We are no strangers to Peugeot products. In fact, the main car for the Route Hunters operations would be our 208 GTi. This car has already clocked 125,000km in just 3 years, most of them via hard driving on some of the best driving roads in Malaysia. With such reliability and robustness as its reputation, we were excited to find out how its bigger sibling would perform on our roads.
Malaysia gets the Peugeot Sport version of the 308 GTi, which features a whole host of juicy factory upgrades. Thanks to some coaxing and luck, we managed to get some precious time behind the wheel of this mad hatch. Although it was a limited run, we learned a great deal about the car and here are our findings on what we love about Peugeot’s latest hot hatch.
1. It’s a Manual
And not just any manual, it’s a close ratio gearbox which has a very aggressive tune towards acceleration. It’s hard to come by performance vehicles with 3 pedals, especially with more and more blasphemous “modern men use two pedals” stickers seen on cars these days. So this is good news indeed. To handle all 330Nm of torque which comes in from just 1900rpm, the gearbox shafts have been shot blasted and its pinion gears treated with deep carbonitriding. This is the kind of thing you do to an RB26DETT crankshaft when you build a 1000bhp Skyline engine. It comes standard from the Peugeot factory for this car.
2. Extremely comfortable for the daily
The roads around the Glenmarie area in Shah Alam are in dire shape due to the LRT 3 construction project. It was a perfect place to test the comfort of this car. Despite riding on 19 inch rims, the ride quality of this GTi is still good. It’s noticeably stiffer than the 208 GTi when the bumps are really sharp, but below 80kph, it’s hard to see what the fuss is all about. The leather / alcantara trimmed sport seats further add to this experience offering support and comfort in equal measure.
And that is partially because the 308 GTi weights nothing when compared to the rivals in its class. Despite having beefed up chassis components, huge 380mm brakes, and 235 section tyres, the 308 GTi is a full 100kg lighter than the Golf GTi, and a hilarious 185kg lighter than the FK8 Honda Civic Type R. Therefore it does not require super stiff springs or dampers that ruin its ride quality and composure.
4. Jekyll and Hyde persona
Despite being comfortable and civilized, there’s a complete wild side to the GTi’s chassis. When you bury the throttle pedal this 270bhp turbocharged car just takes off like an ACME rocket. That’s when the car suddenly becomes ‘tight’ and ‘sharp’. In the tightest turns of Jalan Kerjaraya, which leads to the Glenmarie Golf and Country Club from the Peugeot showroom, the 308 GTi provides plenty of traction and does not feel unstable.
As you yell out profanities, you appreciate the far more aggressive chamber set up for the front, which increases to -1.5 from -0.6 and the 11mm ride height drop. The damping rates have been increased significantly with new dampers, springs and bump stops. The front anti-roll bar however has been softened to help with turn in. The rear cross-member has been increased in stiffness which is apparent in the first two turns where I felt that perhaps the tail could break free if I was a bit more aggressive on the turn in. This would have to wait for a later day to be verified.
5. Aggressive gearbox and diff
And finally the piece de resistance of the 308 GTi PS would be its Torsen limited slip differential. No electronic trickery here. Just good old mechanical lock which can split the power to 65:35 under hard acceleration in the turns. The way it puts the power down in the turns is simply spooky. Turn in, plant the throttle and where understeer is supposed to say hello, the car keeps gripping while the rpm needle races to redline.
But what we would consider to be the secret weapon of this car is its gearbox ratios. For a car weighing only this much and 330Nm of torque, the gearbox is fairly close. It may not have the highest top speed, but I’m willing to wager that this mad hatch might worry some pretty big names on roads like Kuala Kelawang or Fraser Hill to Raub. It’s hard to put this in words but once you hit full boost and see how fast you go from 3rd gear to 5th, you will fully appreciate the whole setup of this car.
The most surprising aspect of the Peugeot 308 GTi’s gearbox is the strength treatment it’s received. The gears have undergone something called Carbon Nitriding and shot blasting. Basically carbon and ammonia gas (for the Nitrogen) is introduce in a high heat environment to the gearbox components, and later shot with high density metal particles, and they are re cleaned to make sure the sheer strength of the gearbox materials are drastically improved from standard. This is the type of treatment that’s given to 2JZ and RB26 crankshafts for 1000bhp engine builds.
I could go on and on about what I had experience in the 20 minutes I spent behind the wheel of this car. However, I am now more curious of its full potential on proper driving roads. The sneak peek alone does not cut it for me, I now want more. Rumor has it that this car’s set to go on sale with a sticker price of less than RM200,000. If that’s the case then this has to be one of the most aggressive performance cars you can buy for this price, brand new. What do you think about this car? Share your thoughts with us!