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First drive Peugeot 208 GTi review

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    The 208 is already a good looker, and the GTi builds on that with subtle sporty flourishes. Photo Gallery

Karla Pincott road tests and reviews the new Peugeot 208 GTi at its international launch.

4.5

This is a little car with big shoes to fill. The Peugeot 208 GTi wants to reclaim the halo of its legendary ancestor, the 205 GTi – the feisty bantam that set hot hatch benchmarks in the 80s-90s -- and erase the blander footprints of the generations in between.

"The new 208GTi draws a direct link back to the original hot hatch predecessor, the 205 GTi,” Peugeot Australia boss Bill Gillespie says. “The 205 GTi built the Peugeot hot hatch reputation and the 208 GTi is a modern take on that hot hatch theme.”

But while Peugeot wants the new GTi to revive the old reputation, it can’t be completely old school in the approach. Despite nostalgia for the bare bones attitude of the 205, today’s cosseted buyers would shun its spartan fit-out.

VALUE

While the 208 descendant salutes the basic tenets – including being manual only – it’s far from base spec. Australian pricing hasn’t been confirmed yet, but the current 208 top spec is $26,490 so you can expect the GTi is likely to be around $30,000, for which you get a well-equipped package with park assist, 7-in infotainment touchscreen and enough premium fit-out to make it feel special.

It faces savage competition from the hot hatch herd, but in the weigh-up the 208 GTi offers best delivery for the dollars.  From Germany, there are the $27,990 Skoda Fabia RS and Volkswagen stablemate Polo GTI at $28,990, but the Peugeot is more fun and better looking.

Fellow Gallic rival, the Renault Clio RS 200, has the next model waiting in the wings – with a 1.6-litre turbo engine that delivers more than the current model’s 2.0-litre. But even when the newcomer is being tipped to come in under the current $36,490 price tag, it's a big stretch over the Peugeot.  Up around that level, Ford’s brilliant (and larger) $38,290 Focus ST has already proven its performance ability, as has the $40,700 Mini Cooper S . 

TECHNOLOGY

For its part, the 208 GTi squeezes 147kW of power and 275Nm of torque from its 1.6-litre turbo-petrol – the same unit in Peugeot’s RCZ and the Citroen DS3 -- delivering to the front wheels via a six-speed manual, with the purist promise of no auto option.

There’s no start button, either: you kick it into action with a traditional key. And none of the exhaust-note tweaking wizardry found in some rivals. But the little firecracker hasn’t completely spurned tech trickery, with accelerometer data fed to a cornering-assist system that trails the inside bake calliper on the bigger, beefier discs. 

It’s all about agility, but there’s enough urge on tap as well. It posts the 0-100km/h at 6.8 seconds – and from 80-120km/h in 8.4 -- peaking at 230km/h. It’s slung lower and wider -- 10mm at front and 20mm at rear -- on 17-in wheels, and woven into the greedier footprint is a stiffer version of the suspension’s McPherson-strut front and multi-link rear.

And some of the best news: Peugeot has trimmed the weight to 1160kg – 165kg under the 207 GTi and to varying degrees also lighter than the main rivals.

DESIGN

The 208 is already a good looker, and the GTi builds on that with subtle sporty flourishes: flared arches, touches of bodykit, mesh grille flanked by daytime running lights, trapezoid twin exhausts embedded through the rear fascia and GTi badging on the C-pillar saluting the 205.

A scatter of satin chrome and red accents inside set off the dash and deep-bolstered leather sports seats, aluminium pedals and gearknob and tiny, chunky steering wheel with its red centred marker.

The car is small, but -- unless you’re of massive build – you’ll feel snugly embedded rather than cramped. But it can take some jockeying to get the wheel and yourself to a drivable position where you can take in all the instruments. If you have the wheel low enough to clearly see over the top, long legs will tangle with it every time there's pedal action.

You get 285 litres of boot space, so it offers some practicality, but you won’t be carting any fridges home.

SAFETY

The 208 gets a five-star safety rating, with six airbags on board, stability control and anti-skid brakes with extra assistance for panic stops and to counter uneven loading.

DRIVING

The GTi is all about response, and getting the job done without fuss. The styling isn’t attention-seeking, and if the exhaust note isn’t as rorty as you’d like, it won’t matter once you get going – the attitude will be rousing enough.

Push that pedal and the engine answers instantly, keep the revs high enough and it keeps giving more. Up above 3000 is where it really generates heat, but a wide torque band means it’s smooth and strong in the lower register for normal – or mildly keen – jaunts. At that level it’s surprising comfortable, with the firm suspension still managing to baffle all but the worst ruts.

