Peugeot 208 GTi – All Change

The Peugeot 208GTi featured here is the outgoing model which is to be replaced by a revised version very soon. Onwards and upwards as they say. Don’t despair though because the new model looks to be a step up and, in any case, if you’re in the market for a used version then today’s car is it.

It seems that, following the success of the Peugeot 208 GTi 30th Edition, an exclusive version of the GTi is to be included as an integral part of the range. Uniquely badged as the 208 ‘GTi by PEUGEOT Sport’ it features a lowered ride height, wider tracks, 18” alloys, matt black exterior features, sports ‘bucket’ front seats, red floor mats and two-tone paintwork. High performance components include Brembo front brakes, Torsen differential, tuned suspension and steering settings with Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres. Quite looking forward to that. For the time being though, let’s look at this car.Mrs DriveWrite, delicate and delightful flower of womanhood that she is, is not a fan of the hot hatch. She did however, quite like this car and for hot hatch fans this seems like a bit of a problem. Overall, we agreed that the 208 GTi is an understated, good looking car but the issue alas is that it’s all grown-up. Any thought of it being the true descendant of the legendary 1987 205 GTi (below) must be set aside. It’s very good but it is not the hot hatch of yore.Power comes from a 200bhp 1.6L Turbo petrol engine which will whisk the car to the magic number in 6.8 seconds. There’s no paddle option; just a regular six-speed close-ratio gearbox with a chunky manual shift. Nothing wrong with that. There’s a bit of lag before a big boost of torque comes in at around 1700rpm. It’s effortlessly quick although I preferred to use the short-shifting technique rather than rag it out to the red line which didn’t seem to offer any further thrills.Particularly eye catching and visible both day and night are the unusual new halogen headlamps, equipped with the latest generation light guide. The carefully designed lamps have a rectangular internal structure and use LED technology for the indicators and daytime lighting.

We both also agreed that Peugeot have got it just right inside with just the right amount of red embellishments in the all-black interior. It’s enough to appeal to the GT fraternity without overdoing the bling. We particularly approved of the flowing two-tone door handles. The seats are very comfortable and supportive. I like Peugeot’s small steering wheel very much and the whole dashboard is neatly and efficiently laid out, if perhaps a touch dated now. I wasn’t too sure about the touch screen position but it’s grown on me. Functions are straightforward. Our car had the Cielo panoramic roof (with mood lighting) which I reckon is a must-have. In our gloomy climate it helped to brighten the smart interior.But this is a GTi and the crucial thing is – does it live up to the title? Well, yes and no. Like all similar cars these days it’s more sophisticated than when there was a certain element of hooliganism attached to GTI badges. These days the 208 GTi will potter about with the best of them. Yes, it’s fast and it handles really well and grip is abundant but it seems to me that it has lost that buzz that a driver would once get from such cars. To be fair, all such cars these days seem to have lost that ‘hot hatch’ vibe and that’s a shame.A while back I drove Peugeot’s feisty RCZ-R (here) which had that certain something that the 208GTi lacks. The hatchback’s exhaust note is subdued whereas the sports car has that shouty piped-in roar that gets you feeling you’re really on one. I first drove the 208 about eighteen months ago and enjoyed it very much but I find my opinion has changed now that I’ve driven the RCZ-R. Sadly, the two-seater is being phased out and won’t return which is a tragedy.

Peugeot make the point that this is a hot hatch for the real world. To ensure comfort in everyday use they say that this car was developed on the road and they have not tried to engineer in any track-day influences. I suppose that’s fair enough; in reality how often do we get the chance to visit the ragged edge? It just seems a shame that technology and progress (and EU regs) have robbed the car of that which made its predecessor so special.

The Peugeot 208 GTi is priced at a very reasonable £19950 and comes fully loaded so it remains a good buy if you’re in the market for a small performance car with room (just) for four. If two seats will do then I’d search the forecourts for the RCZ-R. Looking forward to trying the new car in the near future.The originalGeoff Maxted