The ‘i’s have it (or do they) – Peugeot 308

On any normal day the GTi version outstrips the GT option in terms of performance and overall sportiness. The Exterior design is easily recognizable and the GTi interior has modifications that separate them the rest. Like I said, that’s on any normal day.

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The Peugeot 308 have broken the mold and gone with a very similar look. Obviously the body is the same spec but the differences are there if you know where to look. Hard to notice are things like that the GTi is 1mm taller and yet is 130kg’s lighter.

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The GT runs on 18” Diamant Alloys while the GTi has 19” Carbones. From the front they both sport the lion grille but the GT has a slat effect while the ‘i’ has gone for checker and both are badged accordingly. Strong shoulder lines travel down the sides of both cars and both have Peugeot ‘claw’ tail lamps with the GT showcasing twin ‘letterbox’ exhausts and the GTi opting for twin rounds. Like I said, you need to be on your game.

The similarities continue inside, with Peugeot deciding to use the same dash set up (and why wouldn’t they – it’s award winning after all). A 9.7” colour touchscreen controls the infotainment and I really like the instrument panels – the rev counter dial to the right rises anti-clockwise to meet the increasing speed dial (if they meet in the middle you’d be doing 250kph at 7,000 revs – I don’t recommend it).

 

Both cars have a side plate size wheel (that feel brilliant) and both have their corresponding model badges on them. The GTi has leather effect and alcantara bucket seats that are sport badged and have a massage setting (to keep you relaxed while you drive fast I assume).

In the centre console (beside the gearsticks) is a big red ‘Sport’ button – pressing this engages the sport pack that (on both cars) further enhances the sporty ambiance of the vehicles. The instrumentation panel changes from white to red and more information pops up front and centre (power, torque, turbo pressure, lateral and longitudinal acceleration), oh and the engine sound is amplified and both cars take on a different persona.

Even if you keep the throttle at the same position, the revs increase and the car leaps forward – I recommend you do this – more than once!

Now on to the biggest differences, engine and transmission. The GT has a 6 speed Autobox (with paddles) while the GTi is solely and deliciously a 6 speed manual! The manual gearbox is coarse enough to ‘feel’ your gear selection yet engages very sweetly. After driving mainly auto’s it takes a few moments to get your head around a manual again, but when you do the skill and the thrill comes flooding back. YOU choose the gear you enter and exit corners in, YOU hold the gears to the rev limit, YOU have the wheel captain.

There are clear differences under the bonnets too.

The GT has a 4 cylinder 2L BlueHDi Turbo Diesel high performance engine that delivers 133kW’s and 400Nm of Torque to its front wheel drive. 0-100 comes to you in 8.4 seconds (but it feels a lot quicker) and has a top speed of 220kph. Combined fuel consumption is a remarkable 4.0 l/100km but I’m not sure you’ll drive to those numbers.

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The GTi however, has a 4 cylinder 1.6L petrol engine that delivers 200kW’s of power and 330Nm of Torque to its front wheel drive. The adjustable chassis, the high-pressure injection engine (200 bar), the sound of the exhaust, and the Torsen® limited-slip differential come together beautifully in the GTi. It accelerates from 0 to 100 kph in just 6.0 seconds, can cover 1,000 m from a standing start in just 25.3 seconds and has a (limited) top speed of 250kph. Combined fuel consumption is 6.0 l/100km, but again I’m not sure you’ll drive to those numbers either.

Although both cars deliver great amounts of power and their handling is something to really put a smile on your face (and even scare you a little), for me the GTi edges out ahead (even in mundane traffic). It slips the wheels when you want it to and yet on a long run (with your son telling knock knock jokes for an hour and a half) you can drop it into cruise control and relax with a massage.

If you want to stand out in the crowd, the GTi also comes with a unique paint job. Two contrasting colours (Ultimate Red and Nera Black) are divided by a surgically precise incision, it’s a paint finish known as ‘Coupe Franche.’ It’s produced in a special workshop and according to the manufacturer it symbolises the cutting edge personality of the New 308 GTi by Peugeot Sport. I know it will make your car easier to find when parked next to a 308GT that’s for sure!

 

I am reliably told that there is a significant sales ratio difference in favour of the GT and I totally understand it. Auto box, same exhaust growl, great handling but with better fuel economy, however (and I’m by no means a purist) there is something more fulfilling about driving a manual. You feel more involved, more in tune with the car, I know that the days of the manual are limited and that’s why we should grab them while the brands are still going out of their way to produce them. So my vote – the ‘i’s have it!

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