Peugeot 308 GTi 250

Shining a light on a hidden gem

by SCOTT NEWMAN

ENGINE 1598cc inline-4, DOHC, 16v, turbo / POWER 184kW @ 6000rpm / TORQUE 330Nm @ 1900rpm / WEIGHT 1205kg / 0-100KM/H 6.2sec (claimed) / PRICE $44,990 YOU MAY have already read a few reviews of Peugeotís new 308 GTi, but they are almost guaranteed to have been of the fitter, faster 270 variant. Peugeot doesnít seem overly keen for people to sample the lesser 250 version Ė there were none at the international launch, for instance Ė and that makes us suspicious.

After all, compared to its big brother, the 250 forgoes quite a lot of equipment. Yes, at $44,990 itís $5000 cheaper, however as the name suggests you lose 20hp (16kW), the massive Alcon front brakes disappear, as does the Torsen limited slip differential and 18-inch wheels wrapped in 225/40 Michelin Pilot Sport 3s replace the 270ís 19s and 235/35 Pilot Super Sports.

There are other spec differences too, but itís these missing mechanicals weíre most interested in. Do the omissions leave the 250 feeling a little half-baked, like a superhero stripped of his powers? Not at all. In fact, this is a very entertaining hot hatch, which says that Peugeot has managed to get a lot of the fundamentals right with the new 308 GTi.

Under the bonnet is a mere 1.6- litre turbo four-cylinder, however youíd never know it such is the strength and muscularity of its delivery. Producing 184kW/330Nm from such a small engine must mean there is some serious boost being developed, however while there is some hesitancy at low revs, the midrange surge is impressive and it revs beyond the 6000rpm redline with a deep growl that suggests this speakerenhanced engine note trend might not be so bad after all.

Its cornering capabilities are equally impressive. The smaller brakes feel more than up to the task on the road, thereís plenty of grip and traction is very rarely an issue even without the 270ís limited-slip diff.

Itís a neutral chassis setup, which inspires confidence, with front grip more often than not the first to go at the limit. Unfortunately, what doesnít inspire confidence is the steering.

Once youíre used to operating Peugeotís tiny steering wheel itís well weighted and reasonably accurate, but with lock applied it is very difficult to feel how much grip is left in the front tyres. Subsequently, cornering hard requires a little too much guesswork and you can be left taking two or three bites at each bend.

Itís a relatively small blot, however, on what is a surprisingly clean copybook. Its sharp yet understated looks and well-specced, minimalist interior will appeal to buyers who want to be different without being too different, though itís a shame that this 250 version doesnít start a little closer to $40,000.

That said, Peugeot has no reason to hide this Ďlesserí GTi, and now the only suspicion we have left is whether this 308 GTi 250 is good enough to take on that other, German GTI. M

New-age Peugeot ergonomics work best in the 308 but still require some acclimatisation

Like Great engine; nice gearshift; accomplished chassis STAR RATING Dislike Little overpriced; weird steering; lack of diff 4.0