- Available for £10,000 used
- 1.6 turbo petrol, front-wheel drive
- Won't be shown up by more expensive rivals
- Flaky touchscreen on pre-2018 facelifts
- Some problems with engine hesitancy
- Massive discounts on as-new cars
We recently put together a buyer's guide on the Hyundai i30 N. In that guide we referenced the Golf GTI quite a bit, which is not such a mad thing to do. However, a few of you reckoned that another car should have been mentioned too as a relevant i30 N rival: the Peugeot 308 GTI, or to give it its proper and not at all awkward to say title, the Peugeot 308 GTI by PEUGEOT Sport.
It's a valid argument actually, though you might not realise that until you looked into the 308 GTI more deeply. Despite the slightly desperate tacking-on of sporting provenance to the name, expectations were low when the 308 GTI was revealed in 2015. With the exception of the odd 208 GTI model, Peugeot's failure to produce a decent follow-up to the 205 GTI or the 306 GTI-6 had put a big dent in its reputation as a credible hot hatch manufacturer.
In the flesh, if you were being honest, the five-door-only, manual-only 308 GTI with splitter- and spoiler-free metalwork that bore a chin-scratching similarity to the company's SUVs didn't look like the avenging angel that would make everything all right. The spec sheet was a different matter, however. Under that snubby bonnet was the most powerful 1.6 turbo in production, generating 250hp or 270hp in - you guessed it - 250 and 270 formats, and the weight that engine had to shift was not much more than 1,200kg.
For comparison, the Ford Focus ST had 250hp and around 200kg more to move, while the Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport 40 had 265bhp (albeit with 290hp on overboost) and weighed 1,300kg. You'll find other weights for these cars depending on who's doing the weighing and what their test criteria are, but the relationships between them will be roughly the same. The 308 GTI is Light. Power plus lightness is generally a winning combination so long as the chassis is up to scratch. With the odd caveat which we'll get into later, that was pretty much the case with the 308 GTI. Price was important too. In DSG form the Golf Clubsport 40 cost £32,350, the Honda Civic Type R was £31,725, and the 308 GTI 270 was £28,455.
It was looking good for the Peugeot in the magazines too. In one group test against a Hyundai i30N and a Golf GTI Performance the 308 GTI there was nothing between them in terms of the overall star ratings. The Hyundai narrowly won it for its mature performance, the Golf came third for its lack of engagement, with the entertaining, fast, but dull-looking 308 sandwiched, or baguetted, between those two as an eminently smart wild card choice.
Surprisingly, at least three in every four UK buyers went for the 250 version of the 308 GTI. That was surprising because the 270 represented a bargain upgrade. For just £1,600 on top of the 250 you got another 20hp, a Torsen helical limited-slip diff, terrific four-piston brakes custom-made for the car by British specialists Alcon, 19-inch Carbone diamond-cut alloys, and Alcantara/faux-leather sports seats.
Midlife refresh cars from late 2017 were tweaked with a larger grille, reprofiled headlights, smoked tail lights, scrolling indicators and, in answer to quite a few complaints, an improved touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality, clearer graphics and better sensitivity. The penny had obviously dropped about the 270 by that time, too, as the 250 version was dropped from the range. From late 2018, the 270 became the 260 to satisfy new WLTP emissions. You'd struggle to tell the difference between the two cars on the road though.
Today, if you want to run hard but in a low-profile way, Peugeot's fall from grace is working massively in your favour in the unassuming shape of the 308 GTI. Hot Golfs and Focuses are quite common these days but 308 GTIs are rare despite massive discounting. Delivery mileage cars have been advertised this year at under £22k, so Peugeot clearly still has some work to do to get those lost GTI buyers flocking back to their performance offerings.
For secondhand buyers this is all gravy. We've seen a professionally repaired cat S 270 with 55,000 miles for an eye-rubbing £8,300. If you're prepared to take some mileage (around 75,000), you can pick up an unbashed early 250 for about £10,000. The most affordable 270 we found in our trawling was a 2017 33,000-miler at just under £14,000.
Are these good prices, or should you just write the 308 GTI off as just another failed Peugeot hot hatch? The answers are no and yes, but not necessarily in that order.
