The Peugeot 208 GTi By Peugeot Sport is the compact hatchback with which Peugeot hope to have created a modern icon that will compare and compete on equal terms with their own, legendary 205 GTi. And that is consistently the biggest problem for Peugeot, especially when that GTi badge is added. Look at the 206 GTi and the 207 GTi, both excellent cars driven in isolation but when compared to the original, it really was something of an unfair fight. It’s almost as if the addition of more power, more weight and more driving aids diluted the purity of the driving experience and turned the consumer off from the two newer replacements, reputations sullied and never allowed to truly recover. The thing is though, the 206 and 207 GTi were good cars and driven on the correct roads at the correct time, could be staggeringly good it’s just that staggeringly good was never going to be good enough for the legions of fast Peugeot fans out there.
The 208 GTi By Peugeot Sport has a lot to live up to.
Inevitably larger and heavier than the original, the 208 arrives sporting a quite incredible 208bhp from its responsive, turbocharged 1.6L THP which, when combined with a tactile and responsive 6-speed manual gearbox, allows the driver to exploit the 300Nm of torque available at 3000rpm to the full. A stunningly quick 0-62mph of just 6.5s and a top speed of 143mph show the focus of Peugeot’s engineers with this hot hatch, it is very, very quick. Compare those figures to the original 1.9L 205 GTi which could complete the 0-60mph in 7.6s on its way to a top speed of 123mph and you can see the progress that Peugeot have made with less capacity and therefore far superior efficiency and economy.
The 208 looks good in pictures but even better in the flesh with a far more aggressive stance than it’s 308 GTi bigger brother, in my opinion (a review which can be read about by clicking here.) The 208 GTi By Peugeot Sport looks like a sports car, with a 10mm lower ride height than even the standard GTi and a 6mm wider track, bulging wheel arches, bodywork creases aplenty, unique ‘GTi’ grille with chequered flag design and matt black grille surround and that iconic red highlight on the lower grill. 18” Lithium Black alloy wheels combine perfectly with matt black wheel arch extensions, double round chrome exhaust tailpipe, red branded front brake callipers and exterior GTi by Peugeot Sport badging to finish a truly modern looking sports car. This really does look how a proper GTi should look.
Inside the 208 is just as special with it’s interior dominated by a pair of figure hugging sports seats finished in Alcantara with contrasting red stitching and branded with the Peugeot Sport nomenclature matched beautifully with the specific GTi by Peugeot Sport carpet mats. Like it’s bigger brother, the 208 includes the head-up instrument panel of the Peugeot I-Cockpit® which, Peugeot say, is directly in your line of vision, allowing you to read key vehicle information instantly without taking your eyes off the road, putting you in the ideal position for an intuitive driving experience, especially when combined with the responsive compact steering wheel. And you know what? It really doesn’t take long to wonder why other manufacturers aren’t doing the same as the clocks work exactly as intended giving you all the information you need whilst not taking attention away from your line through the bends up ahead.
And it’s out in the open that this Peugeot starts to make inroads into the 205’s legendary status as every drive is dominated by the sounds and feel from that incredible engine and accompanying excellent handling package. Travelling respectfully through towns and villages, changing up early, keeping the exhaust note to a minimum and enjoying the quite incredible economy that the GTi offers, including as it does, up to the minute stop start technology, means that you can enjoy a potential combined cycle of a quite stunning 52.3mpg and CO2 of 125g/km. There’s even room for two children in the back and a decent size boot for goodness sake.
But put the hammer down and the way that the 208 GTi By Peugeot Sport revs so quickly feels incredible, it really does comes alive around you. There’s a proper build up of power as the needles sweep furiously around their dials and the snick, snick, snick through the stunning gearbox allows the Peugeot to be unleashed upon the tarmac in anger. A cabin that reverberates with the growl from under the bonnet and booms with the noise from the exhaust, creates excitement for the driver whilst the steering feels pin sharp and responsive and the subtle suspension, not too hard when off the gas, allows the car to track flat and true throughout the countryside and stay just the right side of comfortable. A clever set up indeed.
It’s quite clear that the focus of this all new 208 GTi was always going to be the mating of that gorgeous 208bhp turbocharged gem of an engine with handling that allows for it to be exploited to the full. Indeed, Peugeot themselves state that: Whatever the driving situation, New 208 GTi by PEUGEOT SPORT offers exemplary road holding and helps you keep cornering tight and accurate: letting you enjoy all the sensations the road ahead has to offer. Specific spring shock absorbers and anti-roll centering contribute to New 208 GTi by PEUGEOT SPORT’s precision and agility, offering sharper handling and responsive steering. ESP and traction control have been recalibrated to make them less intrusive while driving and to allow the Torsen limited slip differential to work correctly: transferring torque from a wheel that is slipping to a wheel that has grip to improve road holding. A lowered centre of gravity, revised suspension geometry and Michelin Pilot Super Sport 205/40 ZR 18 tyres further optimise traction: a major asset when tackling bends!
And from the driving seat, with a ribbon of tarmac such as the B6451, Farnley Lane, Otley, West Yorkshire, stretching out ahead, you can certainly feel that effort by Peugeot’s designers and engineers as it translates on the road into a quite ethereal experience. The GTi is so intuitive to drive that it flatters and enhances in equal measures.
This is, in my opinion, a rightful successor to that 205 GTi of yesteryear. Head to head there would clearly only be one winner as the power and poise of this young pretender is superior in every way to it’s celebrated forefather. Technology, power, efficiency and safety are all the best that current knowledge can offer and yet this Peugeot can still be on your drive for just £22,900, an absolute bargain.
Only time will tell, if this 208 GTi By Peugeot Sport has the longevity and appeal to become part of hot hatch history in a way that the evergreen 205 GTi has become but for me, it would be absolutely criminal if it did not.
Where will you go?