- Fantastic bucket seats
- Lovely power delivery from the fruity engine
- Exceptional fun in the corners
- Only available as 3 door
- Rear seats more cramped than non-GTi models
- Potholes a headache at speed
Peugeot have laid dormant in the hot-hatch segment ever since the 205 GTi was launched in 1984. Some models, the 207, 206, 306, 106 and 309 all came in GTi form but none ever lived up to the legendary status achieved by the 205, which prided itself on impeccable handling and its extremely ‘eager’ engine. Now though, Peugeot may have finally found a worthy successor in the new 208. Sixth time’s the charm after all...
On the Road
On-par with all similarly sized hatches, the 208 GTi packs a 1.6litre turbocharged engine, the same you’d find in the RCZ sports/coupe model that recently ceased production. Don’t be fooled by the displacement though as this 1.6litre 4-pot squeezes a healthy 197bhp out and a whole 275Nm of torque - it’s a goer. Make that 205bhp and 300Nm in the 30th Anniversary model! There’s a top speed of 143mph as well, not that you’d ever need it, and the benchmark 0-60mph sprint is over and done with in just 6.6seconds. That’s quick, and in a car of this size it feels an awful lot quicker! The front wheels are eager to scrap for traction on a heavy start from the lights and the gearbox is smooth, slick and an absolute riot on twisty B-roads. Our only quirk would be that the gear throw is a bit long. The change itself is satisfying and snappy but if there were less travel it could be made even more impressive.
The GTi comes with stiffer suspension to the regular 208 which vastly improves the handling and encourages you to push through the corners, this is furthered by the Torsen Differential in the 30th Anniversary edition which just hugs you round the apex and thanks to 10mm lower springs you sit flat and are never thrown or rolled about. This is then furthered by the fantastic bucket seats, arguably the best seats in the hot-hatch.
This does come at a sacrifice though, the big 18” alloys combined with stiff suspension can make potholes a real anxiety-inducer. You do notice potholes at normal speed but when you’re pushing the car even manhole-covers send a big, uncomfortable shock. Save your speeding for safe and flat roads if you value your spine.
The 208 GTi isn’t a silent place to be, it’s not loud, but a librarian would be perturbed. You get just enough noise from the engine to hear the turbo spooling, and if you listen carefully you can hear the exhaust pop on heavy gear changes. So it’s a nice balance, its hushed from road noise and there are no annoying rattles from poor-build quality but you do still get enough feedback to let you know you’re in a quick car. This means you’ll be able to go a long way before getting uncomfortable and, combined with the excellent seats, the 208 GTi is a pleasant car for a long motorway stretch.
In the car
You may have to adapt your driving style to suit the ‘i-cockpit’ of the 208 GTi whether you like it or not. Reason being you are given a small, flat-bottom wheel which Peugeot want you to have lower and closer to your chest for maximum enjoyment. There’s a problem though, if you don’t abide by this ethos and choose to raise the wheel to a normal height then you can’t see the dials - which would be a great shame as they come with lovely red LED lining. You’ll be missing out. Peugeot argue that this driving style gives you more control over the car in the bends, which is true, and also reduces fatigue on long journeys - but it takes a bit of getting used to.
In the centre you’ve got a fairly responsive touch screen display and sat-nav, which is above-average in terms of finger-response and the layout is intuitive. This display controls a lot of the functions you’d expect, meaning there are less buttons cluttering the interior but you aren’t left negotiating distracting menus and submenus just to turn the air con on. There are proper physical buttons for stuff like that.
There’s a small issue with the GTi in that it’s only available as a 3-door. This is going to annoy a fair amount of potential buyers, but it’s not unheard of in this category - the Fiesta ST for example. Everything is similar in terms of practicality as the normal 208 though, so you get a surprisingly spacious interior capable of shipping 4 adults in relative comfort, but 5 would be a squeeze as the bucket seats do eat a little bit into the rear. 3 little ones in the back wouldn’t be an issue at all though.
The boot is a nice size at 285 litres but there are competitors with bigger, such as the Clio, with 300 litres. Similarly, there are some with smaller, the Cooper S (211 litres) and Fiesta ST (280 litres) included. The latter is a very negligible difference though.
The whole point of a hot-hatch is that it should entertain our inner desire for driving enjoyment whilst also entertaining the mundane everyday tasks such as the rush hour commute. With this, you also need liveable running costs and that’s where the 208 GTi, we can happily report, is a triumph. The car pushes out a 139g/km of CO2, which won’t save any polar bears but this isn’t a Prius, and for a car with this level of performance £130 a year VED isn’t bad at all.
The next thing worth noting is that if you drive the 208 GTi sensibly, which you won’t, you could get a massive 52mpg from the incredibly intelligent 1.6THP engine. This isn’t achievable over a long stretch though. Not because the car isn’t up to scratch, but the 208 GTi is just so encouraging that it would take a super-human level of restraint to maintain the driving style needed to get high MPGs. You can try though, let us know when you inevitably fail.The latest Driver Power survey placed the 208 GTi in 52nd out of 150 cars. Not bad, but not exactly excellent either. Peugeot have made a genuine effort to improve the reliability of their vehicles though, and tactics such as using the same parts on different car has seemingly paid dividends, not to mention making replacement parts more affordable if the worst case scenario were to happen.
The latest Driver Power survey placed the 208 GTi in 52nd out of 150 cars. Not bad, but not exactly excellent either. Peugeot have made a genuine effort to improve the reliability of their vehicles though, and tactics such as using the same parts on different car has seemingly paid dividends, not to mention making replacement parts more affordable if the worst case scenario were to happen.
In terms of safety the 208 is as brilliant as you’d expect from Peugeot, a full 5 Stars on the Euro NCAP safety ratings. It scored 88% in the category of adult occupant safety and 83% in the safety assistance category, with kit like the driver-set limiter being supplied free of charge on all models in the 208, not just the GTi.
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