There’s joyous snicking through the close-ratio gear slots with the sharp, precise shift feel. And while the GTi may not lead for firepower, it’s not falling behind in the fun stakes. Get it going and the car feels suctioned to the road, sashaying through corners with smooth glee. Pushed hard, it’ll betray a touch of body roll, but overall it’s well-balanced and confident.

There's no argument about the steering accuracy. Turn the wheel and the Pug obeys. And it’s that all-round tractability is the 208 GTi’s charm. You can fire it from corner to corner, then tickle it around town – and it will step up to the plate at either end of the job sheet.

VERDICT

Is it the 205 GTi? No, of course not. But a worthy successor, most definitely. It’s nimble, fast and fun – everything a hot hatch could be. And it’s stylish, well-equipped and good quality, which is everything any car should be.

This journalist is on Twitter: @KarlaPincott

Peugeot 208 GTi
4.5 stars
Price: under $30,000
Warranty: 3 years/100,000km
Capped serivicing: $270/yr for 3 yrs/60,000km
Service interval: 12 months/20,000km
Safety rating : 5-star
Engine: 1.6-litre 4-cyl turbo petrol, 147W/275Nm
Transmission: 6-spd manual; FWD
Thirst: 5.9L/100km; 98RON; 139g/km CO2
Tank: 50L
Dimensions: 3.9m (L), 1.7m (W), 1.4m (H)
Weight: 1160kg



RIVALS

mini cooper s
Mini Cooper S 
Price: from $40,700
Engine: 1.6-litre 4-cylinder, 135kW/240Nm
Transmission: 6-speed manual, FWD
Thirst: 6.3L/100Km, CO2 146g/km


 

Mini Cooper S - see other Cooper S verdicts

 

skoda fabia rs
Skoda Fabia RS
Price: from $27,990
Engine: 1.4-litre 4-cylinder, 132kW/250Nm
Transmission: 7-speed auto, FWD
Thirst: 6.2L/100Km, CO2 148g/km


 

Skoda Fabia RS - see other Fabia RS verdicts


 

vw golf gti
Volkswagen Polo GTi 
Price: from $28,990 
Engine: 1.4-litre 4-cylinder, 132kW/250Nm
Transmission: 7-speed auto, FWD
Thirst: 6.1L/100Km, CO2 142g/km


 

Volkswagen Polo GTi - see other Polo GTi verdicts

 

rs clio
Renault Clio RS
Price: less than $36,490
Engine: 1.6-litre turbo petrol, 147kW/240Nm
Transmission: 6-speed dual-clutch; FWD
Thirst: 6/3L/100km, 144g/km CO2


 

Renault Clio RS - see other Renault Clio RS verdicts

 


Ford Focus ST
Price: from $38,290
Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cylinder, 184kW/340Nm
Transmission: 6-speed manual, FWD
Thirst: 7.4L/100Km, 172g/km CO2


 

Ford Focus ST - see other Ford Focus ST verdicts


 

DS3 Citroen
Citroen DS3 DSport
Price: from $29,740
Engine: 1.6-litre 4-cylinder, 115kW/240Nm
Transmission: 6-speed manual, FWD
Thirst: 6.7L/100Km, 155g/km CO2


 

Citroen DS3 DSport - see other DS3 verdicts



 

Comments on this story

Displaying 2 of 2 comments

  • Quality article. So you make mention the Focus ST, which isn't even in the same class (it goes up against the larger hot hatches), and the Mini Cooper (which is a whopping $10k more!). You give the 208GTi a VERY good rating despite it having (from sounds of it) an absolutely stupid driving position. ANNNNND to top it off, you completely forget about the Corsa OPC which is a rival to this car. Remind us all how much Pugg paid for this fluff piece? I don't expect this to be published however. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- We mention that the Focus ST is larger, and that the Mini is more expensive. We also mention that the next Clio will offer a bigger challenge. We can't list every rival in the market, otherwise it would simply be a list of cars. The Pug gets an excellent rating because it's an excellent car. No, it's not the hardcore hero that was the 205 GTi, but it's a fantastic all-rounder and we loved it. We also mentioned that. - Carsguide.

    Laughable Review Posted on 01 May 2013 2:03am
  • I am tres excited! Can't wait for mine to arrive! Three more months though :-(

    Patsy of The Berra Posted on 20 April 2013 7:35am

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