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Peugeot 208 GTi review (2013 onwards)
Peugeot 208 GTi review: summary
With a tempting price, pert looks and a great drive, the 200hp 208 GTi means that finally there is a Peugeot hot hatch you’ll want to buy
What: Peugeot 208 GTi
Where: Nice, France
Date: March 2013
Available: April 2013
Key rivals: Ford Fiesta ST, MINI Cooper S, Renault Clio Renaultsport, SEAT Ibiza Cupra, Skoda Fabia vRS, Vauxhall Corsa VXR, Volkswagen Polo GTI
We like: pointy yet composed in the turns, compliant over the bumps, muscly mid-range
We don’t like: steering feel takes some getting used to, not quite as explosive or playful as the Fiesta ST
Peugeot 208 GTi review: first impressions
Poor old Peugeot. It conjures up one seminal hot hatch way back in the 1980s, and is basically punished for it over the next quarter of a century. Amazing though the 205 GTi may be, it probably is about time we all got over it.
And you know what? The new 208 GTi is certainly going to help.
Like the latest Ford Fiesta ST and Renault Clio Renaultsport, the new Peugeot 208 GTi combines an already rather capable supermini platform with a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine, an uprated chassis and gently toughened looks.
While it’s not exactly the most innovative formula, it does seem to have worked. Peugeot has cracked it - with the 208 GTi, the French firm has finally built another hot hatch you’re actually going to want to buy.
Peugeot 208 GTi review: performance
With a widened track that pushes the wheels out far enough to justify a modest set of arch extensions, a grille design inspired by chequered flags and plenty of red GTi detailing, the hot 208 presents a subtly moody external appearance, deliberately intended to appeal to either sex without alienating the other.
The performance is similarly approachable. The 1.6-litre turbo that drives the front wheels counts MINI’s Cooper S family among its relatives, and glories in all kinds of high-tech sounding engineering wizardry, including dual variable valve timing, twin-scroll turbocharging and direct injection.
The bare result is 200hp – a familiar figure these days – with 0-62mph taking a sprightly 6.8 seconds, exactly splitting the 6.9-second Fiesta and 6.7-second Clio. Top speed is 143mph. Which seems faintly absurd in a car this small, but who are we to worry about that?
Optimised for the road, rather than track
The Peugeot feels good for both figures, helped out by a robust, positive six-speed manual gearbox with a closely spaced set of ratios. Immediately you feel more involved in the driving experience than you do in the paddleshift-only Clio Renaultsport with its strangely gappy gearing.
The 208 makes a decent noise, too – muted on the motorway but determinedly growly on a charge, and all without any of the artificial ‘sound tube’ enhancement proffered by its two newest rivals (though it has to be said the Ford manages this much more successfully than Renault). So far so good.
What it doesn’t achieve is the same explosive immediacy as the Fiesta ST. Don’t get us wrong – with 203lb ft of torque the Peugeot has a usefully muscular mid-range, and the way the engine comes on boost sees it kick away from corners in scampering, spirited fashion.
Trouble is, this same trait means the GTi can be truculent at lower rpm, so you sometimes find yourself chasing the turbo if you aren’t paying attention. It encourages you to get your gear selection right to keep the revs up, though – which is hardly a chore…
Peugeot 208 GTi review: ride and handling
As the car’s wider stance suggests – +10mm at the front, +20mm at the rear – Peugeot has done more than drop the ride height and stiffen the suspension here: the lower wishbones are longer, the anti-roll bars have been beefed up and the subframes have been reinforced.
The GTi is lower and stiffer than a standard 208, of course, by 8mm and between 10 and 20%, depending on the component. Not everything is unique to the GTi, though: the new premium fashion 208 XY variant also benefits from the wider wheel spacing.
Still, Peugeot says it has deliberately optimised the GTi for the road, rather than track. As a result, the ride is more controlled yet rarely uncomfortably firm, and the car remains well able to deal with sudden bumps at speed. The steering requires a period of adjustment, however.
Turning most corners into a literal wrist-flick
It’s surprisingly light for one thing. But more than that, while it seems slow to react away from the direction of straight ahead, you’ll quickly find that once you’re through this initial moment the 208 dives into turns with an eagerness that almost takes you unawares. Odd at first, once you have got used to it this becomes a delight.
It’s most definitely keen to change direction, despite not having the kind of electronic torque control that’s so effective at neutralising understeer in the Ford and Renault. Push the 208 hard enough and this will eventually begin to tell – you can’t quite take the same liberties here – but it’s great fun nonetheless.
In fact, in requiring more input from the driver to make the most of its available talents, the GTi is arguably more involving still. And while it’s undoubtedly an agile car, it remains impressively stable and composed through high-speed bends. A fine effort, and vastly superior to both preceding Peugeot hot hatches.
Peugeot 208 GTi review: interior
Like the steering, the 208’s interior layout takes a bit of getting used to; as with the standard car, the main instrument cluster is placed high up on top of the dashboard, meaning you look over rather than through the steering wheel to view the dials.
To make this physically viable, Peugeots fits an unusually small steering wheel to all 208 models, the GTi included. While we’ve never struggled to adapt our driving position to this approach, there are plenty of people out there who don’tlike it. Check it out when you take a test drive.
The 208 has a five-star Euro NCAP rating
The small wheel helps instil a further degree of sportiness, though – turning most corners into a literal wrist-flick. The pedals are nicely positioned for some fancy footwork, too, and the gear lever falls naturally to hand.
Reinforcing the sporty nature of the car, the part-leather sports seats offer a good combination of comfort and cornering support, while the red highlights and chrome detailing throughout the interior bring a further indication that this 208 is something out of the ordinary. Shame some of the plastics aren’t softer.
We like the 208’s touchscreen infotainment interface, which is standard on the GTi, and again mounted high on the centre console for ease of use. It has none of the sound effect gimmickry or datalogging capability of Renault’s R-link system, however, and sat-nav is an optional extra, too.
Peugeot 208 GTi review: economy and safety
All that turbocharging techno goodness is positive news for the Peugeot’s official economy and efficiency. The claimed figures are 47.9mpg and 139g/km CO2 emissions. Under the 2013 Budget, this means car tax costs of £125 a year – reasonable for the performance. But don’t expect to match the quoted mpg.
Safety kit includes six airbags and stability control, and the 208 has a five-star EuroNCAP rating. The stability control can be entirely deactivated, if you prefer. We found the brake feel a little soft for our liking, but had no issue with the anchors’ ultimate stopping power. An alarm system is also included.
Peugeot 208 GTi review: the MSN Cars verdict
The Peugeot 208 GTi isn’t perfect, but there’s enough substance here to crack the rather thin veneer of gimmick coating the Renaultsport Clio, and even give the Fiesta ST something to think about. Taken as a whole, it’s really a very likable hot supermini, and a welcome return to form by the French brand.
If you’re looking for a slightly more mature approach to your hot hatch shenanigans, then the GTi could well fit the bill. The suspension should be compliant enough to cope with British roads, and it is an engaging, enjoyable car to drive.
At this point, we’d certainly choose the Peugeot over the Renault. But suggest you take a long, hard look at the truly outstanding Ford before making a final decision.
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