READ speculation about the next-generation Renault Sport Megane and you might be tempted to rush out and buy a current-generation model simply because you can still lay claim to being master of your own cog.
Yep, while the truth about the next generation of Renault's legendary bum-dragger is hard to come by, we're hearing it'll be four doors with all-wheel steering – perhaps even all-wheel drive, a la Focus RS – a smaller engine and follow the Clio's lead by adopting an EDC twin-clutch auto. With no manual.
But before you start machine-gunning angry letters left, right and centre, the news is far from confirmed. Regardless, we hope the very reasons such news might upset a good portion of those who read this magazine has weighed on Renault's corporate mind.
Cars like the Peugeot 205 GTi and Renault’s nutty nat-atmo Clio III RS200 are prime examples of the Gallic talent for making performance heroes out of otherwise consumer models. And all traditional French hot hatches owe a lot of their legend to the fact you have to change gears yourself.
It's part of what makes the new Peugeot 308 GTi not a bad bit of kit. In fairness, we hear the only reason it doesn't have a twin-clutch is because they haven't got around to it yet, but let's conveniently ignore that for now and celebrate this H-pattern hottie.
The 308 GTi 270 scores a six-speed pinched from the now defunct RCZ-R, which comes shot blasted and fused with more carbon-atoms for strength.
Dodging an automatic (so far) has helped the 308 GTi 270 keep remarkably light. At 1205kg, and packed with 200kW, it's rated at 166kW-per-tonne – 24kW clear of a Megane RS275. Not even the radically lightened Trophy-R can touch that.
This makes life easier for its engine which, despite its 200kW/330Nm, stacks up tiny in this company. With big boost and trick internals Peugeot Sport's boffins extracted those outputs from just 1.6 litres.
Then there’s price. Developing a dual-clutch capable of handling the GTi’s grunt would add a fair chunk to its $49,990. And the extra dough needed would push it into dangerous territory. For now, though, it's manual – and Peugeot Australia says customers are loving three-pedal versions of its performance models, around 17 per cent of 208s sold are the manual-only GTi.
Peugeot's reissued the 208 GTi’s metallic gearknob for duty in the 308, too, but we're not complaining – unless it's January, when you could cook an egg on it. But otherwise it's a goodie.
The clutch, too, won't wear out your left leg, even in traffic, but it nibbles rather than bites during take off, which makes getaways difficult. The 270's enormous grabbers are also prone to trapping dust, and sometimes groan as you pull away – but Peugeot assures that this is just part and parcel of the pretty serious hardware.
With the clog pinned, the GTi’s nose crabwalks as the LSD tries to manhandle 330Nm in first gear. The front treads chirp on the upshift to second before hitting 100km/h in a claimed 6.0sec. And you can relax in third for corners, surfing the engine’s meaty mid-range or extending to its revvy top-end.
Rowing the ’box isn't as precise as with a rod-linkage type, but a miss-shift wouldn’t be any fault of the gearbox's. Sport mode lights up the rev dial in red, which looks great, but only problem is it then hides the 6500rpm redline. Oh, those kooky Frenchies.
If you do accidentally bump the limiter, though, the lever's long throw and reassuring 'thunk' as it lands the next gate is a soothing remedy. One you’re happy to savour at 54km/h into second, then 99km/h, and then at 132km/h if you need fourth gear.
Unfortunately, while the gears are wonderful to ascend, pedal spacing makes heel-and-toe tricky.
However, awkward downshifts are a small price to pay for what is an involving link between driver to machine. And hell, we only need to climb back into the current Renault Sport Clio and weep at the sight of P-R-N-D to forgive the 308 GTi of any of its H-pattern shortcomings. Because who knows, while Renault Sport recently unveiled the RS16 SuperClio – think a 'normal' Clio IV RS, but with an RS275 engine and manual gearbox, a step in a VERY positive direction – it's not clear whether it'll reach production.
Regardless of Renault's own moves, Peugeot releasing a hot hatch in 2016 as manual-only is a vote of confidence in the configuration's continued popularity. And that alone has got to be worth celebrating.
Think two clutches are better than one? The GTi 270 we've tested hit 6.09sec to 100km/h and 14.16sec quarter, significantly quicker than VW's Golf GTI Performance's 6.8/14.9. The Pug may be lighter and faster, but shows old-school tech can be just as effective.
5-door, 5-seat hatch
1598cc inline-4cyl, DOHC, 16v, turbocharger
77.0 x 85.8mm
200kW @ 6000rpm
330Nm @ 1900-5500rpm
struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar
torsion beam, coil springs, anti-roll bar
380mm ventilated/drilled discs, 4-piston calipers
268mm solid discs, single-piston calipers
19.0 x 9.0-inch (f/r)
235/35 ZR19 (f/r)
Michelin Pilot Super Sport
Great drivetrain; heaps of grip; classy looks
Needs more playful handling