Rampant axle tramp, slack body control, an engine that wilts at the top end and seats that give no meaningful support.
Lots of today’s hot hatches are so well executed they feel more like upright sports cars than repurposed hatchbacks, but – evidently – not all of them.
The Seat Leon Cupra 300 and Peugeot 308 GTi 270 both play supporting roles in the hot hatch sector, while the likes of the Ford Focus RS and Honda Civic Type R hog all the limelight. The Cupra brand is now well established in its own right, though, and the recently rejuvenated Peugeot Sport sub- division has been given licence to build focused, high-specification performance cars rather than the lazily engineered warm hatchbacks that the French marque had found itself producing.
No matter how many times you’ve driven the 308 GTi in the past, it always takes time to adapt to its unusually small steering wheel. That’s a shame, because it means the first impression is a less than positive one. You drive it as you would any other front-driven hot hatch at first, but the tiny helm makes the car feel nervous and unsettled. Soon, though, you learn to calm your steering inputs and it doesn’t seem like such a hindrance any more.
The Peugeot’s engine is about as good as four-cylinder turbo units get. Response is decent, power throughout the mid-range is very strong and the top end is lively and energetic. The differential, meanwhile, can be a little grabby, but it gets the power to the road effectively and tightens your line in bends. The body is tautly controlled and the natural chassis balance is actually quite pointy, which means the GTi has a tenacious front end and lots of adjustability.