Above left: tiny single cup holder behind gear stick, Right: dials read opposite directions
What a peach.
When I drove the 308 GTI 270 (henceforth known as the GTI or I’ll be driven quite mad) on the track, I loved the rocket-like performance. But, the suspension felt quite soft yet firm on the track and I wondered how that might fare on a road where there are potholes and ruts.
Well, I can answer that now after 2,400kms, it went well, very well.
With your hoof flat to the floor, there is a pleasing “pop” as she snorts haughtily between gears. Sadly, since you get to the speed limit in 3rd gear, the pops are few and far between. The acceleration feels linear with a turbo that kicks in early thanks to a twin scroll. The sport button makes a slight difference, but not so much that you are pinned back in your seat. It adds extra oomph to the acceleration and makes the instruments all red and angry, which is kind of cool. Slightly less cool is the excellent exhaust note, which is only inside the cabin via the genuine fake-engine-noise-valve. Fake engine noise in any car is naff, it’s the real thing or nothing as far as I’m concerned.
First: The OK Stuff.
Getting your geek on means playing with the infotainment system. For the first time since PSA introduced this system, I’ve had enough of a s stint to really get under the skin of it. Nearly all functions of the centre stack have been subsumed by a single 9.7” screen. We wanted it, now we have it we are not so sure we wanted it.
There is no “home” screen, but all functions have fixed virtual buttons down either side of the screen. You can also access some of these functions from the steering wheel controls. Only two buttons are backlit though meaning the thumb-wheels go dark once the sun goes down. You have to remember which wheel does what.
It was hard to go between radio stations regardless of which controls you use. The media home screen displays radio, ipod, jukebox etc. Labels are clearly laid out but the function is not immediately obvious.
The Presets page is accessed by pressing the preset bar, and the list of current stations by pressing the station button. There is no need to tune as you pass from state to state because the system keeps a current list for you to select from. The screen is “mapped” so that most of the displayed items are also hot buttons like hyperlinks on a webpage. You press the temperature and you go to a small climate control screen with the 2 zone temperature adjustments. This saves even more time. Of course there is no feedback which leads to my criticism of this system. No matter what you want to do, you have to take your eyes off the road. When there was a button for most functions, you could easily use your muscle memory to dial up the heat or change to the Buddha Chill Station, or at least you could if the GTI had DAB. Now, you must look at the centre console. Even using the steering wheel buttons means looking at the console because the functions of the buttons change depending on what the screen in the middle is displaying. There is another small 3” display between the tacho and speedo which shows you what’s going on depending on the functions you have it set to. This display can be toggled though by pressing the button on the end of the wiper stalk.
The driver’s LCD is normally used for the digital speedo when I’m at the helm. For some reason I find the normal dials harder to read. In a fit of Frenchness, both dial hands move towards the centre of the cluster instead of both the tacho and speedo hands moving in the same direction. Why? Just, why? Driver info should be clear and need no interpreting.
Also, the “heads up” i-cockpit has the instrument cluster sits above the tiny bread-and-butter-plate sized steering wheel. My Peugeot tells me I’ll get used to it.
The Downright Awful
There is a single cup holder buried deep in a smallish bin in the centre console. It is so deep down that a regular cup disappeared well below the top of the console. Fishing it out went fifty shades of bad. The flimsy lid deformed allowing the cup to also deform. You guessed it, coffee everywhere. There is a very narrow opening with a ledge at the front and rear making it even harder to use. Had the cup holder have been adjustable in height, there would be no problem. Remember, you’re going to be using this at 110kph on a road trip.
The Rest is Marvy
The looks are stunning. Once a bit of an old frump now looks brilliant with Daytime Running Lights in bright LED, and cutting edge head and tail lights also with LED tech The tri-claw rear lights look so sexy with claws outlined in LED lines. The discrete chromed Peugeot badge on the grille looks classy. All current 308 hatches look amazing.
As good as 19” wheels look, I’d prefer a little extra sidewall in 18” tyres. Most punters can’t really tell the inch difference between 18” and 19” much as they say otherwise, so eighteens are fine for me. It’s an option of course, but you notice the occasional choppiness of the ride on nineteens. The GTI gets rambunctious on bumpy corners. The rest is sheer joy.
I set off on the crack of morning tea on Thursday. My early day was scuttled by a bad night’s sleep. Sydney came over all moody with the sky a murky shade of green-grey. Those who regularly drive the Pacific Hwy, or M1, or Pacific Motorway, or whatever it is called this week, will know the untold misery of even the best of runs. Sydney has been dogged by massive road works to be paid for by selling the electricity transmission lines, or by tolls, or both. There are billions being spent to make the road between Brisbane and Sydney 2 lanes each way.
Vast swathes are still poorly maintained, pot-hole riddled goat tracks with a single lane each way. This 19th century transport solution is where grey-haired motorists towing caravans gather in their hundreds. They drive up and down at half the speed limit making life for everyone else on the road an absolute misery.
