Given the spare time I have due to lock down, I thought I'd take time to compare my daily driver with my weekend toy. Two quite different vehicles, yet fairly similar cars in many ways. Regardless if people read it or not, I enjoyed writing it, and it killed some time whilst essentialy being under "house arrest". After all we are a species obsessed with comparing things to other things, when you get a new car, you immediately compare it to the last one, same when you get a new partner or phone or house.
Let's start with the obvious, both cars were manufactured with performance as the design breif. Yes the boxster has always been a two seater mid engined convertible, but the 308 started as a mid sized family hatchback with various petrol and diesel engines, winning European car of the year when it was first unveiled in 2014, beating the Tesla Model S, which is a coincidence given the new 208 just beat the Model 3 in the same award ceremony recently.
Both cars have very similar power outputs, 270 bhp in the GTi and about 280 in the boxster, its delivered very differently however. The French offering is very light, the lightest in its class according to some, which explains partially its low tyre and brake wear, high fuel efficiency and above all agility, but also means it's power to weight ratio is almost exactly the same as the slightly heavier Porsche. Having driven mostly small displacement turbo charged engines for at least the last decade, I was initially underwhelmed with the lack of punch served up by the boxter, missing that huge chunk of low down torque delivered by turbos. It wasn't until I had familiarised myself with the feel of the car did I begin to test the performance, and it's then I realised the power band is much higher up in the rev range. In fact, peak torque in the Peugeot is probably around 3500 rpm which is when it makes sense to change up a gear, but in the Porsche, things are only just warming up then. The 3.2 litre flat 6 is very rev happy and rewards you with a combination of deep induction grunt, and an aggressive roar right up until 7000 rpm, all perfectly audible thanks to the engine being sat right behind the front seats. So you have to change your driving style accordingly between cars, enjoy the stong pull in the low to mid rev range in the GTi, changing early to use all that available torque, and make the most of the mid to high revs in the Porsche, changing up later on.
Steering is quite different too. The tiny go kart style wheel in the Peugeot is designed to be set lower, and is electrically assisted. Its nicely weighted and not over assisted like many other electric systems, and can be artificially made heavier in sport mode. The most noticeable difference on the road is the fast rack combined with the small wheel, means smaller inputs have greater effect, which on a bendy road feels awesome as switching direction and adjusting the line is quick and effortless. The boxster has an old fashioned hydraulic system, not to say that's a bad thing, it's quite intuitive and generally has more feedback, the downside is its quite a heavy operation which can make urban manoeuvres such as turning in the road and parking a bit of a chore. The clutch in the Porsche is also heavy to operate, again making frequent gear changes, such as driving in an urban environment, more difficult, perhaps a sign the clutch is beginning to wear. The gear change itself is a pleasure however. As with most gearboxes, I've found it takes a few miles before the fluids and components warm up, and the Boxster has a short travelling, light, snappy precise operation as you'd expect from a German car, making those chang ups and downs instant and pleasurable. There's nothing wrong with the gear changes in the GTi, sure there's a slight notchy feeling, and more travel, but it's still light and precise enough not to ruin the experience, and the polished aluminium gear knob feels nice in the palm of your hand as you potter about your business. The ginormous brakes on the Peugeot have instant yet progressive bite too, even on the original disks at over four years old. The Boxsters work fine, although it's widely recognised by comparison to most cars, you are required to press quite hard on them to have decent effect. If I've been driving the Porsche alot, the first time I brake in the Peugeot thereafter feels like I'm going to hit the dashboard.
Ride and handling. Both cars have excellent handling, as you would expect, the GTi turns in more sharply, has immense levels of grip, with the limited slip differential, under steer is a very rare occurrence, even in a front wheel drive car with the majority of the weight at the front. Oversteer is just as rare, although if pushed beyond the boundaries, it will flick out, this mostly happens during lift off oversteer, a common trait of cars with this set up. The Porsche stays very flat through the bends, and feels very well balanced, having the engine in the centre gives fantastic weight distribution and you can really feel it through the bends. Oversteer is quite easy to encounter, especially in the wet, but thanks to the intuitive steering feedback and afore mentioned weight distribution, it's far less of a drama than you'd expect, you can feel the rear step out, and it's very easy to correct, whereas in the GTi, it can be a slightly more hairy affair without any weight or drive wheels at the rear to help correct things. Haven't really felt any understeer in the boxster yet, which is surprising, the tyres are narrower and there is hardly any weight towards that end, evident by the tyre life which I noticed are now 6 years old and still have tread left. Perhaps that's why Porsche put the fuel tank at the front and made the bonnet so long? My only criticism recently is that the car is suffering badly from tram lining. You can place the car I the centre of the road with the white line down the middle of the car (when the road is empty) and as the car drifts, the white line will act like a crude lane assist, gently pulling the car back into the middle. I recently changed the rear tyres, so between those and the suspension replacement, I will hopefully figure out why the car is behaving in this unnerving confidence bashing way. I've also booked to have the wheel alignment and tracking done so see if that resolves it.
