Tested: 2011 Peugeot 308 GTi

The sound argument

Certain names or descriptions have become global icons and in the motoring world they don’t come much more iconic than the acronym GTi. Never mind that it would roughly translate into grand touring injection; when the Germans stuck the badge onto a hot little Golf, a legend was born.

Many competitors have been, and still are, playing catch-up. Peugeot is one of them and even nicked the name for good measure, sticking it onto various edgy hatchbacks. So when their range-topping 308 offering made its debut, they sommer glued three GTi badges on it.

Employing their smooth and brawny 1.6-litre turbo-charged four cylinder in the attractive 308 shape, the French threw in sports seats and superb materials, slapped on some tasty 18-inch wheels and tricky electronics, bolted a spoiler to their sensation and shoved it out the factory gates.

Like it or not, I think the result of their efforts is deserving of the badge. The 308 GTi is an understated looker, well equipped, incredibly versatile and extremely eager to rip up the tarmac of your choosing. Its ride is slightly jarring at slow speeds but the cornering and high-speed stability are exemplary.

At this point I probably owe the poor 308 GTi an apology. Its responsive chassis and engine combination had me firmly convinced that this was a Golf GTi-matching, sub 7 seconds sprint to one hundred car. But it isn’t; which had me looking glum and borderline depressed for half a day.

Despite my best efforts and (what I perceived to be) spot-on launches and gear changes, my GPS showed me a best time of 7.8 seconds to 100km/h. Impossible. This vehicle feels much faster and I was perplexed how I couldn’t get it under 7 seconds, no matter how hard I tried.

Peugeot’s website lists most car’s acceleration as standard equipment so I had to dig a bit deeper (and elsewhere) to discover that my test mule was supposed to do the sprint in 7.7 seconds in ideal conditions. So I was only off by 0.1 seconds with half a tank of fuel, which fixed the glum and depressed issue.

Unfortunately that means that the fast 308 can’t tag along with GTi, Type-R and Focus ST but if it weren’t for the numbers staring at me, I would tell you that it can. In fact, I’ll go so far as to proclaim that its short gear ratios will allow it to at least annoy the three favourite sons a little.

It also produces 275Nm of torque (and a resonator-induced growl) through the crisp six-speed gearbox to the front wheels which means that the turbo is almost always spooled up and ready to go. And in true Peugeot tradition, it sticks to the road like you-know-what to a blanket.

Its alleged top speed of 237km/h is nearing its rivals’ figures and then the Peugeot takes out the real-world baseball bat and smacks the lot of them right between their collective eyes. It only uses an average of 6.9L/100km and its super-clean 147kW engine emits only 159g CO2/km.

And it costs… wait for it… just N$293 335. Good-bye, VW, Honda and Ford. Drag-race all you like, but a saving of N$30 365 over the cheapest rival is a substantial reason to purchase this Peugeot. Have I already mentioned that it’s super agile and extremely good fun to drive?

The steering is slightly over-assisted but responds instantly, the aluminium pedals are well weighted and the brakes are incredible. The aluminium gear lever is freezing in winter and a branding iron in summer, and I would’ve liked the GTi to feature more butch dials like those in the RCZ. How about it, Peugeot?

This 308 also features electronic force distribution and emergency assistant with its ABS brakes, traction control, anti-skid regulation and dynamic stability control all wrapped into its electronic stability program. It also packs six airbags, ISOFIX mountings, alarm, a full-size spare, home lights and remote central locking with auto lock.

You also get an RDS radio with CD/mp3/USB, Bluetooth connectivity and remote operation, half leather trim, full parking sensors, a gigantic glass roof with retractable cover, auto lights, auto wipers, power steering, power windows, power (and folding) mirrors, dual-zone climate control, cruise control and speed limiter.

The 308 GTi picks up where the RCZ left off – surprising me with its agility and attractive packaging. Factor in a three-year 100,000km warranty with five-year 90,000km service plan and you have a sound argument to ignore the mainstream crowd and buy the French GTi.


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