SPECIFICATION | PEUGEOT 308 GTI 270 (2016-on)
Engine: 1,598cc inline four 16v turbocharged
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 270@6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 243@1,900rpm
0-62mph: 6.0 secs
Top speed: 155mph
MPG: 47.1 (official combined)
Wheels: 8 x 19in
On sale: 2014 - 2019
Price new: £28,455
Price now: from £10,000
Note for reference: car weight and power data are hard to pin down with absolute certainty. For consistency, we use the same source for all our guides. We hope the data we use is right more often than it's wrong. Our advice is to treat it as relative rather than definitive.
ENGINE & GEARBOX
Mention the phrase 'Prince engine' in the wrong company and you might wake up on the floor with a crowd around you. This multi-marque 1.6 did have its problems, and that's putting it mildly, but by the time PSA's high-power THP turbo version made its way to the 308 GTI the Prince connection was distant enough for it to not be a concern. The 308 GTI's engine had forged aluminium Mahle pistons, a reinforced block, a single twin-scroll turbo, a motorsport-inspired exhaust manifold and a high-pressure fuel injection system to provide a broader torque curve.
Meaningful thrust was available from 2,500rpm and things got especially interesting from 3,000rpm to the 6,000rpm redline. It'll reach 100mph from rest a second faster than a Golf GTI Performance or a Hyundai i30N. The noise didn't inspire everyone, even with the 'frequency augmentation' engine sound that was pumped through the speakers in Sport mode, but there was no arguing about the 308's impressive thrust, flexibility and 6.0sec 0-62mph time. Even the 320hp Civic Type R was only 0.3sec quicker than the Peugeot.
An entry-level remap might only add 20hp or so to the Peugeot but it will bring a noticeable improvement to the low-rpm response. Talking of Sport mode, that was the only one you could have other than Normal. It sharpened throttle response and the exhaust note, but more than one tester found the Normal throttle to be less over-sensitive and easier to use.
Haters of dual-clutch autos will approve of Peugeot's refusal to offer that as an option, but they might also wish that the six-speed manual they did provide had a slightly shorter throw to go with its nicely spaced ratios.
What sort of everyday costs and non-everyday problems might a 308 GTI owner expect? Well, although the 308 as a range has had its fair share of recalls, with DPF problems on the diesels and electrical problems generally, the GTI has done reasonably well on the reliability front so far. A stuttering engine is perhaps the thing that has caused the most worries. The spark plugs are supposed to be changed as part of every 12,500 mile/yearly service as prescribed by Peugeot.
Leaving that out will halve your service costs from £300+ but obviously it won't help with the stutters. Mind you, a plug change didn't always rectify things either. Coil packs were always worth a look because water could collect around them and cause corrosion. Remember, too, that this is a powerful engine generating a lot of heat, creating less than ideal underbonnet conditions for electrical componentry. Some GTI owners replace their coils every 20,000 miles.
Having said all that, there are other suspects for engine hesitation. These THPs are set up to run on the best fuel, so if you've just bought a used 308 GTI there's no harm in chucking a mixture of super unleaded plus fuel cleaner through it. A new GTI on the drive is also a perfect excuse for a carbon-clearing 'Italian tuneup' if you suspect that the previous owner did more trundling about than tanking on.
The mention of tanking conveniently brings us to another possible cause for the stutters. Some GTI fuel tanks had faulty non-return valves. That could result in fuel saturation of the carbon canister/filter on fill-ups, ultimately leading to a failure to start and a £1,200-plus-fitting bill for a new tank. If you were lucky, engine jitters might instead be down to a duff high pressure fuel pump (fast becoming a consumable scourge of modern motoring).
Why lucky? Because replacing one of those would be about a quarter of the price of the tank, or even less if you took the option of having the HPFP reconditioned. If your car has any of these, it's worth mentioning that you know about these possible causes as Peugeot also knows about these hesitation issues and has sometimes helped out financially on the remedies.
Assuming you're all good in the tank area, you can expect hearteningly good fuel consumption from the 308 GTI. Low forties mpg figures are genuinely obtainable on relaxed cruises and mid-thirties are perfectly doable in mixed use. When the cars were new you could get a three-year servicing package for around £1,100. Road tax is £150, more than reasonable for a car with this performance.
