Our Pug gets a chance to ditch the leash... and the ESC

THE 308 GTi IS one of those cars that I’m always told “comes alive on the track”, so the question most often asked of me for the past few months has been based around how much track time I’ve had with it. Finally, I can answer with something other than “none yet”.

A day marked with some very Victorian weather (grey skies and drizzle) saw myself, some fellow MOTORists and a gang of merry folk from sister magazine Street Machine all descend on the Bryant Park Hillclimb track, also known as Haunted Hills. Once DC, Cordony and I had finished watching the SM lads completely thrash an old engine-swapped Barina and their stocker ‘nugget’ mid-2000s Renault Clio, it was our turn to take to the track. Cordony was there to test a few hot hatches, which meant my GTi was in good company.

Though not as sharp or capable as the likes of the Civic Type R or Megane Trophy, the 308 quickly proved itself an absolute joy, the slightly damp track providing sufficient challenges and varying corners for me to really get to know its chassis. And that was before ESC was given the flick.

If you’ve never seen Haunted Hills, it’s essentially a tight, smooth track built into the side of a hill, with plenty of camber changes and enough elevation variance to make you consider altitude sickness pills. It’s perfect for a lightweight front-driver with an abundance of power, especially if you want to find out just how playful it can be. Very, as it turns out.

With ESC on, the Pug’s rear follows the front obediently, with little leans and the occasional slip followed by a flashing TC light on the dash being the only indications that something far more fun lies beneath a thick layer of electronic safety measures. The Torsen

But I didn’t bring the Peugeot to the track to drive it with ESC on all day.

Once the ominous (or promising) little orange car with tyre marks lights up on the dash, the fun really begins. Traction through the front wheels becomes a little harder to manage, but conversely allows properly brisk acceleration when grip is on your side.


But what if you don’t want grip? The rear has you covered. The tail of the 308 turns out to be an absolute party animal with ESC out of the picture, and it changes the driving characteristic of the car so much. While I’d like to see a ‘halfway point’ between ESC on and off to make mountain driving a little more lively, that could also be a dangerous suggestion.

Now back to the GTi’s… well, back. The slides it produces are almost comical, but if you stay on the ball it shouldn’t be enough to get out of hand. Tap the brakes and feel the movement. Looking back at the notes I wrote after the first few laps on track reveals I at one point had written “bloody hilarious fun”. If you have a 308 GTi and haven’t taken it to a track, you’re simply doing it wrong.

The secret to all this fun is not just the 200kW lurking inside the turbocharged 1.6, but also the 308’s low kerb weight - 1205kg is the number Peugeot claims, but surely that can’t be right. So, using a weighbridge (perhaps not an exact science, but we’ve got variables covered - we’ll get to that), I checked the GTi’s weight on the way back into Melbourne.

It turns out that, with me in the car and a couple of bags of items, 1360kg is the real-world figure. We can take 88kg off that for me and my belongings, and note that the 308 only had a quarter tank of fuel. Kerb weights are intended to include a full tank of fuel, so let’s estimate that 53 litres of fuel would weigh approximately 40kg (a litre of petrol weighs about 750 grams). At a quarter tank, that’s 10kg, so we can add the 30kg difference back to the weight for a full tank. Essentially without me, my gear and with a full tank, the 308 GTi weighs 1302kg.

So Peugeot’s claim is about 100kg off, but remember the other hatches I said were around on the day? A Civic Type R is claimed to weigh 1393kg, and the Megane Trophy 1419kg. If they are as optimistic as the GTi’s, it has them beat by a couple of hundred kilos.

Finding out the GTi was heavier than the claim wasn’t a huge surprise, and it definitely didn’t cast a shadow over an otherwise excellent day of exploring the GTi’s breadth of ability.

But the end of the day did bring with it a little sadness. Because the drive back to Melbourne would be my last long stint in the GTi. Next month I have to hand back the keys to EBM-83C, and I really don’t want to.