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One of the best hot hatches you could buy just got killed

By Andy Enright, 08 Apr 2020 News

Peugeot 308 GTi

Apparently a manual hot hatch no longer makes sense for Australia

It was one of our favourite hot hatches of recent years, but a change of strategic focus from Peugeot Australia means the brilliant 308 GTi has been axed.

The 200kW hot hatch hero, which finished on the podium in our last 12-car hot hatch megatest, pipped for the top spot only by the Hyundai i30N and the Civic Type-R, is being cut largely due to its manual gearbox, Peugeot only seeing a local business case for automatic 308s.

Peugeot 308 GTi frontWheels spoke to a Peugeot spokesman who confirmed that the 308 GTi had already left the building. “There are a small amount of GT models left in dealer land but we're completely out of every GTi that we brought into the country,” he said.

“The 1.6-litre engine in the 308 GT has been discontinued globally because it doesn't meet emissions, but the 308 GTi is a Peugeot Sport model that will only ever be offered as a manual. In this market that means limited sales for us.

“Peugeot is moving towards electrification and autonomous vehicles, and is moving away from putting large engines into small cars. We're opting for more fuel-efficient versions moving forwards, with the business spending a lot of money on Level 3 autonomy.”

Peugeot 308 GTi rearAside from the GTi, the rest of the 308 range has come in for a rejig too. There's but one engine available, a 96kW/230Nm 1.2-litre three-pot petrol unit that will power three variants: the $28,490 308 Allure hatch, the $30,490 308 Allure Touring Sportswagon and the $32,990 308 GT Line hatch. The 1.6-litre GT and GTi as well as the 2.0-litre turbo diesel Allure are all being phased out.

The 308 had long been a Wheels favourite, coming second at 2014's Car of the Year. The appeal of the car was best expressed in its dynamics, being both the lightest car in its class and one of the best-riding. The 308 GTi raised many eyebrows at our hot hatch megatest when it became apparent that it had the best power-to-weight ratio of any of the cars presented, Golf R Grid, WRX STi, Civic Type R – the lot. It was 65kg lighter than the Clio 200 we tested, despite being a class bigger.

Peugeot 308 GTi back halfSister title MOTOR ran one as a long termer and despite our good-natured digs at Chris Thompson for being unable to decide on a blue or black one (he got two for the price of one), he managed to sum up the GTI's appeal succinctly. “You've got to be looking for something different,” he explained, when making the Peugeot's case against the Golf GTI, “and the right kind of different.”

That latter part is key. There were aspects of the 308 GTi that not everybody got along with, such as the tiny, low-set steering wheel, the contra-rotating rev counter and the lack of an ESC Sport setting, but overall, it nailed the hot hatch brief extremely well.

Not well enough for auto-loving Aussies it seems, with a mere 185 sales since it was launched in 2017. We'll miss it.