The risk of babbling on about Peugeot’s legendary past in this instance is great. There hasn’t been a single instance since the 205 GTi that a motoring journalist hasn’t jumped at the opportunity to compare resultant models.
But I shall resist all urges; firstly because I’ve never had the pleasure of driving a 205 and second because it’s been long enough now and perhaps time to move on.
So, I introduce to you the Peugeot 208 GTi, a hot and fiery evolution of the French manufacturer’s standard super-mini introduced to stick it to Ford’s Fiesta ST and the Renault Clio RS.
On the outside
The GTi is lucky to start from what I think is a pretty little platform; enhanced by bigger wheels, flared arches, side skirts and a conspicuous rear spoiler. Chrome trim and a smattering of GTi badges round off the typical hot-hatch styling cues.
On the inside
The 208’s cabin is somewhat disjointed – perhaps inherently French considering the apparent lack of ergonomic consideration for the sake of pleasing the eye. The instrument cluster, for example, is completely hidden by the steering wheel. However settling into the GTi is an immensely pleasant experience. The seats are supportive, snug even, yet exceptionally comfortable. The steering wheel is wonderfully petite. The gear knob fills the hand with a chunk of brushed aluminium. As a driver you feel cocooned, the 208 guiding your concentration to the task at hand.
Behind the wheel
Beneath all the flash body work and interior comforts lies a reinforced front end, wider struts that house sports springs, tighter dampers and thicker anti-roll bars. The rear end has also been stiffened up a bit and Peugeot has opted for bigger brakes and uprated steering.
The above is all much needed to control what the 208’s powertrain brings to the party. The 1.6 litre turbo charged petrol unit develops a whopping 147kW and 275 torques, putting power to the front wheels via a six speed manual box that’s perhaps a little long in throw but otherwise quite pleasing. Nevertheless it’ll propel the near 1.2 ton pocket rocket from 0-100km/h in 6.8 seconds; putting the 208 GTi on top of the pile when it comes to mini-hot-hatches.
Surprisingly, taking it to the red line isn’t a blur of untamed, addictive excitement – most probably due to the fact that there isn’t any deviation in the power delivery (in other words there’s no point where it really comes alive). This isn’t necessarily a complaint, but rather a compliment to how seamlessly the turbo charger is incorporated in the powertrain. One thing is for sure, there can be no denying its raw straight line speed.
There’s a sense that Peugeot has worked hard to maintain the 208’s suspension flexibility in order to remain comfortable on uneven road surfaces, but still capable when pushing on. The result is that the suspension is short of being overly competent; wiggle the wheel and the GTi will rock accordingly, rather than dart from side to side. This is the perfect combination in my books as the car feels alive every time you get behind the wheel, whether it be a trip to the corner store or a blast along your favourite bit of quiet road.
There was a lot of hype surrounding the launch of the 208 GTi. Peugeot touted this one as something special; and while I have no idea whether it matches up to the legend, I do know that my gauge of a brilliant hot-hatch says it must put a smile on my face regardless of the situation – the fact that I was grinning ear to ear every time I hopped out the driver’s seat tells a very real story.
Price: R 291 100
Engine: 1598cc four cylinder turbo charged petrol
Power: 147 kW
Torque: 275 Nm
Acceleration (0-100km/h): 6.8
Top Speed (km/h): 230
Consumption (l/100km): 5.9 (claimed)
Service: 5yr/60 000km maintenance plan
First published in Autodealer KZN