Peugeot 208GTI re-establishes sporty heritage

In my road test of the Peugeot 208 earlier this year you may have detected a certain anticipation of the day when I would get my hands on the Peugeot 208GTI. Now that wait is over.

Back in the 1980s, the only thing that could prise me out of the driving seat of my old Peugeot 205GTI was the opportunity to trade up to the 1.9-litre 205GTI. Since then, hot versions of Peugeots hatches have failed to live up to the 205GTI’s high standards, but maybe the 208GTI can succeed where others had failed?

Under the bonnet is a 1.6-litre turbocharged engine that puts out 200 bhp. That translates into a 6.8 seconds 0-60 acceleration time and a 143 mph top speed. Weight loss and advances in the drivetrain mean that economy and emissions are pretty good for a hot hatch, with a combined fuel economy figure of 47.9 mpg and CO2 emissions of 139 g/km.

Peugeot 208GTI

As with the 208 5-door that I drove before, the first look-around of the 208GTI impressed. This is a more sophisticated and upmarket car, compared to some previous Peugeots in this class. This shift is deliberate, and Peugeot point out that this car is not aimed at the out-and-out performance market, like the 205GTI. This is a more mature model intended to have wider appeal.

The new styling direction for the French manufacturer was first seen on the Peugeot 3008. The rather unattractive gaping air intake has disappeared and, in its place, new Peugeots now sport a more traditional grille.

The result is a considerably more attractive style that has been given the sporty look with the addition of some tasteful sporting body tweaks and a chequered flag grille design. In a nod to the original 205GTI, there are badges on the rear pillar.

To my eye, the result is a neat and well-proportioned hatchback that sits lower and wider than its more humble 208 siblings

The dashboard and switchgear have stepped up significantly in showroom appeal. The black and silver has been complemented by red trim to communicate the GTI message.

Peugeot 208GTI power unit

I found the driving position very comfortable, but Peugeot have, rather controversially, decided that the instrument panel should be viewed above the steering wheel, rather than through it. Although I don’t understand the benefit of changing the normal convention, it worked for me. Others have complained that the steering wheel rim obscures part of the instrument panel. Best advice is to get yourself along to a Peugeot dealer and check it out for yourself.

The steering wheel is small but manages neat trick of being light, while very direct and communicative. As with the original 205GTI, you really feel you can place the car on the road with confidence. Yet, when it comes to parking, the steering is light enough to manoeuvre easily.

Like the rest of the 208 range, the GTI has shed weight. This model is down 165kg compared to its 207 predecessor and this helps to give it a more nimble feel. It sits well on the road with a wider track than the less sporty 208s.



Pointing it at a favourite twisty by-way, I did feel a little like I was being transported back to the 205GTIs that I loved so much. This car has the same ability to follow the tarmac, feeding back enough information to both reward and inform the driver.

The handling is fairly neutral but when pushed really hard it tends, perhaps a little too strongly for some, towards understeer.

Driving with gusto on twisty roads demands instant and controllable power, along with well-chosen gear ratios and the 205GTI can tick both boxes. I like the immediacy of the power delivery, available even from low revs. Although surprisingly notchy I soon got used to the gearchange finding it positive and in tune with the sporty character of the car.

Peugeot 208GTI

The mature appeal of the 208GTI extends to refinement. It is notably quiet and although suspension is firm, it smoothes out most bumps well. 

While satisfying the sporty driver, the other important attribute of a hot hatch is practicality and, here, the 208GTI also satisfies. Space in the front is good and the rear seats are genuinely usable. The boot, at 285 litres, offers useable space.

The Peugeot 205GTI certainly is the strongest hot hatch contender the marque has had for some considerable time. I’d go so far as to say it re-establishes Peugeot’s credentials in this market.

Specifications

£18,895
Engine size 1598cc
Power 200bhp
6 speed manual
Combined MPG 47.9
CO2 emissions 139 g/km
UK VED band E
Max speed 143 mph
0-60 mph 6.8 secs
Boot 285 litres
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