Compared to the 308 GT, the GTI's springs were 56 per cent stiffer at the front and 64 per cent stiffer at the rear, and it sat 11mm lower than the GT with wider tracks and more negative wheel camber. The suspension was passive, not adaptive, so engaging Sport mode made no difference to the way to it held the road. The ride wasn't uncomfortable, but it was hard enough to keep the body nicely controlled for predictable handling, making the 308 a safe choice for learning track day techniques. Inherently it was more understeery than a Leon Cupra, but for most owners the 270's Torsen limited slip differential was worth the £1,600 price uplift on its own, clawing the car hard out of corners.
One owner reported a knocking at the front that remained unresolved even after Peugeot had changed the dampers twice under warranty.
As mentioned earlier, another sweet inclusion in that 270 upgrade was a braking system specially commissioned by Peugeot from Tamworth-based specialists Alcon. Alcon kit has beaten Brembo to the punch with a few names you might know - Ariel, Noble, and Zenos to name but three - and has been used by Peugeot before in their RCZ R. In the 308 GTI the 380mm floating front discs gave phenomenal stopping power and an initial bite that took some getting used to, but you needed to look after them because there were no aftermarket options. Alcon made the components, but replacements were only available through Peugeot, who charged the earth for them. One owner reported a bill of over £1,700 for the new OEM front discs and pads which he needed after 16,000 miles. These days it's slightly better because you can get non-Alcon replacements from the likes of Tarox, but they're still not cheap at £1,000 for a pair of fronts (including VAT but not including fitting or pads).
The default Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres weren't cheap either at around £260 a go. They worked well on the right roads, but they were noisy on concrete motorway sections. Some owners prefer Goodyear Eagle F1s for noise suppression. Unusually, there was a manufacturer advisory for the metal tyre valve caps. They were spangly and looked great, but they didn't always go back onto the tyres after you'd taken them off.
Steering is a controversial subject with these cars, and we're not talking about the position of the steering wheel. Not yet anyway. The actual steering was disappointing in terms of the amount of feedback and the weighting for anything other than gentle or medium-speed driving. It became over-assisted at motorway speeds or when you were trying hard, and could seem disproportionately quick and twitchy immediately off centre, when you were pulling out to overtake for example. The Focus ST or RS Megane were well ahead of the Peugeot in this area.
Despite its low weight there was a pleasing solidity about the 308 GTI. The doors shut well, the nicely understated GTI styling cues (fake rear diffuser excepted) and standard LED headlights added a sense of specialness, and overall there was a chunky feeling of substance to the car.
It wasn't perfect though. Some owners have reported squeaky door operation, however, especially in colder weather. Whistling from the driver's side window has been mentioned too and there have been instances of the folding mirrors failing after the locks were changed.
The exterior plastics are quite susceptible to scratching, and owners have waited in vain for months for touch-up paint, only to give up and resort to lacquer for stone chips. There were similar supply-related problems on bodywork parts, quite a few of which were unique to the GTI. One owner drove quite slowly into the back of another vehicle, incurring £7,000 of damage and a three-month wait for the return of his car.
We could hardly do a 308 GTI buyers guide without mentioning the famous/notorious, GTI-unique, two-tone 'Coupe Franche' ('clean cut') paint finish that combined Ultimate Red, Magnetic Blue or Pearlescent White with a Nera Black rear end. Sounded weird, and was a bit. Maybe one of high-ups at Peugeot convinced the board that the 308 GTI was a touch too low profile and in need of an attention-grabbing paint scheme. It was another of those things that the company came up with years ago - in this case in the Onyx concept of 2012 - and that they couldn't bring themselves to let go.
Not everyone was convinced by 'Coupe Franche'. Owners had to pre-formulate a calm response for the inevitable 'what happened to your wrap, mate?' question. it wasn't a cheap option at £1,300 either, so there aren't that many Coupe Franche cars on the used market now.
A fixed panoramic roof was a £500 option on the GTI. It made the cabin airier but added extra weight high up, which wasn't what you wanted for ultimate handling prowess. An electric blind gave you the option of cutting out the light, but it has been known to flop down in a rather untidy and disappointing fashion.
We've just had a pop at the sunroof blind, but in general 308 GTI cabin quality is good by any standards. Although the bogus leather/Alcantara seats might be a little too high for taller passengers, they are comfy over long distances and locate you well on bendy roads. They had a massage function too. Odd that Peugeot should have chosen that feature ahead of heating, but the subtle pleasures of a gentle roller action on your spine should not be underestimated.
