These days we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to hot hatches.
Admittedly, some are more warm than hot, but not everyone wants to drive around in an overgrown go-kart.
The Ford Focus RS and Honda Civic Type R occupy the hardcore end of the spectrum, while the Golf R and Audi RS3 are a little more grown-up, but if you’re looking for something more restrained, then the Peugeot 308 GTi should definitely be on your shortlist.
Sporty in a discreet way, the 308 has a fine pedigree because it’s been developed by Peugeot Sport no less. And remember, Peuegot knows a bit about this sector – the Peugeot 205 GTi of the 1980s is, after all, one of the legendary hot hatches.
Attractively styled, the 308 GTi can be differentiated from its more regular stablemates by an exclusive black radiator grille, sexy red brake callipers, 19-inch alloys, a few discreet Peugeot Sport and GTi badges and an 11mm lower stance.
There are two versions available (both five-door) – it’s just a question of whether you want the 250bhp or 270bhp four-cylinder engine.
My test car was the more powerful of the two. Priced at £28,890, it came with supportive sports seats, leather and alcantra upholstery, plus a tiny steering wheel (measuring just 35 x 32cm).
The cockpit design has a unique Peugeot feel. Classy and distinctive, the raised instrument binnacle features cowled retro-looking dials set back slightly, while the clutter-free centre console is dominated by an 8-inch touchscreen.
Red piping on the dashboard, door panels and floor mats and an aluminium tipped gear lever complete the sporty look.
Press the Start button and the 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine, which until recently graced the RCZ R coupe (God rest its soul), fires up with a gorgeous growl.
Purists point out that it’s artificially enhanced via the speakers – all I know is that it’s a soundtrack I would never tire of.
It’s a sweet and deceptively powerful unit capable of propelling the GTi 270 to 62mph in six seconds and a top speed of 155mph.
Paired with a six-speed manual gearbox and Torsen limited slip differential, progress is as rapid or relaxed as you want it.
There’s bags of grip in dry conditions, but it should be treated with caution in the wet where the front wheels struggle slightly for traction, while the brakes provide serious stopping power.
The car is set up beautifully. Slightly firmer than half-fat 308s, it’s still comfortable, yet fast and totally planted.
Performance is one thing, but the GTi is economical too, if you can resist the temptation to plant your right foot. In theory, 47.1mpg is possible, though in the real world it’s likely to be closer to 35-40mpg, while CO2 levels are a low 139g/km.
The Sport mode deserves a mention. Press the button and the dials turn an angry red, the ride firms up and the exhaust note is even more intoxicating.
The GTi 270 may not be as fast as the Focus RS or as hardcore as a Civic Type R, but it’s a car that can thrill one minute then handle the school run the next.
Verdict: Understated, yet packing a punch, the 308 GTi by Peugeot Sport is a stylish, entertaining, comfortable and practical alternative hot hatch.
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