This is the home of automobile road tests in South Africa. We drive South African cars, SUVs and LCVs under South African conditions. It also just happens that most of the vehicles we drive are world cars as well, so what you read here probably applies to the models you can get at home.
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Mini test: 2011 Peugeot 308 GTi 1.6 THP
No boy racer stripes or go-faster frills
Published in The Witness Motoring on Wednesday January 12, 2011
This is the Premium Pack version of the 308, a well-equipped four-door hatchback fitted with most of the toys one expects. There is automatic central locking, electrically adjustable outside mirrors that fold away on shutdown, a decent basic music system with USB and RCA plugs, Bluetooth phone connectivity, front fog lamps and a full-sized alloy spare wheel. Rain sensitive wipers, automatic headlights, front and rear parking aids, a full-length glass sunroof, six airbags and electrically operated kiddie locks add to the package.
This is the fire-breathing version of the 1600 cc motor fitted, in varying states of tune, to others in the stable. Developing 147 kW/275 Nm, it also powers the Jekyll and Hyde RCZ we drove recently. With Peugeot's Sound System technology, you can drive decorously and quietly like your mother, or release your inner naughty teenager to make it rasp and howl.
The test car:
No boy racer stripes or go-faster frills here; just a diffuser, deeper front and rear aprons, twin tail pipes, a roof winglet, GTi script on the rear panel and 18" wheels in place of the 17-inchers found on regular Premium Pack cars. Unseen is lowered suspension with tweaks to make it handle better, recalibrated steering, and brakes off the RCZ. Peugeot says the result is a tauter, more defined chassis, suspension and steering package allowing sharper and more responsive road manners, but without compromising everyday driver appeal. In plain English: the ride is less intense than on the RCZ, but Oy! she handles.
Interior trim is pure 308 rather than the all-out luxury of the RCZ. Seats are leather and cloth, while adjustments are made with mechanical levers and knobs. They are still very supportive though, possibly more so than those on the coupé. The boot is about right for a small to medium car, at 272 dm3 expanding to 1 136 dm3 with the backrests folded. They do not fold completely flat, unfortunately. Rear seat leg- and headroom for six-footers is quite good, as is entry and exit.
Ratios in the six-speed manual 'box are nicely spaced and its action is positive. Gearing in top sees about 3 200 rpm at 120 km/h. The power band is wide, with maximum torque happening between 1 700 and 4 500 rpm, so there's bags of thrust from almost any speed.
The full-length glass sunroof adds to the bright, airy feel of the car. Its inner blind can be stopped anywhere along the path of travel, so you can choose just how much light you want. The roof itself does not open or tilt. Tall people might find it awkward to see out the left front window as the door pillar intrudes slightly when the seat is pushed back. Outward vision is otherwise excellent.
How does it compare with the German car that made "GTi" famous? The 308 makes a bit less power and torque from its smaller engine, so all-out performance is marginally less. It's better equipped though and is priced about R24 000 lower, so it probably balances out. The final choice between flair and efficiency is up to you...
Price: R293 335
Engine: 1 598 cc four cylinder with twin-scroll turbocharger
Power: 147 kW between 5 800 and 6 800 rpm
Torque: 275 Nm between 1 700 and 4 500 rpm
Zero to 100 km/h: 7.7 seconds
Maximum speed: 237 km/h
Real life fuel consumption over 300 km: about 8.2 l/100 km
Tank: 60 litres
Warranty: 3 years/100 000 km
Service plan: 5 years/90 000 km
This is a one-man show, which means that road test cars entrusted to me are driven only by me. Some reviewers hand test cars over to their partners to use as day-to-day transport and barely experience them for themselves.
What this means to you is that every car reviewed is given my own personal evaluation and receives my own seat of the pants judgement - no second hand input here.
Every car goes through real world testing; on city streets littered with potholes, speed bumps and rumble strips, on freeways and if its profile demands, dirt roads as well.
I am based in Pietermaritzburg, KZN, South Africa. This is the central hub of the KZN Midlands farming community; the place farmers go to to buy their supplies and equipment, truck their goods to market, send their kids to school and go to kick back and relax.
So occasionally a cow, a goat or a horse may add a little local colour by finding its way into the story or one of the pictures. It's all part of the ambience!
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