I’ve fancied taking a modern hot hatch on a road trip because I wanted to see if it was actually possible. On the M1, the 308 was extremely comfortable. I discovered a series of buttons which cause a gentle squeezing and kneading action in the seat. It makes a long journey even more comfortable. The firm cushions are covered in covered in Alcantara. There’ll be some who prefer leather to fabric no doubt, but I am not one of them. For those unfamiliar with Alcantara, it is a man-made fabric resembling suede leather but needs rather less fuss to keep it looking good.
As the day wore on, the way was paved with considerably less ami. Many comfort stops punctuated the progress. It drove me mad when each time I started the car, I had to tell the satnav to continue the trip. If I missed the cue, I had to initiate the route again. I use the Satnav to keep an eye on the arrival time on every long trip so having to remember to be quick enough to press Yes” is annoying.
The real joy of stopping for a coffee and toilet break was being able to hear the popping noise as I changed up through the gears. GTI’s main rival, the Golf GTi also has this pleasing blip. The gear changes are sweet with a medium throw between each gate. The clutch is very light too.
The afternoon saw the weather deteriorate even further. Water over the road at 100 can be frightening but the GTI coped without blinking an eye.
By now, we had used much of the 53 litre fuel supply. I get nervous about getting below ¼ of a tank. This is even more important in a smallish tank where failing to fill will leave you on the side of the road with your filler cap swaying in the breeze. This brings me to the economy figures. Of the 2,400 km, only 100 km was in town. We got 6.4 L/10km which considerably higher than either the highway cycle of 4.9L/100km, or the combined of 6.0L/100km. Although 828 km out of a tank is a decent figure, it falls far short of the 1,081 Peugeot claims we should get.
As night fell, the heavy showers continued their waves of misery making the visibility fairly appalling. Bright lights glinting of the rain-splattered glass was made worse by schmaltz kicked up by hundreds of trucks.
11 and a half hours later, I rolled into Brisvegas feeling somewhat shell-shocked. Fed and watered, I collapsed into bed.
The weekend highlight was the 90th birthday of a favourite uncle and before I knew it, it was time to retrace my route to Sydney.
The Peugeot 308 GTI 270 is extremely comfortable. The cabin is thoughtfully laid out with the exception of the daft single cup holder.
For years we’ve been asking for fewer buttons on the centre console, but I’d like 6 or 8 radio presets, (including DAB, Carplay/Android Auto), and A/C temperature controls. There is too much switching between functions for my liking. If the passenger wants to make changes, they would need to disturb the driver who might be following the satnav. Although the driver still receives turns via the central LCD in the instrument cluster, I’d rather the passengers not disturb driver’s zen.
The GTI has excellent handling, and the 270 has 200kw and 330Nm does a decent 6.0 seconds from zero to 100 kph. The steering feels light and precise and although there is not the road real there once was, Peugeot Sport has made a decent fist of making the driver feel connected to the road. Although the low profile tyres made the ride choppy from time to time, it was incredibly comfortable the rest of the time. The harshest of bumps sounded far worse than they felt.
The GTI 250 has a full sized spare tyre but the 270 only comes with the puncture repair kit. I threw a spare into the boot but would find a way to have a space saver permanently in the wheel well.
I’ve already said I don’t love the I-cockpit. I’d rather conventional instruments with a proper heads-up display, but I’d no doubt get used to things after a few months behind the wheel. Peugeot has persisted with an onboard hard disc drive “jukebox” to store music. There is also a CD player which is now sounding distinctly last century. When was the last time you played a cd, let alone in a car? Exactly.
While on the subject of the infotainment system, plugging in your Iphone causes the system to select it, and start playing the first song in your library. You could really get to hate that song after a while.
I do not like the fake engine noise that comes with activating the sports button and will say no more on that subject.
I’d rather not have to use 95ron unleaded but this is a high performance engine. There is much cost in making bespoke components, especially of exotic materials like those in this engine. Peugeot Sport did a brilliant job of making a family hatch into something special. Even better is the fact that it is not so hard-edge that you can’t use it daily. Most of the time the 308 is a pussycat, but it only needs the slightest poke to make it angry.
There are few options, and the one to make the most impact is the striking red/black paint job. I want it so badly that I’d consider paying the $5,000 price. Whether or not I’d actually part with the cash, who knows.
There is a fistful of worthy competitors, most notably the ferocious 257kw/440Nm Focus RS. Although I haven’t driven it yet, the figures are impressive. The RS has AWD and costs $55,839 driveaway NSW VS $55,038 driveaway for the 308 GTI 270. If I wanted the red/black paint job, I’d need an extra 5 grand. Finally, the 0-100 is dispatched in a mere 4.7 seconds for RS VS the 308’s 6.0 seconds.
I loved the way the GTI drove. There was a restrained urgency to the acceleration that felt almost relaxed. The cabin looks and feels classy and uncluttered. Apart from a few niggles such as the French cup holder and the odd sensation of the i-cockpit, I loved the Peugeot. My preference for a road trip would be a larger car. That is not what the 308 was made for, but it did brilliantly none the less. I’d get a space saver spare though. Having a full sized wheel chucked in the boot didn’t leave room for my beauty case.
I haven’t even mentioned the smart entry/start, the almost-full suite of safety gear, or the quietness of the cabin.
rior to the RS release my choice would have been clear, but now I’m flummoxed.