Can Peugeot still surprise us? Contact with the Peugeot 308 GTi at the Jarama circuit

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A couple of days ago a server was in the Jarama circuit. We had been invited by Peugeot to test the new 308 GTi. The ultimate example of sportiness at Peugeot, and a return in style to the crowded arena of front-wheel drive compact sports cars. An arena where coconuts like the Honda Civic Type R or the SEAT León Cupra 290 fight. How does Peugeot intend to open a gap in one of the toughest and most competitive segments From the market? Among other things, with the best power-to-weight ratio in the segment.

The return of Peugeot to sports compacts

Peugeot’s latest sports compacts were disappointing. The new 308 GTi breaks the trend for the better.

When Peugeot launched the first-generation 307s and 308s, they were accompanied by really decaffeinated sports versions. The legacy of the fantastic 306 GTi – light, simple and with a dynamic of 10 – was altered by several GTi that did not deserve the name. Not even the Peugeot 207 GTi was a worthy rival for machines like the Opel Corsa OPC or the Renault Clio RS. With the 208 GTi and 308 GTi Peugeot returns to claim the position of honor that was once his. And they do it with an impeccable attitude. Let me explain.

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The Peugeot 308 GTi is built on the EMP2 modular platform of the 308 family, a completely new development that has nothing to do with the previous generation of the Peugeot 308. It is rigid, makes extensive use of lightweight materials such as high-strength steel and composite materials, such as those that make up the tailgate. With a curb weight of just 1,280 kg, it boasts a power-to-weight ratio of 4.46 kg / hp, the best of all front-wheel drive sports compacts.

Believe me Peugeot is serious about the new 308 GTi and they have been left with a fearsome machine. On this modular platform EMP2 they have fitted the latest evolution of their 1.6 THP engine. A turbocharged and injected four-cylinder powerplant that has been with us for almost a decade.

Two spicy flavors: 250 hp and 270 hp

It will only be offered at the moment with a manual gearbox and a five-door body.

This engine is shared with the Peugeot RCZ R – whose extinction is imminent – and develops a whopping 270 hp at 6,000 rpm, with a maximum torque of 330 Nm at 1,900 rpm. It is a very tight engine, with a specific power of 167.8 hp / liter. Its pistons are forged, and its segments are reinforced. The turbo blows at 2.5 bar above atmospheric pressure. Peugeot also launches a version of the 308 GTi with 250 hp, at a lower price. Its consumption level and its engine torque are identical, although its performance suffers slightly.

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Both vehicles are available only with a six-speed manual gearbox. Peugeot does not consider the introduction of automatic boxes unless the model is very successful. The same can be said for a possible 308 GTi in the familiar SW format. Due to its power level – there will be two versions, one with 250 hp and the other with 270 hp – it is proposed as an alternative to consider for front-wheel drive machines such as the Ford Focus ST or the Volkswagen Golf GTI.

The car only has two driving modes, Normal and Sport. A very simple decision.

However, due to its weight-power ratio and performance, it is capable of frightening even the most powerful in the segment, such as the SEAT León Cupra 290. Its 250 hp version is capable of 0 to 100 km / h in 6, 2 seconds, with a tip of 250 km / h limited by electronics. The 270 hp version is 0.2 seconds faster to 100 km / h, and has the same self-limiting tip. The main difference is that the 270 hp version has a Torsen differential, a mechanical self-locking that the GTi 250 does not have.

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GTi 270s have larger diameter brakes, with 380mm diameter front discs hugged by four-piston calipers. The discs of the GTi 250 are 330 mm. In addition, the standard wheels are 19 inches on the GTi 270 – shod with Michelin Super Sport tires in 235/30 R19 sizes. At the suspension level, it uses a conventional front McPherson scheme and a torsion bar on the rear axle. A scheme that should not scare us, is the same that uses without going any further, the Honda Civic Type-R.

Time to drive

Aesthetically it is a sober car, but the “Coupe Franche” edition allows us to have a two-color, black and red body.

Before us is the Peugeot 308 GTi, waiting for our turn to enter the Jarama circuit. It has rained, and the asphalt will be a skating rink. Also, there was a Truck Grand Prix just days before – extreme caution is advised. Before getting in the car I look at him outwardly. Despite being a GTi 270, it is a discreet car. Its 19-inch wheels are sporty, but its body kit does not fall into excesses. Perhaps the rear is the most daring part, covered with a dark diffuser and two large tailpipes.

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The rest of the car could well go through a 308 with a sports kit, as long as we ignore the different emblems that say “GTi” throughout the car. I climb into the cabin and the semi-bacquéts signed by Peugeot Sport hug my body perfectly. I adjust the seat, mirrors and find a really small steering wheel. A thick steering wheel, almost straight out of a video game. The instrumentation looks at me from afar, in an elevated position. It is an atypical driving position, of course.

The steering wheel has a very small diameter, and a fat rim. It looks like the steering wheel of a game console.

But I like feeling racing. The stitching on the seats, the leather with red trim, the perforated feel of the steering wheel, the Alcantara on my back … everything tells me I’m not in just any 308. I start the engine and the instructor orders me to activate Sport mode. Sport mode is part of the Driver Sport Pack, standard. When activated, the instrumentation is tinted red, the throttle response is more immediate, and the ESP a little more forgiving. Although it has no effect on suspension or steering, it does transmit more engine sound to the passenger compartment.

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And as usual lately, it does so through the car’s speakers. A detail that does not convince me, but that is the fate of the current era of the automobile. Be that as it may, I get going. We do not have much time, and we must collect many sensations. We get out of the pit lane fast and the first thing I notice is the engine contudence. I was expecting considerable lag – that’s normal in very tight engines – but the turbo input lag is minimal, and it doesn’t drop when I shift gears.

The circuit was wet, and ESP saved the day a couple of times. An ice rink looked like …

The gearbox is not the height of precision – usual for Peugeot – but it feels good and is fast. The same can be said of the management, whose moron has convinced me. It is tough and conveys a lot of information, without being as precise as that of other competitors such as the Honda Civic Type-R. But all the sensations are overshadowed by the urgency that the car conveys. In a good way, your engine is a time bomb. A bomb that seeks the red line and that forces us to play a lot with change.

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It’s a fast car, with impressive cornering despite the terrible condition of the Jarama’s wet asphalt. We haven’t been able to fully squeeze its chassis as we were struggling for traction at all times, surprisingly good traction given the condition of the road surface. The lightness is noticeable in its passage through the curve, and its set-up makes its rear very playful. It had been a long time since I remembered a car with such a loose rear and, saving the differences, its touch reminded me of an old 206 GTi.

How much does the Peugeot 308 GTi cost?

In the absence of offering you a complete test of this car, rest assured that has left a good taste in my mouth, as well as the certainty that Peugeot has once again manufactured a competitive product, at the level of the best in the segment. I can’t wait to compare it to other front-wheel drive GTIs. It can give you more of a scare, I assure you. Yes, where Peugeot will not enter is in the fierce fight for the best time at the Nürburgring. That battle is left to SEAT, Renault and Honda.

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The range is made up of the following vehicles, the prices of which are listed below for the Spanish market. Prices in line with the competition, with very similar equipment. It is put on sale immediately in our country, and Peugeot expects to sell about 200 units a year, in its optimistic projection of a total market of 1,200 units per year for this type of vehicle. A curious detail: both approve a consumption of only 6.0 l / 100 km, and by energy classification, the GTi 250 can benefit from the PIVE Plan.

Peugeot 308 GTi 250 by Peugeot Sport: 29,900 euros
Peugeot 308 GTi 270 by Peugeot Sport: 32,400 euros

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