If you're the family type, you'll be pleased to hear that the 308's 470-litre boot destroys those of the Golf (380 litres) and Focus (316 litres) and grows to over 1,300 litres when the back seats are folded flat, which is easily enough to swallow a bike whole. The downside of a big boot in combination with big front seats was tight leg room for anyone in the back, not just for adults but even for older toddlers/younger kids still in their car seats. The glove box should really be called the HVAC pipework box, so you couldn't look there for space salvation.
Irrespective of whether you approve of the strip of red leather on the steering wheel that (we are meant to believe) makes a car sporty, the 308 GTI wheel itself will be a deal-breaker for many. Well, not so much the wheel as its 'i-Cockpit' in-your-cockpit position. This isn't the first time a car manufacturer has come up with something 'revolutionary' that the rest of us think is just silly.
They always back down in the end, but Peugeot is sticking with it for now. It's a Marmite choice. Some 308 GTI owners love it, saying that it sort of suits the way the car drives and that they can look over it without ever having a blocked view of the instruments. Obviously it's something for you to try out for yourself. 308 GTIs from July 2020 received the digital i-Cockpit first seen on the 3008.
There were a couple more 'why don't we try this' features on the GTI that divided opinion. The tachometer needle goes anti-clockwise (why?) and Sport mode turns the dials red, which means you can't see the redline because it, as per the name, is also red.
The GTI's equipment list was thankfully more conventional and very comprehensive, outshining in quantity that of the identically priced five-door Golf GTI. The Peugeot's list included dual-zone climate control, cruise control, auto headlights and wipers, a reversing camera with all-round parking sensors, keyless entry and go, and a 9.7in touchscreen with Bluetooth, DAB radio and a sat-nav that for some reason wouldn't accept postcodes. On 2018-on facelift cars you could add lane keep assist, active blind spot assistance and adaptive cruise control with autonomous emergency braking for £500.
Some cars have had trouble with their digital radio reception, and the song or contact location system for an iPod or a phone was never super intuitive. Even when the audio was working as it should the sound wasn't brilliant. Setting the balance to 'driver only' improved things, for the driver anyway. The Denon option was on another planet for sound quality.
The transfer of the heating/cooling controls to a touchscreen sub-menu made climate adjustment a nightmare especially on the clunky screens of pre-facelift cars. Once set however the climate control is very effective, though some AC compressors have failed.
Electrics generally are what you should be looking out for on a 308 of any description, especially on the infotainment system, seats and parking sensors as well as all the switches and controls. The keyless entry system is not faultless, sometimes preventing the car from starting until the keys have been re-programmed or preventing the car from stopping if you don't hold the stop button down for long enough. Owners have been told not to carry two keys in the car at the same time, which is less than ideal if you're on holiday and would like to give a spare set to your partner.
The warning noise that assaults your ears if you have the nerve to open the door before applying the parking brake may be of interest to a movie special effects bod, but most normal people will hate it. There have been reports of plastic coming off the floor mats within the first six months of ownership.
Against the vexed background of Peugeot not living up to its past glories, the 308 GTI has been described as a missed opportunity. But if we forget all the historical baggage, look past the badge and appraise the car objectively, it's a rapid, good handling and practical five-door car that will embarrass the vast majority of other traffic on the road without much in the way of show or shoutiness. There's a market for that sort of car, and the attractive prices not only for used examples but also for those with delivery mileage really add to its appeal.
There have undoubtedly been niggly issues with the car; in addition, Peugeot's use of the phrase 'defiance is in our DNA' in its marketing might not reassure anyone hoping for sympathetic treatment on complaints. On the other hand, anecdotal evidence suggests that UK dealers actually try pretty hard to get things right for 308 GTI owners.
So, what can you get for your not very much money? A quick skim through the PH classifieds reveals a choice of a dozen or so cars ranging in price from this Monte Carlo Blue 250 from 2016 with 32,000 miles at £12,999 to this 2,600-mile, 2019 vintage 260 in black at £20,469. Between those two we have a slew of 270s including this rather spiffy sub-15,000-mile 2018 facelift car in red, keenly priced at £15,950.
What, no 'Coupe Franche' cars? Afraid not. See how PH is saving you from having to listen to smart alecs asking why you didn't finish the wrap job?
1 / 10