instructors voice in my ear (via radio) I raced around the track behind him. With each turn he called out braking positions and where to look, best lines and ideal corner exit positions- I’ve done this before but it never gets old. The second lap is the same but faster, then a cool down lap to keep the brakes from cooking (especially in the days heat).
Helmets on for the final event, time to put all we’d learned about the car into practice. Out of the pits and foot to the floor, the GTi picks up speed very quickly. Hard into corner 2 and up over the hill, the sports steering hits the mark perfectly. Again hard on the accelerator and then almost immediately hard on the picks as I turned into the hard right, next came the downhill hairpin before full on power along the first big straight. With the Racing driver offering guidance and encouragement, I braked late and tires squealed around the double apex before the full on speed up the long home straight. The GTi handled the entire circuit with the balance, speed and agility of.. well a lion but without a hint of bite and (I would assume) much more fun.
After another (even faster) lap and a cool down; reluctantly it was time to go back in the pits, playtime was over. With a quick prize giving (I came second in the Slalom – told you we’re competitive) completing the day, we hit the road and headed back to Auckland. But as we pulled away (leaving the Lions caged at the track for others to play with) I had one last look at the chequered grille of the 308GTi sitting beside the old 205. It has all the bad boy looks of Peugeot’s hot hatch of the past and with their sports department intervention it certainly now has the power and poise to back it up. Both the GT and the GTi had proved to be great track cars and I can see why Peugeot are so excited, I can’t wait to get the chance to take them out on the mean streets of Auckland.