You wouldn’t expect a few nips and tucks to make any difference to the way the car drives, and they don't. Although we were unable to drive the 308 GTi on the road, it felt identical to the version we ran as a long-termer.
Although it's 400cc down on the majority of mid-sized hot hatches, the 308 GTi’s engine feels strong and has a pleasingly linear power delivery. It won’t rev like the Honda Civic Type R’s 2.0-litre turbo unit, and the augmentation of the sound isn’t particularly convincing, but it’s certainly an effective engine.
Grip levels are high, thanks to those Pilot Super Sports, but they do highlight a chassis that’s a bit too soft for really hard track work. You certainly feel the diff pulling the nose of the car towards the apex under power, but it too could be harder in operation. The balance of the car is predominantly nose-led, but a lift will tuck the front in. Really bung it into a corner and you’ll find the tail edges around but is easily caught once you’re back on the power.
If only Peugeot had taken the opportunity to retune the two things that really let the GTi down: the steering and gearbox. Due to the high-mounted instrument cluster (i-Cockpit in Peugeot speak), the wheel is tiny and connected to a very quick rack. While it means little wheel twirling is needed, the steering can feel hyperactive at times and transmits precious little feedback from the front tyres.
As for the gearbox, the ratios are well chosen, but the shift quality is vague and not at all satisfying. To be honest, though, the track is not the best place for the 308 GTi. No, it’s much better thought of as a rapid but relatively sensible hatchback in the mould of the Volkswagen Golf GTI. Here you can appreciate the reasonable fuel economy, a ride that is more comfortable than more hardcore rivals and agreeable CO2 emissions.
We’ve already touched on the interior, where you’ll find that i-Cockpit either works for you or doesn’t. Some might find the wheel obstructing the instruments when it's set to your preferred position, but the layout will be fine for others.
As for interior quality, there’s a good spread of soft-touch plastics, and the nappa leather on the steering wheel and door pulls looks and feels classy. There are enough GTi-specific touches to distinguish it from regular 308s, including supportive sports seats, red highlights and a few GTi logos.
As for the new infotainment system, it does look marginally crisper but still frustrates in other ways. Some of the icons are a bit small, but the main issue is that the screen controls almost everything. That means delving into the menus to adjust the air conditioning, for example; sometimes buttons are just better.