► Peugeot 308 GTI facelift tested
► Is mid-life upgrade worth it?
► 268bhp turbo punch, £28,590
The Peugeot 308 GTi took home the honours when pitched it into a hot hatch triple test against the Mk7.5 VW Golf GTI and Mini JCW a few months back, but the game has already moved on: now the new 316bhp Honda Civic Type R is the hot hatch darling of the moment, and on the horizon there’s a Renault Megane RS with four-wheel steering.
We test Peugeot 308 GTI vs VW Golf GTI vs Mini JCW
Peugeot’s ready with a parry though, as the 308 GTi has been to the clinic for a nip ‘n’ tuck to fend off the Japanese, French, Germans, and Germans masquerading as British (we mean you, Mini).
So what’s new on the facelifted 2017 Peugeot 308 GTI then?
Well, what would you do when faced with facelifted Golf GTIs and Golf Rs that both now offer more power, a new Civic Type R that’s notched a record-breaking front-wheel drive lap time around the Nürburgring, and that trick Megane RS?
Yes, I’d give the 308 GTi more power too. And extra torque. Plus play with the suspension, fit stickier tyres - the usual tricks to keep a hot hatch hot.
But in a case of crafty French misdirection, the 308 GTi has been revised inside and out, but not at all under the skin. Even VW, the doyens of doing nothing during a mid-life facelift, gave the Golf GTI an extra 10bhp earlier this year...
No changes, huh? Confidence or complacency?
Indeed. Given how much Peugeot is at pains to point out that its motorsport arm, Peugeot Sport, is responsible for the development of the 308 GTi, we hope the lack of updates mean the team is hard at work on a new Le Mans LMP1 entry or something similar.
Either that, or the 308 GTi didn’t need changing... Peugeot could have easily squeezed more power from the 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, but it’s already claimed to be the most powerful production engine of its size, with a rather decent 268bhp on offer.
It needs around 3000rpm before it gets going, but you wouldn’t know it was 400cc down on most rivals. And we like the 308 GTI's supple suspension, sweet steering, the subtle character that isn’t overtly aggressive but is entertaining and exciting. Why ruin that to chase a lap time at the ‘Ring?
So you’re saying it’s how hot hatches used to be?
Exactly. Only the standard Golf GTI and this 308 GTi don’t seemed to have gotten carried away with wings and 300bhp-plus power outputs. The Peugeot’s styling is understated, and the chassis is underrated. The gearbox could be a tad tighter, and body roll marginally tauter, but this is nit-picking an overall package that flows with real control and compliance.
It treads a fine line too. Over and above a Golf GTI (which is £385 more but has 50bhp less) the 308 GTi has a torque-sensing Torsen diff that’ll power you out through corners, big Alcon front discs that keep braking hard, and sticky Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres.
Meaning it’s fun on track, more than holds its own on your favourite B-road, but then doesn’t irk you off the rest of the time. It keeps its biggest hardware hidden until you need it, rather than being always on display like a Focus RS or Civic Type R.
And what of these are non-mechanical changes in the 2017 facelift?
The front bumper, bonnet and black grille are new, while the headlights and tail lights have been tweaked in line with revisions to the rest of the 308 range. There’s a sharper 9.7-inch touchscreen for the infotainment system too, complete with TomTom 3D navigation, and now a load of extra safety systems including active lane assist and blind-spot monitoring.
The rest of the interior comes close to that evergreen Golf GTI too, with heavily bolstered and supportive Alcantara and faux-leather seats, and decent materials elsewhere as well.
But it’s still got that tiny steering wheel, which you’ll either love looking over the top of, or downright loathe. And why does the touchscreen do away with all the buttons, including those for the air-con, when the only thing the dash features in their place is a CD player…?
What you make of the 308 GTi – as before – is up to whether you see it as a like-for-like Golf GTI rival or an underpowered player with the big boys. When the high-powered opposition costs around £3.5k more, there’s definitely a place for a hot hatch like this one.
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