Ford Fiesta ST 2014 review: road test
This is a great little hot-hatch at a surprising low price.
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The Peugeot 205 GTi held the hot hatch crown in the 1980s, and helped cement Peugeot’s motorsport reputation. It was raw, lively and fun, but with the uncivilised potential to get you into serious trouble. And the way it covered the ground between here and the horizon was astounding.
With its demise came a series of hot hatches that had all the Peugeot DNA, but they were neither lively nor fun. So with the new 208 GTi launching under the tagline “The GTI is back", Peugeot is hoping that means the magic is back as well.
The GTI-is-back line isn't just restricted to the marketing either, it's part of the car's styling - most obviously in the logo on the C-pillar, where once you would find a 1.6 or 1.9 badge. Echoing its ancestor, the wheel arches are all appropriately flared with plastic extensions, although the 208's are painted and less cartoonish.
Sadly absent is a reboot of the signature 205 GTi wheel designs – early telephone dial and multi-spoke Speedlines made famous by WRC cars – in favour of a more modern and intricate style. The body doesn't squat down over those wheels and from behind, you'll be hard-pressed to guess it from the rest of the range, apart from the trapezoidal exhausts.
From the front, there's a more aggressive bumper, grille and daytime running lights unique to the GTi - once you recognise them, you'll always see one coming. It sits lower and has wider front and rear track (10mm and 20mm respectively), with 17-inch alloys wrapped with 205/45 rubber. On the inside there's acres of piano black, set off by the retro cues of red stitching, red accents and squared off seat bolsters.
Peugeot's fondness for nostalgia does not, thankfully, extend to the cabin equipment. A high-tech interior comes with a complicated seven-inch touchscreen, with bluetooth, sat-nav and two USB ports. The dash and fittings are made from nicely textured soft plastics and the doors are capped with more piano black plastic that appears to bleed red over the handle.
The GTi hits our roads for $29,990, a full five grand cheaper than the run-out Renaultsport Clio (and probably the new one), but almost five more than the just-announced Ford Fiesta ST. It also has the cheaper - and popular - VW Polo GTI to contend with, which also has a DSG auto and two extra doors. Peugeot will also offer future assured value via their finance arm, as well as capped price servicing.
Under the bonnet is the same engine found in the RCZ and Citroen DS3 Sport - plus (whisper it) the Mini Cooper S and JCW. And it delivers just as much fun as in any of those cars. Smooth and muscular, it's good for 147kW and 275Nm of torque with just a six-speed manual available.
But sadly, despite the efforts of the exhaust engineers, the 208 doesn't have the sporty exhaust note they were looking for and none of the exuberant poppity-pop of the JCW. It certainly moves the 1167kg 208, reaching 100km/h in 6.8 seconds. The cornering control system uses the ABS sensors to nip a rear disc to help bring the back end into line if it all gets a little unruly.
Six airbags, ABS, traction and stability control and electronic brake force distribution all add up to five stars.
The driving position and controls might take a bit of getting used to. The steering wheel is genuinely tiny and with the flat bottom, there's less of it than if it had been round. It doesn't really make sense - the idea of a flat bottom is to make room for your knees.
You have to drop the wheel low so you can see over it to the dashboard, which seems counter-intuitive but it works, especially once you've found the paddle holding the cruise control. You may have to sit a little higher than you might normally.
Out on the road, it's a very easy car to drive, even in traffic. The ride is almost limo-like for a hot-hatch, something Peugeot used to do really well. Combined with the generous seats, clear vision out and an easy clutch and gearbox, this could be any good hatchback in everyday driving.
Floor it, however, and it comes alive with plenty of grip and plenty of character. Firing into a tight bend, you can feel all four corners working hard, with tyres at both ends happy to make noise as you head for the apex, letting you know where you've gone wrong and gently suggesting what to do about it.
Too fast? Just lift off the gas and the nose comes straight back with a vengeance, giving you confidence and the heroic feeling that you've found its limits. The body rolls a little bit more than expected but it delivers a better experience overall than a harder, lower machine might.
The brakes are strong and took a pretty serious pounding around the track and on the road without feeling like they would give up. The steering, while weightless, responds immediately, allowing you to dart left and right with a flick of the wheel - but it's not so fast a sneeze will cause an unscheduled lane change.
Is the GTi back? Yep, but it’s learned some extra manners. The 208 is civilised at all times but when you give it a kick, it'll fire up and show you it still knows the GTi tricks -- without ever losing patience and chucking you backwards through a fence.
The 208 is entering a war zone that in twelve months’ time will be packed with a battalion of hot hatches to choose from. It's got a big job ahead of it but for the first time in 20 years, Peugeot is well-armed for the conflict.
Peugeot 208 GTi
Price: from $29,900
Warranty: 3 years/100,000km
Capped servicing: $270/yr for 3 yrs/60,000km
Service interval:12 months/20,000km
Safety rating: 5 stars
Engine: 1.6-litre 4-cyl turbo, 147W/275Nm
Transmission: 6-speed man; FWD
Thirst: 5.9L/100km, 98RON
Dimensions: 3.9m (L), 1.7m (W), 1.4m (H)
Spare: Full size
|Active||1.2L, PULP, 5 SP MAN||$5,200 – 8,030||2013 Peugeot 208 2013 Active Pricing and Specs|
|Allure||1.6L, PULP, 5 SP MAN||$5,400 – 8,360||2013 Peugeot 208 2013 Allure Pricing and Specs|
|Allure Premium||1.6L, PULP, 4 SP AUTO||$6,200 – 9,570||2013 Peugeot 208 2013 Allure Premium Pricing and Specs|
|Allure Sport||1.6L, PULP, 6 SP MAN||$6,000 – 9,240||2013 Peugeot 208 2013 Allure Sport Pricing and Specs|