The ride in the Porsche is perhaps one of it's let downs. It's very harsh, even with the standard springs I replaced like for like, you feel almost every minor imperfection on the road, speed bumps are not fun, and generally the ride is pretty crashy, and there's also alot of suspension ambient noise too, and by that I mean you feel the bumps, but you also hear them. This gets better as speed increases, hopping over imperfections on the open road, however around town, the ride can ruin the fun a little. In the Peugeot however things are very different, the ride whilst firm, still remains supple, quiet and refined, helped no doubt thanks to hydraulic dampers and progressively rated springs. There is a tiny bit more lean in the corners in the Peugeot, but it's a much taller car, overall I think they've nailed the way it rides.
Practicality wise, no points for guessing the winner here, with its three extra seats, two extra doors and massive rear boot, the GTi offers far more passanger and luggage space. Having said that, I've yet to have been defeated by a food shop in the Porsche, in fact, so far I've managed to get all my shopping I the front boot (frunk) without even venturing into the rear boot (or passanger footwell if desperate) which is surprising because I usually buy enough food to last me 2-3 weeks at a time. Its one of the main plus points of Porsche's, for a two seater Sports car, it offers way more cargo space than other rivals out there. And that brings me onto long distance cruising. Whilst many boxster owners are happy to go on extensive trans European road trips, for me, given the choice, I'd have to take the Peugeot. The Porsche is quite an unrefined beast, there is less sound insulation, more road, tyre, engine and wind noise, you feel more of the road and the changing surfaces. It's all part of the car's character in a way, and offers a purer drive. There's also no cruise control on mine, and obviously it's far less fuel efficient given that the engine capacity is exactly twice that of the GTi. My personal best trip yielded an indicated 37.7 UK MPG, which is very respectable, especially as I had the roof down so I was perhaps expecting an aero penalty. The Peugeot is almost the exact opposite, for a car of this nature, its very refined, quiet and relaxing to drive sensibley. It has an excellent sat nav, cruise control and massaging seats keep those lower back pains at bay. Tyre noise is minimal even on 19" rims, as is general road and wind noise. It's also very fuel efficient, achieving 45-50+ UK MPG on long stints. Whilst driver enjoyment begins to dwindle around town in the Porsche, with its poor visibility due to sitting so low, and it's crashy ride and heavy clutch and steering and embarrassing turning circle, the Peugeot is just as happy in the concrete jungle as it is on the open road. The calm quiet cabin and smooth (ish) ride, higher seat aiding visibility and other such benefits like faster steering, a tight turning circle, all round parking sensors and a high definition reversing camera make the GTi a perfect candidate for shopping or school runs, commuting or business trips, whatever your urban chores involve, and the quick acceleration means you can switch lanes and nip in and out of traffic very easily.
To summarise then, the Boxster is a fun little machine, it still looks good at 15 years old, it sounds good and it goes good too. The well balanced chassis, nice sounding engine and open top motoring make it an appealing weekend toy to throw around the A roads. The general appeal gains admiring glances and comments from other people and makes you feel like a super car owner, despite the fact that this cost almost half the price of my Gti. The Peugeot is still a better car overall, its to be expected given its ten years newer, and has just as much fun to offer, but in a more family friendly more practical, more comfortable, more reliable package that can be driven anywhere at any time in any weather, and can be a hoot to drive even as a daily driver. I guess that's what makes a hot hatch so successful, and I guessing that's why it will always be my "in between" car for my everyday stuff, whilst other rarely used toys will come and go over the years. I can see me keeping the car that does everything for a long while yet, until something similarly decent comes along.
If I could mate the two cars and have both in one package, these are the characteristics I would want from each:
Peugeot: Practicality, comfort, massaging seats, infortainment system, cruise control, build quality, reliability, running costs, fuel efficiency, use of lightweight materials, the LSD, safety, that steering wheel, general refinement, handling and grip, the dark piercing LED highlights, ease of driving, those huge brakes.
Porsche: Sporty looks, quality carpets, nicely engineered cup holders, the sound of the engine, open top motoring, the brand itself, the frunk, heated seats, the gear change operation, driving position, thick steel bodywork and quality of paint, weight distribution.
They do for non-essential journeys. I was stopped and questioned because I had been seen on the same road at the same time two days running.
Even for exercise you are only allowed to drive to a place of exercise if the driving time is less than the exercise time. You cannot drive for an hour for a half-hour walk.
2006 Honda Jazz 1.2i-DSi S Vivid Blue Pearl